Microsoft Inspire 2020: Digital technologies and transformation are the keys to grow during the pandemic

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Inspire 2020 – the leading partner-conference by Microsoft, took place virtually this year between 21-22 July. Even in the unprecedented times, Microsoft did not allow the pandemic to halt its annual partner conference, rather for the first time in history held it online; allowing partners to join from across the world.

Apart from the usual product announcements and future roadmap, executives also talked about the changing business and consumer landscape as an effect of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Gavriella SchusterCorporate Vice President, One Commercial Partner, Microsoft, in her opening keynote announced the four key areas impacting organizations in a post-COVID world, which are also Microsoft’s key focus areas for FY21:

  • Enabling remote work
  • Business continuity
  • Security
  • Cloud Migrations

From government organizations and local businesses to the first responders, working around these four key areas is crucial now more than ever. And, for partners and service providers, building new possibilities around these four key areas can open a host of new revenue opportunities.

If you missed digital Inspire 2020, here’s a round-up of the key product announcements and sessions.

Microsoft Inspire 2020 – highlights of the digital event 

Adopting Tech Intensity for growth

Microsoft CEOSatya Nadella, in his keynote put a great emphasis on tech intensity. Cloud, AI, IoT, Digital Twins, and related digital technologies have helped businesses stay open even in this critical situation and have helped serve their end customers seamlessly with the help of automation. And these trends are reshaping every industry – from public and private to automobile, telecom, fintech, eCommerce, etc.

He further said that while the pandemic has taught that no business is 100% resilient, those fortified by digital technology are more resilient and capable of transformation. Microsoft calls this ‘tech intensity’.

Every organization and industry will need to embrace it, to and succeed and grow.

Tech Intensity within organizations, can create new operating architecture and break the traditional silos to explore technology, data, and business process workflows. Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge capabilities are designed to help businesses make use of this digital opportunity.

Microsoft Inspire 2020 Highlights

Source: Microsoft

Human connections, technology, and partnerships are vital to overcoming the pandemic situation

Coronavirus pandemic, unsurprisingly, was one of the central topics of discussion during all major keynotes. Gavriella Schuster discussed the challenges of coping with the impact of the pandemic on personal, economical, and professional fronts.


She said that the cloud service providers are the digital-first responders behind every frontline responder who is working day in day out to serve the society and keep the systems running. And, these human connections formed with the help of technology and partnerships, are the key to come out of the devastating effects of the pandemic.

When there’s uncertainty all around, you manage it by creating certainty wherever you can.” – Gavriella Schuster.

Cloud is no longer an alternative, but the solution

Topics like digital transformation and the move to the cloud have been around for quite a long time now, even before the onset of the pandemic. But now, the new economic and business crisis brought forward by the pandemic has put a threat to business continuity and agility.

Here, cloud-based solutions are the best ways to move forward and build resiliency.

Now, moving to the cloud more than an alternative is a necessity.

Organizations now need to move out of their physical data centres and empower their employees and customers with remote working and safety, offered by the cloud.

We have seen two years of digital transformation in two months.” – Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Managed Services are the future now

Like the cloud, the transition to managed services, now, is not about whether service providers want to or do not want to make the shift, rather it is the way forward to come out of the current business situation. The ongoing pandemic situation has hit hard on many businesses. With less income to spend, consumers are willing to invest in subscription-based services and products rather than paying upfront costs.

This shift in consumer demand is an opportunity for service providers. They can build managed services’ practice across various products and services. This will help them build a long-term relationship with their customers. It also opens windows for partnership with other service providers, for additional resources and support.

Purpose-driven digital

Organizations across all industry segments are adopting remote everything working model and digital technologies as part of their business continuity plan. The ongoing pandemic situation and the norms of social distancing are motivating the customers to go for contactless services. To enable this, companies need to invest in digital technologies.

Judson AlthoffExecutive Vice-President, Worldwide Commercial Business, Microsoft, said that the organizations’ sense of purpose is taking on new meaning now and enabling them to leverage technology innovation for good. This new purpose of leveraging technology for the greater good of society is what Microsoft defines as ‘Purpose-driven digital’. And partners now need to understand this shift and innovate in a way that fulfils not only business goals but societal goals as well.

New ways of working

Microsoft puts a special focus on the importance of digital transformation and cloud to enable new and improved ways of working.

Going forward, the business will not be as usual. So, businesses must think of what needs to be rebuilt. They must empower their end customers with new modes of working and building resiliency with the help of Microsoft solutions like Teams and Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD).

Nadella introduced a new feature called ‘Together Mode’ in Teams that uses AI to digitally place members in a shared background. This will be like sitting in the same room with no background distractions.

