My notes from Inspire 2018

Ah, Las Vegas.

Bright lights, big city and close to 40,000 tech professionals baking in the desert sun.

I’d been to Vegas dozens of times for various conferences however this was my first time with Microsoft. First time also that they’d run the partner (Inspire) and internal (Ready) events side-by-side and so I was looking forward to seeing how Sin City was going to cope with the influx of IT folks from around the world.

In a nutshell?

It was by far the best Microsoft global partner event that I’ve been to (and that includes the 2006 version back in Boston where I was THIS close to Bill Gates!). Microsoft’s wrap-up and recording of the all the sessions is here and so what follows will be my top 5 reasons why I think this was the best one yet, including some guidance for regular readers around how to make the most of the momentum.

1/ Microsoft has turned the corner

Much has been written about how Microsoft has effectively been reinvented under Satya Nadella’s tenure and the impact of this is seen in their FY18 results (operating income up a staggering 34% in Q4) and record share price. What is harder to quantify is the more humanistic impact of his leadership and this was on full display during his Corenote. He was humble, caring, openly encouraged competition and chose to showcase stories that highlighted how technology can (and needs to) have a positive impact on each and every one of us. I emerged from his presentation feeling pumped and actively engaged, excited at being a part of something special.

2/ They partner with a capital P

There were close to 400 Australian attendees at Inspire this year representing over 180 different partners. We’ve got a great network at Insentra and have delivered work for or have a relationship with around half of these companies – so it’s amazing to see how many new organisations are continually popping up. What’s even better is how warmly these partners are being embraced by Microsoft and by extension, their channel ecosystem. No longer do you need to be a massive reseller or huge mover of licenses to get attention – now it’s all about how you can make a difference, showcase new technology and help tell the story. We had some great conversations with partners that didn’t exist two years ago, looking to leverage our experience in Azure and Office 365 as they expand into new areas such as AI and IOT.

3/ Lots of whitespace

Speaking of new areas, there was a massive focus on the next generation of technology with AI, IOT, machine learning and even a preview of holographic meetings via Microsoft Teams (think Princess Leia saying “help me Obi-Wan, I need those sales forecasts and you’re my only hope”).  There’s still a big opportunity with Office 365, Azure and Dynamics365, however I’d recommend any partner at least dipping a toe into the water of something new before the world passes them by.

4/ The global gets local

What struck me perhaps more than anything at this event was how effectively Microsoft used customer stories to showcase technology. Every Corenote was flavoured with real-life examples (many from Australia), and in every case, the partner was highlighted right there alongside the customer case-study. Such great exposure for Aussie partners like Mexia, Mailguard and Velrada and another example of how smaller players can compete with the big boys.

5/ Insentra can help you get there

One common question following a conference like Inspire is “how on earth do we take all of this in?”. My answer is simple – you don’t need to. There’s simply too many areas of technology for any one company to focus on them all, with new branches popping up all the time. What you do need to do is choose a path where you feel there’s going to be growth and then potentially partner with someone like Insentra to help with the adjacent or supporting technologies. I met with many partners in Vegas who felt that the time was right to get into Azure, or wanted to explore Office 365 in more depth, but weren’t sure where to start. This is where we can assist, by providing you with the support and guidance you need to help design, deliver and manage projects for your customers.

That’s it from me. There’s a lot going on and if you weren’t able to make it to Inspire, I would recommend either checking out the Corenote recordings or potentially getting along to one of the upcoming Microsoft Partner briefings in most capital cities.

Here’s to a successful FY19 for all.