We just got back from the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last week and we're still trying to wrap ourselves around all of the information shared. Five full days, literally sun up to sun down, were spent in sessions, meetings and keynotes covering Microsoft's vision and goals for the coming year. B2B Tech has attended this conference for over a decade and we've always come away excited; but, this year will have some truly incredible results for us as we continue to grow and align ourselves with the future of enterprise technology.
1. Cloud First, Mobile First!
Sitting in the opening keynote on Monday morning, the buzz of excitement could be felt in the entire arena. We all knew what was going to be announced, and for those that have worked alongside Microsoft for the past decade, we have seen a dramatic shift in thought for how technology is first applied to the corporate world. Gone are the days of waiting three or four years between large software announcements that require huge server farms to manage; and, arriving is the new dawn of a cloud based, unified Microsoft with updates whittled down to months giving birth to features that will quite literally blow your mind. We watched a live demo by Julie White, Microsoft's Office 365 General Manager, where she demonstrated a salesperson's experience of setting up a project quote, gathering information from co-workers, and sending it to a prospect using the Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) for protection of classified information - all from a tablet. A Surface Pro 3 to be exact. The demo used Lync and Yammer for communications, Office Web Apps (OWS) for content creation and then the new security features of EMS to identify a specified end user and grant viewable rights with email identity access. ALL of these steps were performed on cloud-based SaaS and IaaS solutions. A few years ago, I would have laughed at the prospect of doing this within an hour, she did it live on stage in ten minutes.
2. Data, Data, Data
Just like the big announcement of turning the Microsoft engine toward cloud first thought leadership, we were anticipating a play toward Big Data (harkening from hints dropped at last year's WPC.) The numbers were in, pun intended, and they were eager to share the news and industry trends on where data consumption and interpretation tools were taking us this year. It might seem like common sense for some, but we still have clients that have not fully developed a data capture and analysis plan for their Operations, Human Resources, Finance, Marketing & Sales departments, you name it. As the trend for data creation skyrockets year over year, Microsoft realizes there has to be a way to host, store, protect and allocate the right data to the right person. That person then has to have the right tools to make sense out of it for educated decisions on running their company.
- An example shown from a travel cost analysis demo from WPC 2014
For those familiar with Power BI, you can see where this product enhancement came from and why it's going to change the face of analytics for nearly every department head around the world. No longer do you have to wait months for data to be collected and organized in an easy to digest manner. Pass that report over to an analyst to generate overviews and forecasting material that an executive can use for critical business decisions. Now, that same data can be sliced and diced by the executive herself with easy to manage functions and smart form technology. Imagine the possibility of asking, "What are the total sales for product XYZ in Arizona versus California for Q1 of FY14?", and the answer is a chart that automatically populates giving a visually representative answer. You can then drill down into the chart and take a closer look at the data if you want, but the magic has been done for you and the next step gets you back to your job instead of crunching numbers. Oh yea, did we mention cloud before? For the IT folks, the SQL servers holding all this data can now be hosted in Azure, where you only pay for what you use. How's that for going full circle?
3. We're In the Security Business
Time and again, Microsoft has been deemed the front-runner in corporate based security needs. This year, we're happy to see a launch of even more tools and protections built within their cloud platform and strategy. As I mentioned before, the newest security package, known as the Enterprise Mobility Suite, has skus for Windows Intune, Azure AD Premium and Azure Rights Management. The three musketeers of mobile device management were the stars at WPC for protecting end-users and their respective business data. Since one of the biggest challenges for businesses, schools and public sector organizations is data security and rights management, there is often a fear of moving to a cloud based productivity suite. Where does the data go? Where is it hosted? Does it fit within my governance and compliance needs? What about end-point protection on mobile devices? Can we get to a BYOD environment with the cloud? The announcements at WPC were all affirmative in saying yes, we can get you there, safely and without hesitation on protecting all levels of data from Personal Identity Information (PII) to Health Records to sales quotes meant for a specific individual. The point is that Microsoft is doing everything it can to ensure your company doesn't fall victim to a breach and lose millions in revenue from a problem that can be easily addressed.
I know this is a lot to take in; we were the same way on our flight home. In fact, we're still trying to get our strategy put together post-WPC 2014. We can tell you, as one of Atlanta's few cloud-focused partners, we can answer any questions you may have regarding this article or others you may have read. Please feel free to reach out to us: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as quickly as possible. Go ahead and send us some tough questions too, we like the challenge.