Written: 18/10/2021 | Updated: N/A

Like Inspire earlier this year; this Ignite will be my 4th. Having just got back from surviving Covid I don’t mind admitting to you that I’m completely unprepared this time around. I wish I could tell you differently. Yet if I had said something different a.) I’d be lying and b.) that’s really the reality when you are out of the loop for a month working in cloud. Saying that; I am actually looking forward to this Ignite probably more than any other since it’s been held virtually. Why? We are going to hear a lot about Teams, about Collaborative Apps and Fluid. We are going to hear more on Windows 11 and Windows 365. We are going to hear more on Viva and probably the recent acquisition of Ally.io. We’ll hear about the new Stream and how it continues to evolve, more about new devices and form factors, and a slew of new features for the Power Platform which will continue to fuel its prodigious growth. We’ll see how Yammer is changing and how SharePoint is being fused increasingly with teams, yet at the same time broken apart and siloed into apps as it’s services are pulled through. But you know, we are going to hear the word Hybrid most of all. It’s going to be used in this event like never before. And it’ll be used alongside resilience, and agility, and analytics, and zero trust. We may even hear more about that new kid on the block digital optimism. So why am I so interested in all this? Rather than just about the tech? As an event organiser myself I am always interested in fleshing out the narrative: the overall story of the conference which binds all these subjects and sessions together. Well, if you’ve been around and followed what Microsoft’s been up to during the course of the pandemic then that narrative hasn’t really changed all that much. It been coming to fruition, playing out, following the script to use idioms. Cast yourself back to Judson Althoff’s session at Inspire 2020. At the beginning of the pandemic it was about being first responders; it was all about survival. As we meandered through the pandemic and the lockdowns it was about supporting recovery. Now its time for the the third act. As vaccine development has helped us begin to manage Covid and countries and economies start opening up it’s now about the reimagining and the rebuilding. And what that constitutes is what Microsoft is doubling down on. Hybrid. Hybrid which posits that a.) we are going to go through something like this or something similar again and b.) Something that is almost inevitable given our experiences during the past 2 years. But you know, it’s not a particularly earth shattering or revolutionary insight. Most of us know or have personally experienced that some people want to work alongside others in person or have to because of their roles. We also know that some people want to work from home as it benefits their personal life or their views on – for example – sustainability. Again, we also know others want a mix of both. So in fairness many of us didn’t need Covid or the experience of it for what we already knew. Yet, the why as in why Microsoft is going all in on Hybrid? Its because for them it represents the greatest opportunity. Hybrid is the greatest opportunity for mitigating what we’ve all just been through. It’s the greatest opportunity for creating a permanent change to the way that we work, and for real meaningful social change. But let’s not forget too: hybrid represents the greatest return on their investment for what they have been investing in for many years. And don’t forget – it what’s going to keep us all in the job as technicians; it’s where Microsoft is focusing their innovations

Microsoft Ignite is a two day digital event bleeding over into a third mainly to support time zones this time around. Of 421 sessions almost 20% are Modern Work (81) which is 25% more than Azure (61) Whilst this is surprising given that Azure had way more prominence back in Inspire it could simply mean that Microsoft wants it’s partners to focus more on Azure. But I am really happy to see more Modern Work sessions especially SOYS (SharePoint, OneDrive Yammer and Stream). In other sessions Security has 49 and Power Platform 29. It’s probably the most Power Platform sessions I’ve seen at a major Microsoft event outside of the Bus Apps summit and shows where the focus is at. But what interests me about Ignite this year is the constitution of the sessions themselves: a massive 128 sessions are on demand whereas breakouts – which usually form the ‘rump’ of a conference only 51. What concerns me here is this increasing trend of content at virtual events which has become pre-canned. If Ignite follows this trend – and my gut says it will – it could feel a bit clinical at times when compared to the past. For example, I am sitting there watching a session and all the people who are talking in that session are not there. They are at home or out, or working, or doing something else. It creates a sort of disconnection like what you have with TV. Of course, I understand the argument about production values and avoiding technical issues: but I am personally of the opinion live gives it better atmosphere. To me it encapsulates commitment to the event. And if they mess up we still love them right!

So once again I hope to see you there! If you haven’t already register here.

