This past week I was delighted to attend the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference, Inspire 2017.
As we take stock of everything we’ve done, the people we’ve connected with and the wisdom we’ve amassed out of this year's Microsoft Inspire event in Washington DC, I can't help but feel impressed at the scale of everything that I saw at the event; from the first morning that had Satya Nadella presenting, to the sheer size of the exhibition hall and the volume of vendors.
As an Australian participant in the event I felt privileged to be meeting with numerous people and exchange stories on everything from our collective passion for technology to family life when we're not at Inspire. I’m also hopeful I have made several long-term friends in the community around the world that I can talk with over the years to come.
A large part of Inspire for me was building an understanding of the technology and solution providers that were represented, and trying to come away with ideas and concepts around how I can apply those technologies into the everyday operation of my clients’ businesses. While there was a lot of great tech I did note the following:
- The is no one size fits all solution - I have been talking with some people around this concept for some time, and Inspire really brought this into focus for me. Back a decade ago, your organisation/enterprise could buy a piece of technology (Finance/HR/Collaboration) and implement it knowing there was not much more that was needed. Today, technology is more complex with systems, mobile apps and connections between technology platforms that were not possible ten years ago. What this means is that in many cases there is no one size fits all solution that will give a business the entirety of what it needs. Instead we talk about the positioning of a pattern and process around business requirements and the technologies that can enable outcomes in a risk vs. reward implementation.
Microsoft Inspire showed me multiple technologies that had the potential to work together to connect various aspects of business life, and produce outcomes that create efficiency and transparency for users securely, while retaining distinct value propositions.
- There are a lot of applications that are close minded - In the lead up to Microsoft Inspire and at the event itself, I spoke with a number of applications that are so focused on maintaining a legacy technology base and supporting clients and solutions deployed years ago, that they are missing opportunities to tap into new (and potentially larger) customer bases. While I understand that technology moves quickly and we all struggle to keep ourselves up to date in new applications and solutions, digging your head in the sand to maintain a legacy tech set won't see these applications work in the long run.
- There are three types of people - During Inspire I also learned that there are three types of people at the event. Now, here I could talk about the difference between tech, managers and owners, however this is something deeper.
People that Don't Get It - The first group of people I noticed at the event were those who just didn't get what Inspire was all about. They ran from booth to booth grabbing loot, ran into sessions and came out complaining about the speaker, or in a connect meeting they couldn't be bothered listening to what the person had to say. I’m grateful to tell you that I only met two from this group during Microsoft Inspire. Most people were friendly and were really interested to tell me about what they do, ask me about what I do and build a dialogue for future conversation.
People that Can't Get It - This second group of people are awesome, they are masters of their specialisation. I met a number of technical people, managers and business development people that knew so much in their given fields that they blew me away. But at the same time as we spoke around different approaches and innovations that are coming out in the market, you could see their struggle to connect the dots together. There was one moment where I was talking to a BDM around how he would view connecting his application with another application and he couldn't see it happening until we talked about revenue generation and streamlined delivery. At this point his eyes lit up and he mentioned how he saw the potential but couldn't connect the dots. We're scheduled to talk again soon, and I hope I can help him with his approach.
People that Get It - There is such a minor difference between the last group and the People that Get It, and at this year’s Microsoft Inspire event I met so many people in this group, and I felt I learned so much. The people in this group have great skills, and are completely open to new ideas and approaches. I know as a CTO I am constantly looking for new and innovative ways to achieve my clients’ outcomes. When you’re talking with this group they see applications, processes and sales outcomes as enablers of client outcomes rather than technology challenges or sales targets. I spoke with numerous people about their organisational goals, and in each case they were looking at how they could utilise Microsoft technology and patterns to deliver stronger outcomes using technology as the enabler rather than the driving force within a project. Keep an eye out for these people in your organisation, as they’re the ones you want to hang around.
I want to give a huge shout out to one of our Partners, LiveTiles. I was privileged to spend time at their booth during Microsoft Inspire and I got to meet a number of their other Partners from all over the world. As I talk about applications that evolve and People that Get It, this is an organisation that rises to the highest platitudes of praise in both. I know how excited we are in Australia to utilise LiveTiles, and it was brilliant to see that the innovation these guys show is understood worldwide and they are actively seeking to grow with the market. This is so exciting for us as a Partner.
Lastly, many of you will see that Damien and I drop the #EmpoweringUsers tag quite often when we find technology or business ideas that excite us. We use this because our business is all about making sure our clients and their staff have what they need to excel in their jobs. At Microsoft Inspire this year we saw throughout each aspect, from the keynote presentations to the way that connect meetings were run, that our excitement of empowering users is still well justified.