Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 4   Recently updated !

Continuing on from Part 3.

After the keynote, we walked back to the MTCC and as my first session was at 11:30-12:30pm, I decided to go directly to the food hall to grab an early lunch.  On the tables were a number of conversation starter cards, although I didn’t have anyone to engage with at the time.

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I had less than half an hour to eat before making my way to the Commons (level 800) where the next session was yet another networking session.

ISV07l – Government sector: ISV and SI networking event

If you are an independent software vendor (ISV) looking to extend your business or a systems integrator (SI) seeking relevant IP to differentiate your services in the government sector, then this is the networking event for you. Visit the ISV Lounge located in the Community Hub of the Commons and be ready to network to find your next business connection.

This session was a bit interesting, it occurred in the ISV section of the Microsoft area within the Commons.  When I arrived, a Microsoft staffer “scanned” (NFC) my pass and then provided me with a yellow sticker which indicated ‘that I worked for a System Integration partner.  The interesting thing was that the majority of delegates who turned up were wearing blue stickers, denoting independent software vendors.

It was probably like being the belle of the ball, as I had a line of people queued with me to have a discussion.  The session proved quite fruitful, I must have had about six 15 minute conversations with a wide range of ISVs covering off topics from SharePoint health monitoring to advanced developer controls and beyond.  There was significant, relevant, crossover for the Australian market.

I had to hustle to make it to my next session at 1pm, despite the fact it was only one level up at 715A.

CE131 – Prepare for the future of intelligent customer engagement with Microsoft Dynamics CRM

Excited to learn about the FY17 strategy and focus areas for intelligent customer engagement in Microsoft Dynamics CRM? Join this session with Dynamics CRM leaders to hear what’s in store for FY17 and what it means to your Dynamics CRM business

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This session really introduced the full scope of the newly branded Dynamics 365.  As you can see from the initial introduction slides, there’s a lot to like in terms of the capability on offer from Dynamics 365.  The “full stack” aligns very well with the productivity goals described in the first keynote.  AppSource is introduced and is touted as one of the pillars of the plug and play style building blocks of the Dynamics cloud offering.

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Focus shifts to Microsoft’s investments in driving the success of CRM Online with the service outstripping licensing from On Premise licensing for the second consecutive year.  The anticipated Spring Wave has arrived, and includes some functionality (CRM Online only) we’ve been waiting for including:

  • Field service,
  • Employee, customer and partner portals.
  • Machine learning integration

A roadmap is also included, showing the history of how CRM has matured to the platform offering we have today.  It’s quite apparent that we’re seeing annual improvements now for at least three years in a row (starting with CRM 2013) and the cadence of improvements and releases is set to increase in the cloud.  Microsoft has certainly committed to a cloud-first deployment strategy with on-premise deployments a few months later.

Connected Field Service and Scheduling

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The Spring Wave also brought us the new field management capability which implements rich resource management functionality.  This allows for resources to be defined and managed with CRM in both a Gantt style and calendar style interface (as shown above).  Machine learning is incorporated to anticipate service issues and to assist in resource planning/deployment, and FieldOne becomes the tool of choice for workers in the field.

I’m going to cover this off in more detail in later articles, as next month we’ll be looking to implement this functionality with my current client.

Customer Engagement

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There’s significant investment in productivity enhancements specifically around customer engagement and service management.  There’s four streams present, beginning with Cortana based learning.  Interaction history, social engagement and other data sources can be interpreted to assist in managing cases and to link useful documents and other resources to active work.

Emails and other correspondence is also a data source, but there’s a new twist in that LinkedIn can also be used to correlate business connections within and outside an organisation.  I expect this will be expanded in the wake of Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn.  Automation also helps resolve cases and workflow, and suggests actions.

After this session, I snuck back to the food hall for a second stab at lunch; the beef was sensational.  Again, I only had a half hour until the next session:

CE141 – Creating the Microsoft Dynamics partner of the future: Microsoft’s partner strategy, plans, and programs to support your success

There has never been more opportunity for growing a profitable business with Microsoft Dynamics as the barriers between products break down, enabling the opportunity to deliver a broader solution. Dynamics partners are uniquely equipped to deliver deep vertical solutions that are critical to our customers. Current and potential Dynamics partners should attend to understand Microsoft’s combination of partner incentives, branding, requirements and strategies to help fully realize this opportunity.

