How was it before?
I remember the blaring heat of being on the tarmac at the Las Vegas racecourse amid thousands of conference attendees listening to Queen perform during the One Celebration to conclude last year’s Microsoft Inspire. I was gathered with the Microsoft New Zealand team, though somehow Sarah Bowden and I got separated from everyone else, and took it as an opportunity to get to the very front of the stage – no matter what. I also recall the T-Mobile stadium, packed, for the 8am corenote from Satya Nadella; the energy of the bustling tradeshow floor at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center; and witnessing the incredible innovation displayed at the ISV Hub – shoutout to the Aware Group for their Farmbeats installation. And, of course, the world class dinners that stretched far into the evening with colleagues from around the world – thank you to Michael Foley and the Umbrellar team for including me in your birthday celebrations. But this year, everything has changed.
This year, the venue is virtual and we are watching from home.
So…what is an all-digital, fully virtual conference like? I’m happy and surprised to report, that though different, it’s actually pretty great.
How Transcends is attending Microsoft Inspire?
Our team at Transcends has a core value of ‘digital freedom’ and this means that we take remote work – and the challenge of keeping a digitally distributed team engaged – seriously. We chose to see an all virtual conference as an opportunity. Instead of only a small selection of our team attending an in-person event due to the prohibitive cost, our whole organization could now participate. We cleared the week in our calendars and made a conscious commitment to invest in a full 5 days of upskilling. Here’s what our week looks like:
MONDAY – Goal setting, creation of our MyInspire profiles, and purposeful networking in the Connection Zone. We also had an internal kick-off and then joined Andrea Della Mattea and Vivek Puthcode for the Microsoft Inspire APAC General Session.
TUESDAY & WEDNESDAY – Full-on Inspire days. We pre-booked our sessions, invited a yoga instructor to come to our socially-distanced viewing party, set up our remote team members on mobile devices, and ordered lots of Door Dash. These days are all about embracing our #AlwaysBeLearning value.
THURSDAY & FRIDAY – Review of our learnings, value-added content creation to share in our Transcends social channels, and business planning for the next year to help us better align to Microsoft’s FY21 priorities since we are a channel partner marketing agency that works exclusively with Microsoft Partners.
And now for our DAY 1 Takeaways from Microsoft Inspire:
- Pay attention to Advanced Specializations and include this as a goal on your partnership roadmap. With a focus on reskilling in a digital work world, Microsoft appears to be prioritizing partners with Advanced Specializations and promoting their solutions with better SEO in AppSource and Azure Marketplace. Check out Dan Truax’s session to learn more.
- Familiar with End-Customer-Investment-Funds (ECIF)? FY21 represents a shift in this program to all new ‘Production Pilots’.
- “Purpose-driven Digital” was the buzz phrase in this morning’s keynote address with Judson Altoff. What is purpose-driven digital? “The art and science of leveraging technology innovation to drive business and societal outcomes for good.”
- Both Nick Parker and Casey McGee focused on ISV partner opportunity and growth. Casey shared that “we’ve reinvested in our partner engagement approach, shifting to proactive co-selling with nearly $10 billion in partner revenue last year.”
- Enterprise level exposure = 95% of Future 500 companies use Azure
- Established customer base = 200M active O365 commercial users
- Embedded business processes – 90% of Fortune 500 companies use D365 and the Power Platform
- The Connection Zone, Microsoft’s digital networking portal, has far exceeded our expectations for virtual networking with each of our team members successfully making new connections and scheduling meetings. This being said, there are quite a few bugs Microsoft needs to sort, including the message total being capped at 20 every 24 hours, even when the messages are in an active conversation and not net new reach-outs. Also, the automated Teams meetings in the meeting scheduler have resulted in several missed connections.
- Sarah Muckler-Visser and Wendy Ditmore, two women I admire tremendously at Microsoft, shared insights on the power of digital marketing. Did you know that 90% of B2B decision makers won’t respond to cold calls? Or that B2B buyers make an average of 12 searches before actually visiting a brand’s website? Sarah says it’s all “about earning the buyer’s trust with content you create.”
I’m excited to see what the rest of Microsoft Inspire has to offer. If you’d like to connect on best practices for virtual events to engage a digital team, I’d love to chat. Stay tuned.
Ashleigh Vogstad, CEO – Transcends