Microsoft Inspire Conference 2020 report

The Inspire conference is winding down. Inspire is Microsoft’s annual Partner Conference, where partners hear Microsoft’s executives and their sales and marketing teams talk about Microsoft’s priorities and focus areas for the new fiscal year. Partners also learn about the technology roadmap and new programs and offerings that will help them work with Microsoft and help Microsoft’s customers implement and deploy the technologies.

Inspire has traditionally been held in some US Metropolis. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic Inspire, much like all Microsoft’s conferences during this year, was held as a virtual conference, with all the sessions streamed online or held using Microsoft Teams. This year Inspire was supposed to be held in Las Vegas, and I have to say that personally I am much happier to sit in my office at home with a cool beverage in hand, than be in Las Vegas in the middle of July.

The virtual format has also allowed many of our employees, who would not normally have the chance to attend the conference, to attend the sessions and hear the message first-hand from the Microsoft teams.

The new – remote – normal

One of the things that we heard consistently during the sessions was how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the world. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella commented that the world has seen more digital transformation happen in the last few months than in the last few years. Employees all over the world have moved to working from home, and the pandemic has forced organisations to scramble to provide employees with the necessary tools for collaborating with colleagues, customers and partners, and to access all corporate systems remotely.

Remote working and working from home is the new normal, and there is still a lot of work to be done with collaboration tools, virtual desktop environments and remote connectivity to allow employees to be productive in this new environment. And this all has to be done while still making sure that the new way of working does not compromise the security of the data and the tools and applications used.

We at Sulava have been working hard with customers during the past few months to enable both collaboration and remote work, and ensure the security or the environment, and we continue to work on this. Actually due to our hard work Finland is the leading country in the remote work during COVID-19 with 60% of workforce moved to remote work by May 2020 according to Eurofound.

Modernize processes and enhance the productivity

But digital transformation does not just mean collaboration and remote working: digital transformation means that organisations use the full potential of the technologies at hand to modernize processes and enhance the productivity of employees. This is where Microsoft’s priorities lie going forward as well, and where they are focusing their development efforts. We picked four key themes from the sessions at the Inspire conference:

1. Teams as a platform

Teams is a very good collaboration tool, for collaborating and sharing information with colleagues, customers and partners. But Teams can be much more; it can act as a virtual window into the tools, processes and information used by employees. This is a key theme for both Microsoft and Sulava now and in the future: how can we bring the processes and information that employees most need and share into Teams so that they are more accessible and more easily shared.

2. Low-code/no-code application development

Microsoft’s Power Platform allows for a new way of developing organisations processes, with little coding or no code at all. This means that it can be performed by many people in the organisation, and does not require specialized application development skills. Power Platform can also be easily combined with the services that Microsoft Azure provides.

3. Analysis of data

Power BI can be utilised to bring data analytics and visualisation much closer to the employees who actually need and use the data. Furthermore, the data storage and analytics services from Azure, such as Data Warehousing, Data Lakes, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence and Cognitive services allow for new ways to store, combine, process and analyse all kinds of information, from simple usage data to complex analysis of business information.

4. Application modernisation and innovation

Organisations have been migrating services into Azure, but in the future the focus must be on application modernisation to the cloud era, as well as new application innovation in areas such as IoT, AI and digital twins. And Azure provides the services necessary to do modernisation and innovation.

All of these areas require new thinking in how applications and processes can be changed and modernised, but also how these new technologies can be deployed to enhance the employee experience and make employees more productive. Change also requires participation from all employees, and the willingness to learn new skills.

Organisations have already utilised the functionalities provided by the Microsoft full platform to help solve issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, for example a school uses an app to organise the delivery of lunch for hungry students, a hospital took Teams in use to communicate between doctors, patients and relatives or there is an app for organizing seats at the office. Now is the time to start looking at information, tools and processes on a much broader scale, and realise the full potential the technology can offer.

We at Sulava are prepared to help customers both in the short term, to fulfil your cloud migration, infrastructure modernisation and remote work requirements, but also to work with you in the long term to utilise new technologies, modernise applications and processes, deploy the technologies and train your workforce, and really perform a true digital transformation in your organisation.

Text: Kimmo Bergius, Aki Antman and Karoliina Partanen