At the first edition, Ignite managed to bring together over 23.000 IT pros and business people for a full week, during which Microsoft gave details related to what they did lately and what they planned for the future, for most of its range of products and services. But if you expected some big announcement to be made, then you missed out the place as not even the HoloLens were exposed.
Satya’s opening keynote was not as fresh and vibrant as I expected compared to what I heard happened last year at the Partner Conference in DC, but maybe the speech was diluted also due to the fragmentation of audience and multitude of topics. Besides repeating his vision of a Cloud First, Mobile First world which we all know, he emphasized on the increased role that IT pros have to play in order to lead transformation within their organizations. Speaking of this, I think the transformation MSFT is experiencing is kind of amazing and even people who don’t love them can see that the number of products, releases and innovations MSFT is delivering is on a growing trend. This is incredible for an organization of this size, complexity and legacy.
More interesting than the opening keynote was to hear Gurdeep Singh Pall talking about how Windows 10 wants to address personal computing. I believe Microsoft did a really good job here: instead of focusing on the device, they targeted the user experience (we live in an experience-based economy, don’t we?) and offered a consistent and familiar user interface across all kinds of devices. To quote Gurdeep “the device is not mobile but the user is” and they need to be able to work at anytime from anywhere. If you add Continuum to this, a feature designed to make it easier for users to switch between touch interfaces and non-touch environments and the Windows 10 Universal App as one application platforms for developers, than you get something difficult to beat.
Besides, we should not forget about Cortana – the personal assistant (a new experience again) will be everywhere and you can add it even when you build games or line of business applications.
The new browser – Edge (previous code name – Spartan) will be shipped together with IE11, which according to Microsoft will be supported as long as Windows 10 will be supported. Considered to be more of a marketing move to cut off from the past, the Edge tries to come with new functionalities that focus on action and interaction, such as taking notes, and considers speed benchmarks as old fashioned. Information can also be consumed easier in the Reading View mode (even in offline mode) but websites relying heavily on advertisement can opt-out for the obvious reasons.
On top of those areas, I touched deeper some other topics:
The modern Digital Workplace
Millennials are coming into workforce: IT and other industries (e.g. television, fast-food, etc.) need to acknowledge this and act upon it accordingly, as there is no way to deal with this huge wave other than surf on it. Millennials are experiencing a different way of consuming information, communicate and collaborate in their personal lives, so they expect the same at work too. Wise leaders know that engaged, motivated and well equipped employees can boost revenues growth up to two and a half times and nowadays is better to surface people’s knowledge by empowering an interactive collaboration instead of surfacing the data silos. [Surfing seems to become a burden word].
So, ever wondered how Microsoft approaches that trend? The short and confusing answer will be: in infinite ways.
They started with: Outlook (1992), SharePoint (2001), One Note (2003), Live Communications Server (2003) – named Lync later and recently Skype for Business, OneDrive (2008), Skype (bought in 2011), Office 365 (2011), Yammer (bought 2012) and Delve (2014). The latest seems to fit in the 4th generation of technologies as identified by Gartner (photo).
And that is what creates confusion in the first phase because they released many collaboration tools with similar and even overlapping functionalities that users became frustrated with and are asking for clarification. But the confusion doesn’t stop here as it seems MSFT just lost another trademark dispute with Sky in EU, which will be a big issue later.
I attended a couple of sessions on digital workplace and two made the difference: 2toLead and how Cargill on-boarded 3 years ago onto Yammer (in contrast, today they are using SharePoint 2007).
In short, the discussion shall not be about a technology/tool vs. another but rather identify your organizational context, communication levels (individual, group, organizational) and decide when to use what depending on the audience and urgency. But, take it easily with a step-by-step approach and build your own matrix (see photo).
13 possible usage scenarios
As SharePoint on-premise is not going away especially due to more and more hybrid scenarios, I got us enrolled in the TAP program for this, being keen to get the 2016 version on our environment and see what our options are with that.
How does the future look like?
Make use of self-organizing “groups” as the main concept across all those tools, which you can integrate and topped up with Delve to aggregate the content.
How will this happen in reality?
That will be seen in the coming years but in the meantime don’t forget to finalize your own work and disconnect from too much collaboration once in a while 😉
Tip #1: If you plan to adopt Yammer internally, than you should know that adoption can be boosted if you create a group of group creators (power users/ambassadors) to share the best practices with them, drive adoption and manage the community. Also, communication from the top management on this channel is a must.
Tip #2: Tired of PowerPoint or even Prezi and want to try something new? Then it’s worth trying Sway as a great exploring tool.
Tip #3: Consider that tools such as Delve can be interpreted as a threat at internal level because consumer surveillance fears can become employee surveillance fears. Here, you need to ensure a strong communication with stakeholders to prevent that fear from escalating.
As users are the ones which are mobile and need access to information not only from their desks (could you imagine a shop assistant sitting only at his desk!?), mobility is becoming a big challenge, especially for enterprises. Microsoft’s approach seems to focus particularly on securing the data regardless of its location and keep corporate data contained. With Intune you can now manage all sort of devices, while you can use Windows 10 Universal app to build once and deploy on any Windows device. But here there is an area not covered yet as companies need to build and consistently manage the same application for any mobile OS. This is where other providers like Kony have an important edge.
Later on, by end of this year, additional to the Windows Store, companies will be able to create their own Business Store or Company Portal where they can download application from the Public store for internal use and/or publish and manage their LOB applications (photo).
That’s something most people have already heard about or even developed for it (as we have) as it’s becoming more and more tangible and Microsoft is taking even bigger steps in that direction. For instance, you will be able to run Windows 10 on any device that has a minimal computing power, as Microsoft has 3 different versions of its OS, to cover industry devices, mobile devices and even smaller ones which can run Windows IoT core for free (photo).
Of course, with Windows 10 Universal platform you have powerful APIs for easy access and sensors integration. Microsoft is targeting the consumption of the Azure IoT suite, which doesn’t just host the data collected: you can use Machine Learning for predictive analytics, you can manage your entire sensor network and so on.
While consumers are more interested mainly in home applications (automation, security, energy management, entertainment) there are endless businesses verticals to be explored and defined.
For example, implementations are coming from places you would never imagine, such as the Connected Cow from Fujitsu or monitoring drivers’ behavior from insurance companies, of course with their acceptance.
Surely, there are issues related to standardization, an area where there are two new organizations that are working on defining interoperability: AllSeen and AllJoin.
Security is another challenge related to IoT, but this is a WIP too.
#Tip: Checkout www.windowsondevices.com if you want to read more stories and learn an updated approach of DIY (do it yourself?)
Personal evaluation of Microsoft Ignite, on a 1 to 5 scale, where 1 is the lowest:
- Personnel: 5 (very helpful)
- Event location: 4 (no train stations nearby made it more difficult to reach if your hotel was not located in proximity)
- Sessions availability: 4 (many had to repeat due to insufficient space to get all people in)
- Sessions quality: 4 (I reffer to the business ones, some introduction into the concepts will help people to better understand the tools, especially the latest ones)
- Expo hall: 3 (no grouping among exhibitors made it difficult to easily find what’s right for you)
- Meals: 2 (too sweet for my taste and not much variation)