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This session focused on explaining some changes to how Microsoft engages with Partners to deliver value to customers.  The model places heavy emphasis on the Dynamics Partner to provide their clients with direction on cloud adoption, with a focus on providing a comprehensive solution to meet the client’s needs.  Key takeaways include owning the billing relationship, offering managed services such as support, providing integration and validation and knowing the client’s business domain.

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This is where the expanded Cloud Solution Provider (CSP) Program comes in, to provide partners with support and guidance from Microsoft on how to achieve the above goals.

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There is a heavy emphasis on partners owning the relationship between client and provider, including the handling of billing and support.  This is accomplished in two distinct ways: direct and indirect channels.  The direct channel is where a partner provides services as a direct go-between, indirect channels is where services are obtained from an indirect provider, by way of an indirect reseller (an unmanaged partner).  There arte obviously better benefits attached to direct channels, but they require a lot more commitment from the partner company than via the indirect channel.

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At this point, existing partner competencies will change. Existing partners with a CRM competency (on premise or cloud) based on revenue/seats/exams and references will transition to Cloud CRM competencies.   Existing partners with an ERP (Axapta/AX) revenue/exams/references competency will transition to an ERP competency based either on on-premises or cloud performance.  Note the subtle changes.

There is a heavy emphasis on vertical market alignment, and this is soon to be reflected in the partner competencies, split across industry lines, e.g. Retail, Public Sector, Manufacturing etc..  This is designed to provide better clarity around which Dynamics Partners are better suited to providing solutions to specific industry customers.  There is still horizontal alignment in competencies across Dynamics 365, Azure etc..

The second part of the session was a presentation delivered by a Dynamics Partner.  Their strategy relied on a number of key principles, for example:

  • Don’t chase non-strategic business,
  • Focus on industry,
  • Cloud first everywhere,
  • All new projects are cloud,
  • Adoption is driven by mobility,

The point being driven home here is clear: for best results, target vertical industries and be extremely proficient in handling industry business.  The session wound down with the big reveal, FY17 Partner incentive breakdowns which I won’t share here at this time (contact me offline if interested).

Session Takeaways

It’s pretty clear how Microsoft is positioning Dynamics 365, and the important role Dynamics Partners will play in expanding the reach of the platform.  There were a few really obvious conclusions to be reached from what I’ve learned so far:

  • Develop and end-to-end vertical aligned strategy
  • Cloud first
  • Expand service offerings around fast go to market offerings
  • Invest in building IP (reuse in AppSource, PowerApps, Flow and Power BI) – specifically industry aligned IP – to build differentiation
  • Validate solutions and IP through AppSource, attract exposure and additional business

Summary

That was my last session of the day.  There wasn’t anything too appealing, and I was still a bit tired, so I walked back to the unit and caught a little sleep to get refreshed for the evening.  I got changed and head back to the MTCC at 6pm for the bus to the APAC dinner.

The next article will focus on the third day of the WPC, coming soon.


Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 3   Recently updated !

Following on from Part 2.

Editorial note: These keynotes started around 8:45am and ran non-stop until 10:45am, but sometimes went over.  As a result, it’s a lot of content to cover, hence why I’ve been splitting them out into separate articles.  By the time we returned to the MTCC, it was easily 11am, and with lunch, half the day was virtually gone!

The second day of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Convention (WPC16) formally began with a second vision keynote in the same location as the previous day’s keynote – at the Air Canada Centre.  Owing in part to my late night, I arrived a little later than the previous day, and was therefore (rightly) relegated to the bleachers.

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Vision Keynote Kick-off

Vision Keynote 2 – Innovation

The keynote kicked off with another musical number by Canadian acapella stars Eh440, complete with delegate participation.  Once the music died down, Microsoft Executive Vice President (Cloud + Enterprise) Scott Guthrie (a.k.a Scott Gu) took to the stage to welcome the assembled partners.

Microsoft Azure

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Scott Guthrie/Introduces Azure Datacentres

Scott starts off by talking about Microsoft Azure, and how Microsoft has deployed Azure datacentres throughout the world, even eclipsing the competition.  There are still more plans to continue building new datacentres to satisfy growing demand.  The trusted cloud is a strong theme here, as the various security classifications and certifications are displayed across the big screen.  Microsoft has been committed to lowering the common barriers to cloud adoption – security, sovereignty and reliability.

