Microsoft Inspire 2018: The Low Down

Microsoft’s Inspire conference is the main global Microsoft partner conference held annually and attended by roughly 16,000 people from partners across the globe. This year the conference was held in the scorching desert at various locations across Las Vegas. Inspire 2018 brought a fresh perspective as Microsoft merged the conference together with its own internal seller conference, ‘Ready’. This meant that there were roughly 40,000 Microsoft employees and partner representatives in Las Vegas, all keen to collaborate and understand Microsoft’s strategy moving forward.


Microsoft’s M365 offering is made up of Office 365, Windows 10 and Enterprise Mobility and Security. Microsoft is bringing together the capability to collaborate and work anywhere with the ability to securely manage and control the devices, apps, and data used within a business. Security is high on every successful businesses’ radar, and so this collection of products allows businesses to move into the cloud in a secure manner and have control over their cloud estate. Microsoft will be looking to bring partners onto this new offering as they consume more of their cloud portfolio. Partners and customers should be looking at M365 as a way of taking control of the growing number of devices that are being used within their estates, and also as a facilitator of collaboration that will drive productivity.


Azure was center stage throughout the conference with talk of AI, Machine Learning, Data, IOT and the Intelligent Edge.  Microsoft’s investment in its datacenter estate continues to grow illustrated by its presence in 54 regions globally. This shows that Microsoft is committed to delivering availability and choice in their cloud services, even showcasing a self-contained datacenter that they have installed on the seabed (Project Natick). My favourite comment around Azure came from Judson Althoff, Exec VP for Commercial Partner, “Without sensible data, all you do with fancy AI technology is making mistakes with greater confidence than ever before”. He continued to urge partners to concentrate on the basics of Cloud and Azure and to get those right first. He also encouraged partners to take a “walk before you run” approach to Azure.


Microsoft’s big bet for collaboration is Teams, now free for companies with under 300 users. Teams brings together the functionality of many O365’s tools such as Skype, SharePoint, and Planner, into one central space. Lots of people have asked “Where does Teams fit?” and “What happens to some of the other products and offerings?”. To start, Skype for Business is being folded into Teams, meaning instant messaging, conference calls and video calls are all possible from within Teams. The ability to schedule and book meetings and then sync this with your Outlook calendar means that you can stay firmly in one application without switching back and forth. The image below sums up exactly where the communication and productivity tools from Microsoft sit and how they should be used. Teams will be your go-to collaboration tool moving forward!


Microsoft has merged their partner focused and internal conferences together and their intent is clear; Microsoft wants to co-sell with their partners. Bringing 40,000 attendees from Microsoft partners and employees together allows for a unique opportunity for them to meet, collaborate and work together. Microsoft has already announced that they will be joining the two conferences together for the next 4 years, re-enforcing the message that Microsoft wants their sellers to work closely with the partner ecosystem. Gavriella Schuster, Corporate VP One Commercial Partner, spoke about how when Microsoft and partners co-sell together the deals are “5x larger, consumption is 8x higher, the deals close 26% faster and close at a 35% win-rate”


One Commercial Partner, aka “OCP”, is Microsoft’s business unit designed to engage with their partner ecosystem. It is focused on helping partners build out new offerings and then getting them to the point where the Microsoft sellers can “co-sell” with these partners. Microsoft has announced that in its first year there are now 28,000 co-sell solutions available to its sellers globally and there is going to be a continued focus on working with partners to grow this number and continue to drive co-selling.


Partnering was the clearest message across the conference. Every Corenote mentioned partnering for success, numerous break-out sessions focused on partnering best practice and success stories. Partners are being directed to specialize and be deeply skilled in their unique proposition, whilst also trying to offer a comprehensive offering to customers and owning the customer journey to the cloud. This presents a problem as partners can’t be both specialist and broad. There is so much complexity within the cloud space, and also a consistently high rate of change, so partners need to understand where their strengths lay and where they should partner for success and a greater customer outcome.

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