MY SCHEDULE

Whilst I have just got over Covid and spent most of September and the first half of October getting better, I have been super lucky and have managed to get the opportunity to participate again this year. I will be doing less than previous years, but it is still a privilege to have the opportunity to be involved so late in the day

Here’s what I am involved in this year

And here’s my top picks and what is definitely going to be in my backpack for the event

TitleSession NumberDay/Time
Microsoft Ignite OpeningKEY01Tue 15:15 – 15.50
Empower everyone for a new world of hybrid workCTS01Tue 15:55 – 16.20
Agile, collaborative, secure: Why adopt Windows 11 todayBRK200Tue 18:30 – 19:00
Microsoft Teams: Thrive with hybrid workBRK202Tue 19.30 – 20.00
Strengthen resilience with identity innovations in Azure Active DirectoryBRK242Tue 20.30 – 21.00
SharePoint Experiences in TeamsPRT028Tue 21.30 – 22.30
Viva: Latest innovations and roadmap for the new digital employee experienceBRK204Tue 22.30 – 23.00
Build a privacy resilient workplace with Privacy Management for Microsoft 365BRK251Wed 15.30 – 16.00
Rich, secure content and collaboration for hybrid workBRK206Wed 15.30 – 16.00
The Future of Sharing & Collaboration in Microsoft 365PRT027Wed 16.30 – 17.30
Prepare for the future of calling with Microsoft Teams PhoneBRK205Wed 17.30 – 18.00
The Future of Audio in Microsoft 365PRT017Wed 18.30 – 19.30
Grounding Zero Trust in Reality: Best Practices and Emerging TrendsBRK246Wed 19.30 – 20.00
Transforming collaboration in the hybrid workplace. Are you ready?CONATE158Wed 20.30 – 21.00
Microsoft Lists: Best Practices and ChallengesPRT005Wed 21.30 – 22.30
An inside view on detecting and mitigating insider risksBRK252Wed 22.30 – 23.00
Culture and comms: Explore Microsoft Viva Connections, SharePoint, and YammerOD111On Demand
Enabling inclusive hybrid meetings with Microsoft Teams and Teams devicesOD104On Demand
Microsoft Edge: moving to a modern, secure browser with backward compatibilityOD100On Demand
Optimize how you work with RPA and process advisor in Power AutomateOD162On Demand
Seamless external collaboration with Microsoft Teams Connect, shared channelsOD102On Demand
Video and Microsoft Stream in Microsoft 365OD110On Demand
What’s new for file experiences in OneDrive, SharePoint, and Microsoft TeamsOD109On Demand
What’s new for SharePoint: Solutions, templates, pages, and moreOD119On Demand

TEAMS SESSIONS AT IGNITE 2021

There are 24 sessions as defined by the schedule; and whilst I am not attending every one here are 10 sessions which I am calling out for the general Teams enthusiast. Jared.Spatero returns for the overarching Microsoft 365 keynote Empower everyone for a new world of hybrid work however it will actually be a triad of sessions which make up the ‘Teams keynote’ – a carbon copy of Inspire earlier this year. Jared will have the big announcements and if my gut feeling is right it’ll be a pre-recorded session with high production values and him running through day to day scenarios. Nicole’s Microsoft Teams: Thrive with hybrid work will dig into the Teams specific detail and Jeff Teper and friends will present Rich, secure content and collaboration for hybrid work which will be focused on Teams in the wider context of collaboration and the apps which underpin it such as SharePoint and OneDrive. There is one dedicated session on Calling (BRK205), one on Power Platform Integration (BRK233) and one on virtual events (CONLL114) where I am sure new meeting and live event functionality will feature. The biggest focus area in terms of the number of sessions on is Devices: whilst one of these sessions is shown below, there are two more on demand however this isn’t particularly surprising given the upsurge in device sales. What is surprising is that sessions on Teams Security, Compliance, Files and App Development are all on demand. Finally, you will note that I am not mentioning Viva here because Viva has it’s own set of sessions and will probably also feature in Jeff’s session BRK206. But if you want one on Viva to absolutely watch I’d recommend the Viva keynote BRK204 the link of which is above

WHAT ELSE WOULD I RECOMMEND?

During conferences I want to catch more than just Teams since my interests are broad. However, during the days of the conference I have little time to spare so typically I go back to watch these on demand after the event. I guess the link between these three I have chosen are that they are all pretty fundamental and could be seen as old school: BRK200 is on Windows 11. Whilst I am very passionate about Teams I am not one of those who personally believe that Teams is usurping Windows anytime soon: we are a long way from there unless Microsoft rebrand. I also think Windows 11 is a positive thing: many in the community moaned and held Microsoft’s feet to the fire on the Windows 10 announcement as being the last operating system: but to be fair they are creating and sustaining jobs here and having been on it since it entered beta Win 11 I think is going to be very solid. BRK260 is on Office. I always feel sorry for Office as when I used to roll it out it always got lumped in with Exchange and wasn’t seen as something which is exciting. You know I am old enough that my parents had a typewriter and one of those old Olivetti word processors. What you can do now with Office is immense considering how it can be extended, how it is infused with AI and interacts with Cloud services. Finally, BRK260 is what the techs want to see. Jeffrey Snover and Jason Helmick. They did a PowerShell series back in the day. Everyone loved it. Everyone wants more of it. I would love to see the session metrics for this one it’ll be in the thousands. If this were at a physical event at the OCCC then they would fill the main stage in the Expo hall for sure

