In July 2019, more than 17,000 Microsoft partners from 132 countries gathered at Microsoft’s annual partner conference, Microsoft Inspire, in Las Vegas to celebrate a year of collaboration, learning, and success; and look ahead to the coming year.
Two representatives from TAS attended the conference and a summary of their insights and learnings are shared below.
The Microsoft Inspire event was an incredible success – the strategic vision of Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadela, was transparent and inspiring. You can watch the full presentation here (NB. The presentation is over an hour)
In a nutshell, Microsoft intends to own the computing and business processes platforms for enterprises the same way as it owns their desktops with the Office suite of products. The difference is in the manner of the dominance – from a desktop-based licensing model to a pay per use model.
The democratisation of technology
Microsoft Inspire announces that the company is on its way to becoming the world’s computer – which is the cornerstone of its strategy. Satya Nadella calls it the ‘democratisation of technology’ – most focused on digital technologies.
While the move from a licensing revenue model to a consumption model has gathered significant number of interest and thus press, the technologies enabling this and the entire democratisation of technology platforms has perhaps received less interest and press. This strategy is supported by significant investments and advancements in AI, ML, and data delivering insights into customer interests and unique pricing value propositions, a platform for collaboration across internal and external stakeholders primarily by a focus on Teams, Azure DevOps and M365 and building an ecosystem around the customer-centric business platforms around Dynamics 365.
The Microsoft reach is evident everywhere – from automotive industries which now employ 3 times as many software engineers than mechanical engineers to FMCG industries where Starbucks works closely with Microsoft to deliver personalised coffee experiences.
The democratisation of technology is perhaps most noticeable in the technology used by programmers – Microsoft has essentially done a Java by giving up for free an enormous amount of source code, AI models, data models – all available on GitHub making for a vibrant developer community constantly using Microsoft tehnologies to build innovative solutions.
More partnerships than ever before
Microsoft has always developed a partner driven revenue model and the move to a consumption based revenue model has further increased its dependency on partnerships – as Microsoft invites the partner community to build and develop business platforms to be used by its customers. The focus is not merely a hyper scaled computing engine. The focus is not merely providing limitless capacity for storage.
The focus is now providing a prebuilt platform where pre-configured AI/ML work on structured and unstructured data from a myriad of sources – external / internal / from IoT media etc. building a world where connected devices connect businesses seamlessly. Just consider – there are already over 50B IoT enabled devices constantly delivering data into Azure for the pre-configured AI / ML models to decipher everything from customer intent and insight to probability of default and value at risk.
The stated agenda is democratisation of technologies – across AI, collaboration, data, digital, workflow with a view to bring the world together. Microsoft is aggressively investing in its partners who have delivered results.
For example, a start-up firm in Ahmedabad has built an extension to D365 for integration to LoC generation and freight delivery confirmation. Microsoft has given them a credit of 0.5 M USD to extend this further and ensure it’s scalable for a more global use. Additionally, they have sponsored 2 of their engineers to work with MS in Seattle on performance engineering the platform for greater scalability.
On that note, it’s interesting to note the differences in the evolutionary stages of Microsoft and its partners in various geographic locations. The strategy for Latin America, India and America seems to be quite different to the Australian one. The focus in Australia appears to be to move workloads into Azure and move firms to Teams – pretty much consuming existing computing and storage ecosystems. This seems to be less of a focus in America, Latin America and India where the focus is to be more on running Microsoft or Microsoft partner Platforms on Azure.
There are over 1000 extensions to D365 for example available in India – used by banks, logistics firms, FMCG etc ranging from pricing / factoring engines to delivering personalised chocolates. One can find remarkable diversity in the start-up partner community who are focused on delivering new AI / ML models as the move to hygiene platforms like M365 is almost complete. Technisys – the Florida and Argentina based core banking platform is working with closely with Microsoft under a special grant to improve its performance and scalability to exceed requirements from Tier 1 banks – from the existing focus on the Tier 2 sector.
It’s fairly obvious Microsoft Inspire is expecting partners to put in the initial investments – but once they see intent and investments, they are prepared to significantly back their partners with grants, engineering expertise and assist in further sales.
A footnote, the team played around with the Microsoft AI Models. What would take a developer significant time using Python to develop, is now available as class files in GitHub. The democratisation of technology has essentially meant that one can create complex cubes, algorithms, data views, insights etc. with no coding background.