Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Microsoft’s Inspire Conference: What It Means For CX, Commerce, Collaboration and the Cloud

Rich Wood, Vice President, Microsoft Alliances
Innovation / Cloud

July’s Inspire conference historically provides a venue for Microsoft to share business strategy, product updates, and alliance messaging with its thousands of worldwide partners just as its mid-year fiscal kicks off. This year’s conference didn’t disappoint in any of those areas - “inspiring” Microsoft’s services and software partners alike to move forward with compelling speeches and actionable programs to make those key messages real. Much of that has been covered elsewhere, and covered well.

But what does it mean from an experience perspective? How do Microsoft’s plans, products and partnerships impact your new website or commerce storefront? What is the impact of Microsoft’s business strategy on the different ways your enterprise workforce gets their jobs done? As an experience agency with technology—largely, Microsoft’s technology—at our core, Rightpoint cares about these questions and their answers, and it’s through that highly-focused lens that we consider the impact of Inspire.

To that end, Rightpoint is happy to present the three key experience takeaways of Microsoft Inspire.

1. Partner-to-partner cooperation will be highly encouraged in FY20.

Both from a messaging perspective and the programmatic actualization of tools, processes and incentives to make it real, Microsoft is going to be more vested than ever before in the success of its partners. A major evolution of this strategy for FY20 is an increased focus not simply on Microsoft-to-partner relationships, but Microsoft-sponsored partner-to-partner relationships.

Rightpoint’s work with third-party software companies who develop and deploy on Microsoft’s cloud platforms was an early leader in this space, and we continue to blaze new trails through our award-winning partnerships with Sitecore and Episerver. The power of the Azure cloud is a major part of how and why the websites and commerce solutions we build are so well-regarded and well-received by our longstanding clients, and we’re excited to deepen these partnerships further in alliance with Microsoft. The benefit to our clients is our first priority, and it’s definitely something a giant like Microsoft brings in spades.

2. Teams is important to everyone.

Microsoft Teams—a hub for conversational collaboration, but also for meetings, video, files, data and more—is central to how the modern information worker gets things done. It also represents, for the first time, a way to more directly engage and empower the “frontline” worker so important to the retail, healthcare and manufacturing industries. Teams plays an important role in Microsoft’s increased focus on empowering everyone, crystallized once again by CEO Satya Nadella in his Wednesday corenote at Inspire.

The upshot for our clients is an exciting one: Microsoft and Rightpoint will work together to fund and enable more Teams experiences this year than ever before. The work we’ve done in the past to make Yammer and SharePoint engaging and accessible to enterprise users provides a logical building block for doing the same with Teams, and we’re excited to partner with Microsoft in doing just that.

3. Azure remains a major focus, and increasingly in more advanced scenarios.

While the shift to the cloud is largely complete in core SaaS areas like productivity and the modern workplace, many application modernization battles remain to be won. Enterprises with mammoth line-of-business applications (think SAP) represent one major shift to the cloud, although this remains more of a traditional Infrastructure-as-a-Services (IaaS) conversation.

True application modernization means the rewriting—and better, the reimagining—of important applications to make better use of cloud-native capabilities. The promise of AI, Big Data and IoT isn’t something you can realize with a simple lift-and-shift of an old .NET application. Whether assembly-line applications built for corporate end-users or the application and IoT infrastructure behind popular native mobile apps, Microsoft has a great story here and continues to focus resources on making the Azure cloud the best-choice platform for decision makers.

Rightpoint believes business has come to an inflection point where every company either transforms into a technology company themselves, or slowly withers relative to the competition that gets there first. A smart transformation leveraging the myriad possibilities of Azure is a key part of becoming a disruptor (and not being disrupted). Microsoft’s continued focus on putting this platform at the disposal of their customers through innovative partners was the third and final exciting takeaway of this year’s Inspire conference.

Rich Wood is the VP, Alliances at Rightpoint. You can connect with him on Linkedin and Twitter.