Written: 13/07/2021 | Updated: N/A

Microsoft Inspire. The big one. This’ll be the 4th time I’ve made it and the second virtually since the pandemic began. In preparing to write this blog I took some time to look back over the last one and this time around, I’ll admit I’m really feeling it not being there in Vegas. Now don’t get me wrong – I’m the first to admit that I am someone who has really benefitted from remote working over the past eighteen months both in terms of productivity and being a more present father and husband – but this doesn’t negate all the great memories. The aridity and stunning desert scenary always at the edge of the eye. The walk through the Mandalay after getting off the monorail past the Luxor. The quietness of the commons when everyone else has piled over to the T. Feels a long time ago, and part of me really hopes we can all go back someday. Yet with 70,000 tuning in last time – double that of an in person event – a more equitable event for those who didn’t get to previously attend in person, and with Microsoft saving significantly in terms of it’s carbon footprint I really do wonder whether things will ever go back to what they were. Maybe. Here in the UK many organisations have already signaled that they have learnt absolutely nothing from their experience of the pandemic. They have survived. And as soon as these organisations can they will try to have all their staff back in the office, and many will operate as if the pandemic had never really happened at all. Now, Microsoft has been really serious this past year about change. About concepts such as building resilience, working towards net sustainability and digital optimism and if you follow along with Envision, or look at Microsoft’s Work Trend Index then you will see that these are the subjects which will underpin what this Inspire will be ultimately about. This is about moving away from a response period into one of recovery setting the stage for being able to reimagine an alternative future: one that many of us have actually been living for a while but without many of the restrictions currently in place. From Microsoft’s perspective an optimal recovery is one that embraces hybrid working, asynchronous working and digital optimism which drives digital intensity and speeds up digital transformation. We’ll see a lot on Teams. We’ll see a lot on Security, on Azure and Azure Virtual Desktop. We’ll see a lot about Endpoints. But the most important takeaway of all will be Microsoft’s ask of it partners: are you with us in this new world? Can you be that advocate of change? Will you be responsible for helping to ensure that a recovery constitutes learning from what has occurred the past 18 months and when, not if, this happens again we’ll be in a stronger position, a more resilient position to deal with it. This is not just an opportunity to transform digitally, but culturally too – reframing the very way that we work. We have the technology for that. We have that technology now.

Microsoft Inspire is a two day event carrying over into a third for repeats of the second day. Of 265 sessions almost a third of them (80) are about Azure which is roughly twice the number of Modern Work (42). Security has 30 sessions, about 75% of Modern Work which signifies how important it’s become in a period of elevated cyber attacks, but also what Microsoft wants partners to hone in on. Since Inspire is a Partner focused event there will typically be more vendor related sessions than at other major events. There are sessions based on assisting Microsoft partners such as through co-sell, and there will be regional sessions for partners which cover what the subs have planned for the fiscal. As there was nothing available this time for MCT’s and MVP’s being so streamlined an event (the in-person event has about 1200 sessions, and this in itself is about half of last year) I have the pleasure of being able to be a carefree attendee this time around. So I’ll be doing a bit of coverage on social, but mainly enjoying all there is to offer before some much needed vacation next week

So hope to see you there! If you haven’t already register here. It’s never too late!

MY SCHEDULE

As an attendee this year I don’t have to worry about speaking, moderating, prep, tech checks, dry runs or anything else. So I get to pick as many cool sessions from the agenda as I can reasonably pack in given existing commitments. This is my schedule in full. You’ll notice I’ve haven’t gone too gung ho.

