Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2018

July 31, 2018 by Brian Clayton Inspire Conference 2018

This post is about the Microsoft Inspire 2018 conference for Microsoft Partners, which I attended in mid-July.  It took some thought to decide how I was going to approach this post…Chronological? Topical?  I decided to try to expand on several themes from the conference and its culture. Over the next several weeks, I will follow this post with some product-related takeaways from the conference.

To begin, I would like to pass on a quotation that was shared by Satya Nadella during the CoreNote on Day 3.  I believe it encapsulates true innovation and how technology should be applied within a business.

“The most profound technologies are those that disappear.  They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.” – Mark Weiser, Chief Technologist, Xerox PARC

This was my first partner conference with Microsoft, but it was not my first Microsoft conference experience.  A few years back, when I was working with a law firm, I attended a conference in Redmond that was  focused on CIOs of varying business types and sizes.  I was amazed with one thing right off — I found that the culture was consistent between the two conferences.  I cannot speak to conferences that occurred prior to Satya Nadella taking over as CEO, but the culture he is managing now, with team members like Gavriella Schuster, Brad Smith and many others, is much more than a cheerleading effort. It wasn’t a “Did you drink the Kool-Aid?” thing, but more like something was in the air.  I would listen to conversations, read the email updates, chat with others at lunch tables, and hang out in the hallway outside of the vendor hall, just watching the interaction going on. 

It was a vastly different environment than I am accustomed to.  One of several thousand in attendance, I read some stats showing 71% were international.  Within the vendor hall (The Commons), I would estimate only a third of the hall being outside vendors/partners, with a majority of the space being dedicated to Microsoft products and services. This enabled conversation with Microsoft representatives in certain areas of interest, in order to broaden knowledge, ignite a connection, and possibly build trust in the future of these areas.  I was impressed by the overwhelming presence of people connecting, establishing new relationships.  I have to admit I was caught up in the culture occurring around me; however, I was able to make a few connections and dig deeper in many areas where we are looking to grow and become established.

Following the CoreNote each day, several informational sessions were held in small theater settings in The Commons vendor hall.  I would compare the setting to a town hall configuration (one or more speakers covering a topic that was in an open area with stools) that  truly enabled a “combined effort” feeling.  This is much different than sitting in chairs in a large room because it really encourages the feeling that you can speak, engage, interact. 

Conference Themes

Here are a few of the overarching themes from the conference. 

  • What binds us together is not our success, but the success of our customers! This relates to Microsoft’s objective to work more tightly and directly with its partners.  This includes more than connecting partners with partners, but also includes working with partners to get their solutions migrated and posted to the marketplace.  As we all know, they have been very focused on expanding the use and capabilities of Azure, adding on top of that technology breakthroughs with Intelligent Cloud; Intelligent Edge. Microsoft has always differentiated itself from its cloud competition by remaining open to hybrid configurations. Amazon and Google have not often ventured into this space.  Microsoft has often spent time and energy in this area, providing enabled cloud technologies to those systems still residing locally or in other hosted data centers. I firmly believe all products should allow for this. I don’t believe that means supporting outdated releases or technologies, but only that remaining in tune with the transition is important and vital to a product’s success.  I have often used the analogy of a track relay team.  The transition of the baton between runners  requires looking back, looking forward, and paying close attention to the pace of preparation, the period of time you progress together, targeting the handoff, and finally the release.  All has to be well practiced, established, consistent and agile enough to take on any environmental changes brought into the event.

  • Microsoft is committed to making others cool!  I am sure there are many ways to interpret this, but one thing I am convinced of is that Microsoft is seeking ways to sell partner solutions alongside Microsoft’s solutions. In early 2019, Microsoft will be placing partner solutions in the product catalog along with first party products.  I have always patterned my career on the same philosophy, with mentors who believed our mission as members of the service industry is to deliver products and services to make our clients cool.  Whether it was working internally at a law firm, ensuring my IT team delivered everything attorneys needed to meet client needs, or here at BEC Legal, in finding solutions so that the IT team has all the tools they need to meet their development goals.
  • Privacy is a Human Right!   In his CoreNote, Satya mentioned we have to approach everything with the basic requirement that privacy is a human right. Our responsibility in this digital revolution is to come together as an industry, as a generation.  We need a new Geneva convention, like the Tech Accord, to protect the most vulnerable populations with these innovations and ensure Artificial Intelligence has guided development principles and doesn’t amplify bias or sway opinion.  Microsoft’s mission has become “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
  • If you get to serve the world, you have to represent the world!  I believe this is very tough to achieve, but is required for real success.  The solutions built on the digital revolution make the world a smaller place for crime, unjust governments and groups, and others who prey on humanity.

I hope the time I took to get this blog post out was worth it. My intent is to continue these themes and expand the discussion!  

If you attended the conference please let me know how your experience compared.  If you have questions, please feel free to comment, send me an email or give me a call.  I would love to share more.

As I stated, I will follow up this post with some product-related takeaways from the conference.

Brian ClaytonBrian Clayton
Operations Manager – Dev Ops

Published: July 11, 2018