Microsoft Reconnects the IT Channel at Virtual Inspire

I’ve put together a couple of quick thoughts around the recent Microsoft Inspire 2020 partner conference, however before we get into that, I just want to wish all of our partners and customers a safe and secure passage through these crazy times. As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic is ramping-up in Australia with a second wave which promises to easily eclipse the first – so please stay safe people!

Which brings me back to Microsoft Inspire. With everything going on, the 2020 version was always going to be a different beast, with millions of folks facing unprecedented challenges. The global IT channel has had to rapidly adapt to not only help these companies survive, but perhaps even thrive, and so the virtual Inspire conference was a great way for resellers to reset and take stock. Nearly every session I attended included thoughtful content around what partners can do differently to help their customers remain productive and connected as the world changes.

RESPOND, REBUILD, REIMAGINE

CEO, Satya Nadella shared a heartfelt and humble update summarising Microsoft’s COVID-19 recovery strategy as respond, rebuild and reimagine. It’s a handy reminder that eventually this too shall pass, however as an industry we do need to work through each phase, potentially more than once… for example we’re now facing a second wave in Australia.

Particularly interesting was a raft of new announcements around technology such as Azure Lighthouse – for MFA and privileged access management, and Azure Arc, for managing hybrid multi-cloud environments. Now more than ever companies need to provide flexible, scalable remote working options for their teams, however they can’t neglect security and compliance as they rapidly ramp-up.

There was also a renewed push around the PowerPlatform integrating into Teams, which allows customers to develop “low-code” solutions. There is a great opportunity here for partners to expand into new areas.  Plenty of discussion was had around the growth and expansion of Teams in general with a raft of new features coming soon – I personally can’t wait for the Auditorium Mode to come out of preview so we can see a whole set of happy faces as if they’re sitting in the audience, rather than individual boxes.

LOOKING AHEAD

Whilst I missed the buzz and bounce of a big international conference, Virtual Inspire meant many more people were able to attend the sessions – and that has to be a good thing. From Australia we’d typically see maybe 300-400 partners travelling to Vegas every year, each investing well over $10,000pp once you take into account flights, accommodation, tickets, meals etc, not to mention the time away from the office and family. According to Microsoft, this year there were over 5,000 registrations from Australia alone and so it will be interesting to see what format next year’s conference takes – back to face-to-face, virtual, or my guess, some kind of hybrid.

Closing on a personal note - as the father of a bright and motivated little 7yo with cerebral palsy, I'm always heartened to see Satya's continued embrace and championing of inclusivity into everything Microsoft does. His beautiful son sat proudly in the photo above his right shoulder in the keynote and it gives me great hope that my son will continue to thrive in a world which has leaders like Satya Nadella to shine the way for the rest of us.

Here's to a happy, productive and above all, safe FY21 for everyone.

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