TEAMS SESSIONS AT INSPIRE 2021

Whilst I am not attending every single Teams session this time around; here are 10 sessions which I am calling out for the general Teams enthusiast. The Cloud Built for a New World of Work with Jared Spatero and Alysa Taylor will be the Teams keynote this time around. Jeff Teper – who actually heads up Teams – will be focusing on Ignite at this point and as far as I know is not participating at Inspire. In terms of the session which will be the most important from a numbers perspective this is likely to will be Microsoft Teams: Grow your Business with the Hybrid Workplace although Gio Mezgec’s session Maximize Microsoft programs and investments to accelerate your customer’s journey may also cover it within an all up look at Microsoft 365. If you are time limited or only want to dip your toe in then these two will be the broadest all up focus – goals, big insights and new functionality and opportunities for partners. In terms of workloads we’ll once again see Calling (OD144) alongside Meeting Rooms (CON118) Firstline (OD102) and most importantly, Viva (BRK103). No dedicated sessions on Apps, Security or Compliance or Power Platform Integration however you may see elements of these in other sessions throughout the conference. The third pot of sessions really concern vendors of Teams Devices: sessions from ServiceNow on premium Teams rooms (OD225), Poly on Device Management (CON209) and Yealink (OD221). There are also sessions from Crestron and Logitech in the bill

WHAT ELSE WOULD I RECOMMEND?

From a modern work perspective, there are three sessions I would recommend anyone going to Inspire to attend. The first concerns Microsoft 365 Lighthouse (CON110). Like it’s Azure namesake the Microsoft 365 variant is about multi-tenant management which Microsoft Partners have been asking for for a long time; a gap which has long been filled by third parties. Any MSP or CSP Partner will want to look at how this can make multi-tenant management easier. Secondly, the session ‘What’s Next in End-User Computing’ is expected to see Microsoft announce Cloud PC which is a fixed PUPM cost model for Azure Virtual Desktop where all the end user will need to do is bring a thin client and connect. Up unto this point partners have had to build the service on an org by org basis so being able to simply consume that without having to build will open up a lot of opportunities to partners who haven’t got the skills or bandwidth to build it or the desire to maintain it. Last but not least we have the session on Windows 11 which was announced at the end of last month. Windows 11 is out in the wild on the dev ring of the Windows Insider Program. Having already upgraded my secondary machine to 11 via an in-place which was awesome from a WaaS consistent experience perspective, I have to say that it’s already looking really good, and for those complaining on social that Windows 10 wasn’t the last operating system, I would say that Microsoft really did believe that at the time. We’ll get a ton of new features and possibilities and better security and at least we won’t be doing it all via the old wipe and load right.

FOR MCT’S

MCT’s typically have a lower profile at Inspire since Inspire is predominantly about business and shared objectives over the course of the next fiscal. This year is no different since Inspire does not have a learning zone, nor a skills challenge, and has only two on-demand sessions which concern skilling. However, these should be of interest to most MCT’s and particularly freelancers since they relate to the MCT’s job market and opportunities; as well as providing insights into what Learning Partners – who many MCT’s work for – will be tasked with over the coming year.

I’M FEELING…

  • The much reduced schedule this year. I feel I may actually watch everything I intend to this week!
  • The spacing of the sessions. Everything that’s worth viewing isn’t crammed into Day 1
  • How the live Ignite sessions finish both days at a reasonable time. 9.15pm here in the UK. That’s like mid afternoon
  • Plenty of loving for Microsoft Teams
  • Judson Althoff for Session #1 off of the opening is awesome. I am a big fan
  • Great presenters like Karuana Gatimu, Dux Raymond Sy and Dona Sarkar. It’s just good to see them isn’t it

I’M NOT FEELING…

  • No sessions on SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer or Stream. C’mon man…
  • The lack of RD’s, MVP’s and MCT’s for this one. Microsoft, I love you – but you just passed up about two dozen of the best sessions in the world from those who truly love what you create
  • Some businesses are super tight on letting employees go to these events, even online: a certificate of attendance and transcript isn’t too much of an ask
  • Whilst Include is its own conference I can’t find D&I sessions here unless I am missing them
  • Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a singular Microsoft Profile for all events such as Inspire, Build, Ignite, Envision and anything else. Would be a spectacular add-on to an MSA account!

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
  • Most sessions 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 Sessions 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 – 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 Wednesday 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 as well as download the swag kit which includes the remote event pass

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.