A Look Back at Ignite
Christopher Martini, VP VOSS Solutions
Another year and another Microsoft Ignite is in the books. Over the years I have attended most Microsoft conferences as an employee, customer and partner….and through all their name changes and iterations. As a result, I am always excited to see what each year’s incarnation brings to the community.
Travelling to the conference from Silicon Valley also means that most years I am fortunate enough to have some great tech related conversation on my flights to and from. This year was no exception. On the flight out, I was fortunate to get the high-level view of Microsoft’s AI announcements from an old friend, and on the return, I chatted with a brilliant CEO about the future of enterprise video delivery.
For many of us who attend year after year, the challenge remains the same: How do I adjust the signal to noise ratio so that I can get the most out of this event. The broad range of topics is the first obstacle. Couldn’t you sit and listen to thought leaders break down the exciting future of Artificial Intelligence for a whole day? What about the Internet of Things and the associated solutions that are already changing the way we live and work? There is so much to take in from sessions, keynotes, breakouts, expo floor, demos, dinners, etc… Occasionally some of us might also try to work in some time for a beverage or two with old colleagues and new. So, I tend to view the event through the lens of ‘What is new and exciting to me as a business/technology leader for VOSS Solutions?’ and ‘What is new and exciting in the industry as a whole?’
I will start with the latter.
The IoT and Edge computing solutions that Microsoft showed off were a clear indication of how seriously they take this space, and that their ability to innovate in the space matches that view. Azure IoT is generally available and I feel that there is tremendous power in this offering. If you think about how the initial iPhone SDK changed the landscape of mobile application development, this same potential exists in the IoT domain.
AI AI AI! There were too many AI announcements and demonstrations to take in, but it should come as no surprise that Microsoft is focused on the space. One thing that I thought was interesting was that Microsoft employees were all singing from the same songbook when it came to the potential of AI to change the world for the better. In nearly every discussion I had, from the flight over to the end of the conference, the humanitarian benefit of AI was top of mind for Microsoft, and their announcements support that.
Ultimately, there were no Earth shattering changes, but another solid year of progress and I believe that Microsoft’s rebirth as a cooler, cloud-focused, customer-centric company is nearly complete.
What did the conference mean from a Unified Communications and VOSS perspective?
Well, this year I was again fortunate to attend the conference with VOSS’ own Pat Richard. Pat is a very well-known and respected S4B/Teams expert and a bit of a rock star. It is like attending Comic Con with Stan Lee.
As you’d expect, Pat was in high demand at the event. He participated in the “Ask Me Anything” session, where 14 MVPs are present to answer any technical questions asked by attendees. This event is always hugely popular. Pat was also invited to participate in some interesting panel sessions, which were captured on video:
- Building a community-led tech conference using Microsoft Teams
- MVP roundtable discussion
- Pat joins the conversation on Microsoft Channel 9: “Ignite news podcast discussion”
For the second year in a row, VOSS hosted a group of Microsoft MVP’s, employees, and industry influencers for some cocktails and conversation at the Brick House. It should come as no surprise that this was the highlight of the event from my perspective. The conversation from table to table was about as animated and passionate as you would expect when you get that many strong technologists in the same room. Overall, my perception was that customer facing technologists feel the concern that the change from S4B to Teams created, and the associated pause while organizations digested the change, has nearly subsided. Many customers are at least at a point where they feel that they can move forward and understand what that looks like no matter what platform they continue with for the near term.
Customers want us to expand our footprint. VOSS is fortunate to be the only provider in the space that offers a full stack of management tools for UC. Migrate, manage, assurance/analytics, billing, etc…VOSS has solutions across the full UC story. Despite that, I had numerous discussions with customers and partners where they were asking for us to extend our functionality into new and exciting areas. Those conversations are feeding passionate debate across teams internally and I look forward to what we bring to market as a result.
Finally, the demand for solid management solutions, and the understanding of the associated value proposition continues to grow. Historically, we spent a lot of time trying to educate customers on the gaps in existing toolsets or the benefits of particular types of automation. In many ways, it was our job to define the landscape of possibility for customers. In a trend that started last year, I spoke with more and more customers who are looking for our help to patch particular gaps in their existing tools and workflows. They are starting to see clearly that our products, when properly implemented, can help them recapture these lost buckets of ROI that are critical in helping them achieve their goals. We aren’t just talking about soft dollar productivity gains, rather we are talking to them about hard dollar efforts that go straight to the bottom line. As we all know, there is nothing more exciting to talk about with a customer.
In conclusion, Ignite was a success for VOSS and it felt like a success overall for Microsoft. Their partner-centric approach that started a couple of Inspire conferences ago has been cross-pollinated into Ignite and it made for a more cohesive event. I also have to admit that Microsoft had me thinking “that’s pretty cool” more than they have in previous years. Now we can get back to the hard work of turning discussions into opportunities.
Please, get in touch with VOSS if you have any questions about our Microsoft UC solutions.