FOR MCT’S AND CLOUD CHALLENGE

For MCT’s there is a small number of sessions: the main one of interest being the Ask The Experts sessions: especially considering that Liberty Munson is on the expert panel. Liberty is a psychometrician and is behind the design of the exams so hopefully she’ll give an insight into what goes into making them. Sudarshan – who is also on the panel – runs the Microsoft Certification Advisory Board which I am a part of. On the face of it, this looks good, but what is surprising here is there are no sessions on the MCT program, on Microsoft Learn, on recertification, or on new exams which may be released at Ignite. Back a few years ago there were cram sessions for example: you would think they would have this for AZ-700, or MS-720 or AZ-800/801 or any of the other exams which are new out. Of course, this could all be within the sessions below, or in blogs or in some other format but that’s not explicit. What is also surprising is that learning/skilling programme is only 4 of 428 sessions which is a really low number considering there are about 13/14,000 MCT’s worldwide and hundreds of thousands of learners who take certs yearly. So very much a low key event for Worldwide Learning. We can only hope it rebounds in the future

More than the skilling and cert sessions it is the return of the Cloud Skills Challenge and the chance to earn an exam certificate which is going to be the big draw. These are the exam certs up on offer

Terms and Conditions are here. Most important of those terms is that it has to finish in November – and if the challenge is like last time then it will be about 20 Microsoft Learn modules. If you want to participate make sure you have registered for Ignite and do so with the address you use to do certifications (typically your MSA account).

I’M FEELING…

  • A November event. Lets have a good one in the northern hemisphere as we go into darkness the next 6 months
  • The return of the skills challenge which was painfully absent at Inspire. Let’s go get certs!
  • A good amount of sessions on SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams. I feel good for Jeff, Karuana, Laurie and the Team
  • Ilya Bukshteyn and Devices getting three sessions
  • Day 3 being practically nothing meaning it’s much more of a 2 day event and 3 can be reserved for on demand
  • Plenty of roundtables. I’m in and I hope you don’t mind I am terrible at Raise Hand.

I’M NOT FEELING…

  • C’mon its time for those certificates of attendance. Some people have a legit need for them.
  • One session on Windows 365 and it’s on demand? What the…!
  • Pre-canning. Let’s do it live and be all we can be
  • There isn’t a great number of Level 300+ sessions this year. About 10%. This is an IT Pro event right?
  • The lack of RD’s, MVP’s and MCT’s for this one. Microsoft, as I said in the preview of Inspire I love you – but again you just passed up about two dozen of the best sessions in the world from those who truly love what you create

MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT VIRTUAL CONFERENCE

I’ve done quite a few of them now. Here’s some recommendations for a great virtual conference

  • There are a lot of sessions and it isn’t going to be possible to view them all during the conference. There will be conflicts. Use the backpack in order to go back and watch sessions you missed
  • Sessions can have repeats so look at all times as one could be better suited for your schedule
  • Sessions which are prerecorded and on demand can be watched anytime. Prioritise live
  • Take regular breaks. You would take regular breaks at an in person conference. Stay hydrated and well fed and get away from the screen and stretch your legs
  • Get provisions in terms of eating, drinking and anything else you need so you are well prepared logistically
  • Ultimately, most things will be recorded so if you miss something you can catch up. Don’t underprioritise family/friends
  • Try and mix it up! There is a wide range of formats including Breakouts and Table Talks. It could be more enjoyable to get involved in different sessions as opposed to just breakouts
  • Try to book a least a few sessions in both days, whilst you don’t want to take the spontaneity out of the event, having a few booked in will at least give you some structure throughout
  • RSVP workshops or roundtables – book now to avoid disappointment
  • If a session is good, call out the session and the speaker on social and give them a boost for a job well done
  • Keep the conversations positive! We are all here to have a great time and be together
  • Do technical checks early on November 2nd to ensure you are good to go for the keynote
  • Stay in touch with colleagues and friends in Teams and even watch sessions together
  • If you need proof you attended the event because some employers will want this you can download a copy of your sessions from the scheduler and Digital Swag

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