The first ever Microsoft Ignite conference is over. The expo hall is closed and the dust has begun to settle. With more than 20,000 attendees focusing across all major product lines, there was a lot to take in. I wanted to share a few points that stood out to me as points to consider in the coming months. 

A good friend and fellow colleague of mine, Hardeep Singh, decided to pull some analytics from the Microsoft conference website. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and this one tells a pretty compelling story. Let’s start by taking a closer look at what the data reveals.

Running Themes

Looking at the sessions by theme or solutions area, I would say a common thread woven throughout the conference would be the idea of driving productivity and increasing collaboration in a “mobile first, cloud first” world all while being mindful of security.

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Hot Topics

Usage and adoption were all the rage. For instance, how do customers gain sustainable value from their solutions through usage and adoption? Then how do they extend them through development and deployment?

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Best in Show

As you can see from the chart below, the top products were represented by Office 365, Microsoft Azure, as well as Windows with SharePoint bringing up the rear. It’s clear to me that platforms were of paramount interest to attendees.

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Key Takeaways

But enough about basic data; let’s talk about important announcements and exciting opportunities.

The Microsoft Office 2016 preview was revealed to the public at Ignite. It gives traditional on-premise customers and IT professionals a great opportunity to test out the next wave of Microsoft’s flagship productivity suite. The features in Office 2016 largely mirror those available in Office 365, however, if you want to continue with the latest and greatest, Office 365 is still the way to go given the cloud capabilities.

Microsoft Office is now a development platform and the ability to directly extend Office opens us up to a number of possibilities. If we think about Outlook – the product that dominates our day – just imagine if we could extend this interface to include some of the many line of business systems we use day-to-day. Check out this CDW Solutions blog post, “Building Microsoft Office Apps – Less Code, More Action,” to see just how easy it is to extend Office.

Moreover, Skype for Business broadcast meetings now give customers the ability to host large format meetings with an audience between 250 and 10,000 users.

There’s also the intuitive Office 365 app, Delve, which can give you insights into your organization. Have you ever used one of those calorie tracking applications? You start off thinking, “I only eat 1,500 calories a day” and after a couple of days tracking every single item you eat, you come to the realization that it’s more like 3,500 calories a day. This is what Delve organizational analytics can tell you about how you spend your time. We all know that productivity is at the forefront of minds in every organization, so this can help provide a comprehensive view into this critical measure to help you gain control over your efficiency.

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Microsoft also announced its new browser, Microsoft Edge. Sporting a brand new, modern design and a simplified rendering engine, Microsoft Edge brings the web front-and-center in the browsing experience. Two of the most appealing features are the built-in note taking and sharing capabilities.

Cortana also took a leap forward with its Power BI canvas. Powerful analytics with natural language are now coupled with Cortana’s voice integration to provide a delightful and insightful business intelligence experience.

Continuum for Windows Phone was unveiled, providing users with the ability to connect their Windows Phone 10 device to a monitor or television in order to leverage it as a PC. Continuum allows Windows Phone to adapt its interface to the context in which you are using it. So, your phone just became a powerful and portable desktop PC.

On the Pulse

Besides the slew of quality vendors and informative sessions, each conference seemed to have a pulse – or a spirit nurtured by and viscerally connected to the attendees. I would describe this pulse as encompassing three main areas.

  1. Cloud security is still a major factor when it comes to solution implementation considerations. This concern has decreased somewhat since previous conferences, but it will still be a factor for some time.
  2. Collaboration adoption remains elusive for customers. Many customers still struggle to find long-term value from collaboration solutions, and are looking to ongoing user adoption and training for answers.
  3. Mobility is about the experience – and not about the device. Customers want to be more mobile and the ability to move across environments, devices and personas is the solution they crave. Gurdeep Singh Pall, Microsoft Corporate Vice President of Skype, said it best: “Now we are focused on the mobile experience of the user because the user is mobile. I’m sorry, the phone is not mobile. If you don’t believe me, one day leave your phone on the desk and walk away to see if it moves anywhere.”

Final Thoughts

Microsoft is serious about the cloud – so serious that they set a commercial cloud goal of a $20 billion run rate by 2018. They are genuine about productivity and mobility, but more importantly, customers and users are serious about these concepts, as well. Beyond the cloud, we can begin to see a world of infinite possibilities opening up where every cloud is extensible and interconnected; a place where developers build experiences that span multiple vendors’ solutions and stretch from on-premise to the cloud.

New markets, economies and methodologies will be born, and the idea of a single vendor being able to provide you a comprehensive solution will die. We are entering an API-driven era where solutions are made from a cloud-based fabric. Needless to say, it’s going to be an exciting year.

Curious to learn more about CDW’s partnership with Microsoft? Check out our collection of white papers, case studies, infographics and articles for more information.

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