Microsoft AppSource

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Next up is the new Microsoft AppSource, which provides an app store to Businesses and Government.

The main benefits that AppSource offers include:

  • AppSource connects users to partners
  • Partners can showcase their craft by adding them to AppSource
  • Business users can find and use apps specific to their business or industry domain
  • Provides an opportunity for users to easily sample AppSource applications

AppSource neatly underpins functionality within the Azure fabric, can be used to augment business capability, workflow and productivity gains.

Productivity

As highlighted in the previous day’s keynote, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 combine to present real productivity gains and transformation opportunities.  Kirk Koenigsbauer, Corporate Vice President, Office 365 Client Apps and Services Team takes to the stage to discuss the evolution of the modern workforce.

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Kirk Koenigsbauer talks Office 365 adoption

There’s a healthy analysis of the need for further multitasking support, particularly as Millennials start to enter the workforce.  The next generation of workers will be even more technically savvy and adept at multitasking, and office tools and software need to be adaptive.  The roadmap for Office 365 has four distinct arms:

1. Collaboration:  Better support for more teams working together,

2. Mobility: The modern worker is not always office bound, applications need to be able to work on many different devices,

3. Intelligence: The underpinning of the fabric will be smarter, can learn

4. Trust: Confidence in the security and reliability of the platform is paramount

Facebook Adopts Office 365

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Who saw that coming?

After a short video introduction, the newest corporate adopter of Office 365 is revealed – and with some surprise, it’s Internet behemoth Facebook.  The crowd welcomes Facebook CIO Tim Campos to the stage.  Tim talks about the Facebook company ethos, and its focus on connecting people.  Office 365 seems a logical fit for their organisation.  The ease of collaboration and the removal of constraints helps their business flow and function.

New Security Controls/Windows 10 Anniversary Edition

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We take a short detour through some of the new security features which are coming for Windows 10.  A live demonstration compares two live attack scenarios and illustrates how the new changes will better prevent users from potential threats.

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We’ll see some of these new controls in the Windows 10 Anniversary Edition.  Next up, we’re shown some new augmented reality capability which enables users to interact with their environment.  The demonstration sees the use of a large tyre, and for comic relief, we’re shown the destruction of the tyre for use in demonstrating how damage to the tyre can be marked up on a Surface device.

Here’s some other neat things coming in the Anniversary Update (source: theverge.com):

  • Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It’s essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they’ll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
  • Microsoft Edge extensions: If you’re a fan of Chrome extensions, then you’ll be glad to hear that they’re heading to Microsoft’s Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it’s now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
  • Cortana improvements: Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You’ll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
  • Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
  • Windows Hello: Windows Hello is a new feature that Microsoft has added to Windows 10. It uses a special camera (usually found on the latest PCs and laptops) to scan your face and let you log into Windows without using a password.
  • Windows 10 apps on Xbox One: Seems like a bit of a no-brainer, you’ll soon be able to run Windows 10 apps on the Xbox One

For the Enterprise

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Windows as a service and Surface as a service

The next big announcement is Windows 10 Enterprise E3 which provides “Windows as a Service” for as little as $7 (USD?) per user per month.  There’s also “Surface as a Service” where users can lease a Surface from Microsoft on a per monthly basis.

HoloLens

We’re getting close to wrapping up the second Vision Keynote, and what better way to finish things by revisiting Microsoft HoloLens?  This time it is the US PGA Golf, and the augmented reality demonstration gives us a look at how visual immersion, coupled with the power of statistics creates a brand new way of navigating a golf course.

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In this demonstration, the course is zoomed in, and we’re shown different holes and the shots made by players competing in a tournament at the venue.  Overlaid into the render are player shots, their distances and where the ball ended up.  Players can be compared side-by-side.  It’s quite impressive.

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Summary

That, in a nutshell, is the second Vision Keynote.  I omitted a few names and some bits I found less interesting, but most of  the big announcements have been covered off (but let me know if I missed anything).  From my point of view, some highlights:

  • Microsoft’s really backing this cloud thing!
  • Breaking down the barrier to cloud adoption has been a major focus,
  • Real cost and productivity savings are on offer,
  • The widely anticipated “Windows as a Service” (hinted in 2015 and earlier) is soon to be a reality,
  • AppSource is being backed hard,
  • HoloLens just keeps getting more impressive

We returned to the sunny Toronto summer, to start the rest of day 2.  This will be covered in the next article.