The Westcoast Cloud Team
July 24, 2020

Our top 5 takeaways from Microsoft Inspire 2020

Every year, Microsoft host a massive party in Las Vegas. But they don’t call it a party – technically it’s a “conference” called Inspire, to which they invite all their partner organisations, customers, industry analysts, tech journalists, and so on. It’s a big bonanza of upcoming product and service releases, keynotes from senior Microsoft(ers) like Satya Nadella and Brad Smith, and really useful advice from technical experts. 

This year, for hopefully obvious reasons, the Las Vegas bash was cancelled and the whole of Inspire was instead hosted online. While it was probably a disappointment for the casinos, it did mean that Westcoast Cloud could send our special agents to every single session of the conference, to collect all the best insights on your behalf. Here are our highlights. 

1. Azure is back in a big way 

Although cloud migrations slowed at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown, things are picking back up – and there’s a lot of opportunity for partners. Forrester research from June 2020 shows that selling Azure as a managed service boosts its profitability for partners by an average of 25%, and a three-year ROI of 141%. Repeatable software sales are even better, clocking up as much as 80% profitability improvement. You don’t often get better carrots than that. 

In particular, there was a lot of discussion about Azure Lighthouse – an ideal tool for partners to sell Azure as a managed service at scale. It gives you centralised monitoring, governance and security, so you can support your clients’ cloud migrations more easily (and rack up that recurring revenue at the same time). 

They also shared a startling claim that Microsoft Cloud is up to 98% more carbon efficient than traditional enterprise datacentres – which might help convince customers about the value of making the leap. That emissions saving comes from IT operational efficiency, IT equipment efficiency, datacentre infrastructure efficiency, and renewable electricity procurement. 

2. COVID-19 contingency plans are in full flow 

There’s been a massive shift towards remote working and a renewed focus on cost savings for many businesses – as we all know. Many companies are struggling with VPN scalability constraints, access to data, infrastructure hold-ups, and ‘bad actors’ exploiting VPN vulnerabilities. Now is the time for partners to step forward, and provide quick, easy answers that allow their customers to continue working as normal. 

Perhaps the quickest and easiest solution of them all is Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). There’s nothing to host and it’s straightforward to configure and manage. It gives customers the data access, security and scale they need from day one. 

Westcoast Cloud are actually running a WVD intro webinar on August 4th – if you’d like to find out more, you can register today. 

3. The march of Dynamics continues 

Microsoft gleefully revealed that CocaCola have switched their CRM from Salesforce to Dynamics 365 and Power Platform – which doesn’t make much difference to partners on the ground, but is a big symbolic win for Redmond HQ. It does demonstrate the growing power of Dynamics 365 though, which is now used by 57% of the Fortune 500. A whopping 97% of the Fortune 500 use Power Platform too. And it only takes an average of eight days for a partner to implement. 

In particular, we liked what we heard about Dynamics 365 Customer Voice. Around 90of customers want to provide feedback on their experiences with brandsbut 54of them are rarely given the opportunity to share their thoughts. That’s even more of an issue when people are buying online, and aren’t speaking to staff members face to face or over the phone. This might be an especially useful tool if you have customers in retail, hospitality or e-commerce. 

Dynamics Voice standardises the collection and distribution of feedback across all consumer touchpoints, and links up with all Microsoft business applications, Power Apps, and third-party integrations through Power Automate. It’s got plenty of useful templates included, and connects to Dynamics Customer Insights too – so you can get context into why a customer was unhappy, and quickly follow up with a personalised next best action. 

4. ‘Zero trust’ security is on the rise 

Although it might sound like the reason for your last breakup, ‘zero trust’ is actually just a perspective on security management. It requires an integrated approach to securing access across your entire digital estate. The key to this is to explicitly verify users’ identities, use the principle of leastprivilege access, and assume the worst scenarios if you see something that looks out of place. 

Clearly, that’s likely to lead to a serious increase in security notifications and admin. One way to manage that is with Azure Sentinel, which uses machine learning to centralise and sort through all the security alerts from across your client’s business. It makes it much easier to cope with large amounts of security data. We recently put together a short summary of Azure Sentinel for our partners, which you can view here. 

There was also plenty of discussion about Azure Active Directory – an ideal way to remotely secure access to business data. Luckily for you, we’re starting a webinar series on Azure AD in August too… you can find all the sessions on our training events page. 

5. All the best new tricks for Teams 

Let’s round off with some of the new additions in Microsoft Teams which your customers might not yet be aware of. More and more people are using Teams, so these productivity tips could be very useful right now. 

First up, Project Cortex. This is a tool to help individuals get up to speed with workflows – we can imagine it being handy for onboarding new starters, or for employees who are changing teams or responsibilities. It can automatically identify a project that is underway in a business, who is working on it, what documents are associated, and when relevant meetings occur. So an individual can find information related to their projectright away, saving time and energy for everyone involved. 

Next, there are a bunch of improvements to the videoconferencing function. You can now view up to 49 people in gallery mode for large meetings, for example. Microsoft have introduced background noise depression, which should help avoid having to listen to your colleagues’ fire alarms, washing machines or nearby roadworks. 

We realise there’s a lot of stuff here to take in, and we’ve only been able to skim over some of the most important details in this blog. There was a lot of information at Inspire, so our team have plenty of new ideas to share. If you’d like to talk to anyone from Westcoast Cloud about Dynamics, Azure, Modern Workplace, or any other Microsoft services, you can always get in touch for a chat.