Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2016 – Part 2


Following on from Part 1

I left off just after the first vision keynote on the first day of the conference.  After the keynote finished, thousands of delegates started walking back to the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (MTCC).  The initial push seemed to be towards the lowest level of MTCC South (800) – a huge open expanse of stands called ‘The Commons’ which was well stocked with Microsoft and other partner stalls.

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The Commons at the Worldwide Partner Convention 2016

The Commons

The keynote had featured a woman named Ariela Suster, Founder and Creative Director of Sequence, a company based in El Salvador.  At the Commons, I collected a bracelet which had featured in the keynote, made by Sequence, which is a company operating despite the challenges of being located within the realm of multiple street gangs.  Their coverage at the keynote included details of how they had incorporated the use of technologies like Skype to stay connected to their workforce across multiple locations.

I moved around the Commons before bumping into a fellow Aussie who I’d met at the FTA session the day before.  We hunted the cognitive bots stand within the Microsoft cloud area, and got a few demos of the new ML bots, including the caption bot and the text to speech bot.  Little did I know that some of this technology would be featured in the next keynote.  We split up, and I wound my way over to look at a assisted driving car which had been built to utilize data fed from IoT style devices.

I attempted to join the 12pm session in the Commons (CE008t-R1 – Blockchain basics, the Microsoft offering and what you can do to get started) but the session was crammed in the relatively small Cloud + Enterprise theatre.  I had difficulty viewing the presentation deck and hearing, so I ended up moving along.

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Lunch

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Before my first session, I made my way up and over to MTCC North, to the gargantuan dining hall which served most of the convention’s meals.  The quality of the food served was really second to none.  I made a point of ensuring that I either sat in, or grabbed takeaway on each of the conference days.

CE181w – Partner Opportunities for sales analytics solutions with Microsoft Power BI and Microsoft Dynamics CRM

The new Power BI solution template for sales analytics lets you stand up a scalable, secure, and extensible Power BI dashboard for your Microsoft Dynamics CRM instance in a few hours. The system includes the ETL, the data warehouse running on Microsoft Azure, and the set of Power BI reports and dashboards to customize to your customer’s unique needs. Join this session to learn more about our strategy, how you can win customers, drive differentiation, and provide feedback to shape our program.

My first session was unsurprisingly CRM related.

The thrust of the session was to demonstrate how results could be obtained quickly by merging data from multiple sources together using the power of Microsoft Power BI and with large sets of data obtained from CRM.  The speed to market aspect derives from the use of solution templates designed to be customized and implemented by partners, and naturally there’s an Azure tie-in.

A number of sample templates were shown using the standard Cortoso company data.  The solutions use a service called Scribe which powers a lot of the integration componentry.

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Scribe-PowerBI Roadmap/Sample

There’s clearly some power behind the combination of Power BI and Dynamics CRM and other structured data sources.  Scribe seems to simplify the work of tapping into data sources, but it was unclear to me how the mechanics of orchestrating the management of sourced data works.

After this session, it was coffee time, so I took off with another partner from Canberra and we hunted coffee a few blocks north of the convention centre.

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CE343w – Get started building automated workflows with Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow is a service for business users and specialists to work smarter by automating workflow across the growing number of apps and Software as a Service (SaaS) services that are relied on every day. Experience the service and see how partners can use Microsoft Flow to accelerate and automate their customer’s businesses so employees spend less time on mundane, repetitive tasks, and more time on the most important work at hand.

The next session was full!  We ended up being shepherded up to near the express cafe on the floor the dining area was on, where we sat in front of a massive LCD screen and listened to the session via headsets and a wireless receiver.  This way, we were able to follow the session, although it was already under way once we were properly set up.  As a consequence, we probably missed the key introduction.

In any case, from what I could understand, Microsoft Flow presents as a lightweight way of developing system workflow based off easily defined tasks.

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The editor is pretty much just as you’d expect if you’ve ever written any graphical-supported BRE/mapping or flow functionality.  Naturally, there’s tie-ins to some of the more recent announcements, such as AppSource Apps.  It seems to be for cloud use only, such as within Dynamics 365, Office 365 etc. it wasn’t discussed whether there was any on premise support.

Solutions with Microsoft Flow can be saved as templates, templates typically run under the credentials of the executing user identity.  Templates can be shared within or outside an organisation.  You can build custom connectors for use with Microsoft Flow, they need to support HTTP/HTTPS, a standard of authentication (OAuth 2.0, Basic, API key), have a human readable interface.

Flow is built on top of Logic Apps, which is where the Azure underpinning of Microsoft Flow comes into the picture.

Logic Apps provide a way to simplify and implement scalable integrations and workflows in the cloud. It provides a visual designer to model and automate your process as a series of steps known as a workflow.

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Product Roadmap

PS02 – Worldwide public sector executive roundtables

Hear from more than 50 public sector leaders and experts on key top of mind industry topics, with an open forum to ask questions that are specific to your business interests. The format will be 45 tables, 45 hot topics, and you choose which ones have relevance for you. This is a great opportunity for networking during the roundtables and at the happy hour immediately following the session.

The next session was a freeform networking event targeted at partners who work in the public sector, as I do.  The room was split across industry lines, by table, so that participants could select the table which best fit their own business.  I ended up on a table with a bunch of Microsoft folks from a Microsoft subsidiary (US based) called Vexcel.

We talked for about half an hour about Vexcel’s model of engaging multiple partners in what they called a Complex Partner Management engagement model (driven through a Complex Engagement Delivery Office) which allows for entertaining the opportunity to take on programme of work outsourcing arrangements.

Without going into too much detail, it seemed like something worth pursuing further.  This session took us up to (and actually beyond) 5pm.

End of Day 1

At this point, the day wound down.  Although I didn’t get to as many sessions as I’d liked, I felt that I’d managed to accomplish a fair bit on my first full day.  There’s a lot to wade through, and I feel like it is just as important to get out and network as it is to pursue the subject matter specific sessions.

Monday night represented the first (and only) free night of the convention.  I used this as an opportunity to catch up with a former colleague who happened to be in Toronto at the time.  We caught up with some other Canberra partners later that night and ended up winding up a bit after midnight.

The next article will start with the second day’s vision keynote.


About Rob Sanders

IT Professional and TOGAF 9 certified architect with nearly two decades of industry experience, 17 years in commercial software development and 11 years in IT consulting. Check out the "About Rob" page for more information.

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