Similarly, Microsoft also announced new features for WVD, which unsurprisingly saw a spike in demand during the ongoing pandemic. Schuster also considers WVD a new revenue opportunity for the partners.

Security, compliance and steps for cybersecurity

With the widespread shift to a remote work environment, companies need to take the security of their business data more seriously. Cybersecurity was a popular topic of discussion at this year’s digital Inspire. While businesses and teams across the world are adapting to the new remote working model, cyber attackers have started exploiting new gaps and vulnerabilities at the same time. During Inspire 2020, topics like adopting a Zero Trust Framework, building cyber resilience, crafting risk management solutions for customers, took a centre stage.

Microsoft announced several on-demand sessions on helping customers reduce risk and security with compliance and identity solutions.  Security updates for Microsoft 365 and Azure included several new capabilities like Insider Risk Management, Microsoft Endpoint Data Loss Prevention, Communication Compliance, Double Key Encryption for Microsoft 365, and third-party data connectors for Azure Sentinel.

Special Focus on Partners

Microsoft Inspire is a partner event that celebrates the partner achievements and innovations of the past year as well as discusses new possibilities and opportunities for the next fiscal year.

Schuster in her keynote during Microsoft Inspire 2020, highlighted the importance of Microsoft Partner Network as a catalyst to equip businesses and customers with the technology and tools needed to succeed in the digital economy.

Source: Microsoft

For Microsoft to do well, you all as partners have to do well. That’s ingrained in our business model. That’s why I always sort of talk about us being a partner-led company.” – Satya Nadella, CEO at Microsoft.

Microsoft identified many partners whose innovative solutions built around Microsoft’s legacy solutions are helping customers migrate to the cloud faster and seamlessly.

It also highlighted the importance of an always-on marketing approach to expand, reach and build pipelines, with the help of co-marketing and go-to-market services by Microsoft. In one of the Partner stories, they shared the experience of RackNap – a cloud automation platform that helps distributors and cloud service providers (CSPs) by automating service provisioning and billing; and how associating with a virtual event helped RackNap increase product inquiries by 75%.

By engaging with Microsoft on the Go-To-Market Services, RackNap worked on a number of co-marketing initiatives which really helped drive the adoption and lead generation activity significantly.” – Sabarinathan Sampath, Senior Vice President, RackNap.

New product announcements – Microsoft Inspire 2020

Here’s a quick roundup of the major product announcements and innovations at Microsoft Inspire 2020.

Azure Updates and announcements

  • New multi-factor authentication and Privileged Identity Management support in Azure Lighthouse.
  • Launch of the latest member of Microsoft’s hybrid portfolio – the next generation of Azure Stack HCI. It is the fastest and easiest way to integrate existing datacentres with cloud. Know more about it here.
  • New Azure Migrate enhancements to enable customers to conduct richer datacentre assessments.

Microsoft 365 and Teams updates

  • Rolling-out of Microsoft Lists – a Microsoft 365 app that facilitates easy information tracking and organization of works, in July. Available in Microsoft Teams by Mid-August.
  • Universal Print – a Microsoft 365 Cloud Print solution for commercial and educational customers moving to the cloud.
  • General availability of the newly designed Yammer app with reimagined user experience for both web and mobile.
  • Launch of new Power BI personal app for Microsoft Teams – a centralized hub for data visualization and accessibility.
  • New capabilities in Microsoft Teams to support the first-line workers.

Business Applications Announcement

  • Microsoft released a pre-built Power Platform solution that will help customers prioritize health, security, safety and streamline the process of returning employees to the workplace.

Dynamics 365

  • Dynamics 365 Customer Voice capability to offer out-of-the-box integration with everyday applications.
  • Preview of Dynamic 365 Connected Store – the AI tool that uses intelligent edge devices like video data and IoT sensor data to deliver triggered alerts and actionable recommendations.
  • General availability of Dynamics 365 Fraud Protection with new capabilities like Account Protection and Loss Prevention.

Also Read: Why startups are surviving COVID better than huge corporations

Moving ahead – finding growth and success amidst the ongoing pandemic

Digital technologies can help companies recover, rebuild, and reimagine future. And, for building and adopting digital technologies, it is important to realize the value of human connections – whether it is your customers, partners, and employees. Being resilient is the need of the hour. Businesses need to identify and focus on things that will set them and their customers up for success.

If you are also looking up for some motivation and ways to grow your business during this pandemic, you can check out the on-demand sessions of Microsoft Inspire 2020.

With this, we come to the end of the article. We hope you enjoyed reading it.

Attended digital Inspire event this year? Share your experience with our readers through the comment section below.

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