Monday 9/25 – Power transformative change with Microsoft business applications and platform

Official Description…


Digital transformation is top of mind for businesses. Your business applications and application platform are critical to powering your company’s transformation. Join James Phillips, Microsoft Corporate Vice President, Business Applications Group, to learn about Microsoft’s vision and strategy for business applications. See how modern applications are powered by data and intelligence, how they make the most of your Office 365 investments and how the Microsoft application platform enables you to extend and create new business applications to adapt for the future.

Blake’s Takes…

We kicked this off with a stat: 2020 – 50% of workforce is millennials.

GRE, you have been warned.

Incidentally, I just walked a half-mile to get here. Seriously, I’ve had shorter walks traversing the UWEC campus back in my college heyday. Like the calories from the banana I ate for breakfast are long burned up. And when I arrived, the main session was again full. I’m now in the largest overflow room I’ve ever seen. And I’m happy to be here.

On an unrelated note, there is one woman at this conference for every 25 men. This has created a bathroom paradox the likes of which I’ve never experienced. The lines for the men’s bathroom are 50-75 deep. The lines for the women’s bathroom aren’t. The key to timely relief, and being male at an IT conference of this magnitude, is to aim high. Yes, you need to take as many escalators as possible to the top level in whichever building you find yourself. No one reaches for the sky when they need to go, that’s why I do. I had the bathroom on the fourth level all to myself. As I was coming back down the escalators, the same endless line from the main level restroom had barely moved.

The first part of this session, was ironically, on PowerPoint. What strikes me is the overuse of hyperbole during these presentations. [presenter inserts a 3D object into a slide] “That was amazing! See, engineers can create amazingly beautiful slides!” Honestly, it was interesting, cool maybe, it was not amazing. And insisting verbally that it was “amazing” makes it amazing naught.

The world’s largest human just sat in the chair next to me. There are 3,000 seats in this place–plenty empty–but apparently, right next to me was the obvious place to sit? I’m having a flashback to the flight that brought me down here. Of course, I’m partially at fault. Religiously taking an aisle seat nearly guarantees that someone will grab the seat next to you. I should’ve situated myself right in the middle of a row…next time.

We are still in the midst of a demo of PPT, Word, Excel, etc… The presenter is continuously professing her undying “love” for these tools. Personally, I’d choose a less intense verb. I’ll spare everyone the details of the cool things she’s demoing in Excel, as they are not particularly cool.

Microsoft Teams will replace Skype for Business. That does not affect us, but I figured I’d toss that in for the hell of it.

So this Cortana thing is Microsoft’s Siri or Echo. You can leverage it to automatically schedule a meeting. Again, they are hitting us with a blight of functionality that would take months of training and use before our users could even approach efficiency.

Microsoft Teams now allows for external access as long as “the externals users are on the Microsoft global Azure AD”. Also “Teams really allows your personality to shine with emojis and GIFs.” Phew! Again, the presenter just asked the audience to clap to raise the energy in the room. If you can’t generate “energy” with your presentation, asking for “energy” is a tad pathetic. Better would be to rework your presentation, so that it inspires authentic “energy”.

The presenter is demoing all of the MS 365 apps on her phone. This brings to mind the difficulties we’ve had so far in doing this @ GRE. It’s something we should work out once and for all. We need to be able to demo this, as it would be a clear driver for adoption. It would also be a clear driver migrating files off the S:\ drive. The current process of VPN + AirWatch is considerably more clunky than the unified MS 365 experience. And MS 365 would not require VPN.

GE has 220,000 mailboxes on Exchange online. If they can do it, we can do it–right?! We are being treated to yet another over-produced video on how GE solved every company problem they ever had with Microsoft’s tools. Incredible! “Really excited”, “Faster progress then EVER before”, “Totally awesome developments”, lots of fresh hyperbole–yay!

One of the things that makes any conference “totally awesome” is hearing what didn’t work. I want to hear about the struggles. I want to hear how obstacles were overcome. If GE indeed solved every business issue ever with Microsoft, I want the details. I seriously doubt registering each user with an O365 Pro Plus account was all it took. They did use O365 Pro Plus as a precursor to moving to Outlook in the cloud. They big gain for them was the 50GB mailbox size. I guess if you can shift the storage problem to someone else–mission accomplished! New term “Employee Delighter”–I’m going to be saying that all the time from now on.

The million dollar question was just asked: “What can’t my work life mimic my consumer life?” That’s a great question IMHO.

They are doing a demo of Auto Pilot, which is a way to provision laptops and desktops running Windows 10 remotely via the cloud. Windows 10 also provides a rich analytics dashboard. It is interesting, because you can get stats on usage of various apps, as well as stats on the space used. In their example, they showed that there were 300GBs of data in OneDrive, but only 66% of users were actively utilizing the tool.

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