Jeff Shuey, Chief Evangelist of partner K2 and a familiar face at WPC, and I were at the inaugural Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago last week. We took a moment after the event to talk about what we had learned and what we wanted to share with the Microsoft Partner Network.
 
What were the most promising announcements to come out of Ignite?
 
Shannon: Personally, I was really pleased to see that Cortana is evolving to be even more helpful. In Windows 10, she’ll be able to answer technical questions about the operating system, help me find features, and perform even more tasks. In an era of more personal computing, it’s tough to get more personal than a personal assistant who only gets smarter as I interact with her.
 
Jeff: The biggest, most exciting thing I saw was the announcement of Universal Apps, the idea that an app can be universal across desktops, tablets, mobile, all the different devices including the Internet of Things (IoT) movement. I am optimistic that having the ability port apps from different platforms like iOS and Android will open up new opportunities for partners and for our customers. This ties to another big advantage, which is from within Windows 10 – the ability to have Universal Apps that span anyone and any organization you might work with. I’m also looking forward to the day when Windows phones will get Windows 10 and have the ability to run applications from other platforms, notably iOS and Android.
 
There was a lot of conversation around mobile at Ignite – what’s Microsoft’s vision for mobile?
 
Jeff: As Satya said, it’s a mobile-first, cloud-first world. Which leads to the first question we hear in customer meetings: What’s your mobile strategy? They want to make sure that, whatever they deploy, they can give it to a manager, an executive, or an employee, and everyone will have a useful, secure, predictable experience with that application on any device. One big advantage Microsoft brings to the table is that security is baked in; it goes without saying that solutions and devices have to be secure. This is so intrinsic to Microsoft’s message, it almost doesn’t need to be stated outright because you know whatever you get will be secure.
 
As a result of customer and partner demands (and because Microsoft is making it part of the core development effort) we have made all of our solutions with responsive design in mind. We’ve made it easy to design, develop and deploy K2 solutions for any device.
 
Of course, as a long-time Microsoft partner (going on 16 years now), I was especially intrigued to see the advances in machine learning and the plans for NextGen Portals and SharePoint 2016. We are building and extending Office 365 with Azure to enable cloud-based forms and workflow solutions. There is also lot of interest in Azure Media Services with our customers in the entertainment space. We’ve built out some early prototypes that are getting a lot of attention.
 
Shannon: As a frequent user of my phone to do pretty much anything except talk, I was interested in the adaptive triggers and tailored views from the new Visual Studio. I like that I’ll have the same or similar user experience no matter what type of device I’m using or which device family it comes from.
 
What were you focused on at Ignite?
 
Jeff: The main reasons I attended were to meet up with customers and partners and attend sessions. I specifically wanted to attend sessions on SharePoint, Office 365 and Enterprise Social. I particularly enjoy getting to see my friends who are MVPs speak and share their knowledge. There are quite a few of them who were speakers at this inaugural Ignite event. I didn’t get to see all of them, but the ones I missed on the show floor or in sessions I was able to catch up during the nightly after-hours parties!
 
From the Microsoft side of things, I saw that Microsoft has done a lot of work – mostly behind the scenes, but it got surfaced at Ignite — to show how to integrate Enterprise Social across all platforms, including in a SharePoint environment, a web-browser environment, and a mobile environment. Microsoft is making it very easy to add Yammer streams to those devices and apps. So you get more collaboration and sharing. Which ties into another point Satya made during the keynote about “reinventing productivity.”
 
Speaking of sessions, a really great one I saw was Melanie Hohertz’s session ‘Enterprise Social, from “Ooh, Shiny” to Business Success.’ She was fantastic. What I really liked about Melanie’s session was that she had great examples about driving awareness, adoption, and continued use of Yammer within her company. She also shared the documents she has developed over the years for enterprise social adoption on the Ignite Yammer site. Overall, she just brings a lot of energy to the topic and has great stories about the good, the bad, and the occasionally ugly efforts of bringing enterprise social to life.
 
Another session I really liked was with Naomi Moneypenny and Eric Overfield where they talked about and showed integration of Yammer into SharePoint. They showed how easy it is to include Yammer conversations in a SharePoint site.
 
Shannon: I spent most of my time on the expo floor, talking to partners about how they are innovating and growing their businesses in the cloud. For example, I spoke with Binary Tree about how they’ve developed E2E Express, Exchange migration software that makes it easy for small to medium businesses to quickly and securely move Exchange content to cloud or on-premises environments. I also ate a lot of Godiva chocolates….
 
Anything else?
 
Jeff: I would have loved to have seen a few Microsoft executives say, on stage during the keynote, “This is the first time Microsoft is bringing together such disparate groups of customers, partners, and Microsoft employees. Take the time to move beyond the familiar, standard faces and reach out to someone new. Walk across the hall. Introduce yourself. Take a moment to understand that person’s business.” We look for people we know because it’s exhausting to start a whole, new, unfamiliar conversation. But there were thousands of people there I have never met and suddenly had access to – I think a reminder (from the Microsoft execs) of the value of that would have helped me make the effort.
 
Shannon: I’d love to hear from other partners who attended and are interested in sharing their experience, so please comment on our Facebook page!
 
 
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