The 4 Things I Learned At Microsoft Inspire 2019

Jeff DeVerter, Cloudreach CTO of Microsoft Technologies, was in Las Vegas this week at Microsoft’s flagship Inspire conference. Jeff shares four of the lessons he learned from this year's event.

Microsoft is just finishing up their Inspire conference here in Las Vegas.  This conference is focused on engaging their partner community with tech advancements, connecting partners to other partners, and connecting partners to key folks at Microsoft.  This year marks my 12th Inspire (and it’s predecessor, WWPC) and it seems they raise the bar just a little bit higher each year.

As you would hope with an event of this scale and size, I am reflecting on 4 key lessons learned from my experience.  You’ll find them below as I walk you through the week.

The week started Sunday morning with a series of “pre-conference workshops” during the day and the opening of “the HUB” in the evening.  The Hub is where all of the exhibitors and Microsoft represented all of their technologies and products. Cloudreach’s software brand, Cloudamize, had a booth there.

Microsoft has always had a presence in these locations - but this year they easily took up half of the available space.  This made it incredibly easy to get exactly to the team or group that you wanted to learn about. Whether it was the Azure Lighthouse team (more on that later), IoT team, o365, dynamics - you name it - they were represented there.  This brings me to my first observation of the ongoing metamorphosis within Microsoft...  


Lesson 1: Microsoft is making an overt effort to be accessible to its partners and customers - to be as transparent as possible - and earn the trust of us all.  


I personally received the same level of personal engagement and accessibility from engineers, salespeople, business group leadership, country leadership teams, and Microsoft’s executive leadership team.  Well done Microsoft. We all have work to do - but you are on the right path.

Monday morning saw the first of the two Core-Note sessions.  Gabriella Schuster lead the day with - of all things - an apology and commitment to rollback a previous announcement to end free use-rights for partners.  Can you believe that - Microsoft lead the day with, “I’m sorry - we were wrong - we will make it right”.

I was also made aware of an example where a Microsoft executive, who saw a need, supported his team, and took off his fancy jacket, and held up a sign in the blazing Nevada heat to direct attendees on where to go.


Lesson 2: Microsoft, like all other organizations, is fallible, willing to admit it, and willing to make a wrong right.  


This is the tone that must be set from the top down - and I’m sure why Satya Nadela is, according to Forbes, #5 on the worlds top leaders and Microsoft is #6 on the list of the world’s most admired companies. Honesty and integrity matter.

Judson Althoff went on to speak of the lofty business goals the company has in their new 2020 fiscal year - but also spent plenty of time showing off how Microsoft technology is making significant changes in the lives of employees in both large and small companies all around the world.  Judson showcased the “citizen developer”, how no-code solutions are improving the lives and jobs of individual contributors which ultimately improve top-line revenue and decrease expenses (Who knew so much went to making a bar of Dove soap?!).

Wednesday was the day we all looked forward to - hearing from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela.  Satya showcased Microsoft technology through the lens of their mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more and through specific examples from every corner of the world.  From a doctor in South Africa, a restaurant worker in China, to a call-center dispatcher in the UK. Real-world, non-technical individuals were harnessing Microsoft technology to make their lives, and the lives of those around them, better.


Lesson 3: Microsoft believes, and demonstrated, that their own no-code solutions, hyper-scale data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and virtual intelligence are all technologies which are accessible and available now to the world.


One specific example of this tech came when Julia White joined the demo stage.  People’s jaws literally dropped as they watch her show up in virtual reality, standing next to herself, and conduct a live speech in Japanese, which she doesn’t speak natively.  Stunning.

So, these are all of the big-ticket items shown off to the world this week.  But thousands of individual conversations, partner to partner sales connections, and partner alignment conversations happened at what seemed to be every hour of the day for the past 4 days. 

I would also be remiss to not take a moment to brag and express our thanks for the excellent partner teams with which Microsoft has surrounded Cloudreach.  Whether that is in specific country subsidiaries, at the worldwide level, or the many individuals on our extended Microsoft team, who took a personal interest in our Inspire experience.  Which leads me to the last lesson learned this week:


Lesson 4: Microsoft Individually cares for, and is invested in, its partners.


See you next year.


Want to know how Chris Bunch, Cloudreach EMEA General Manager, got on at this year's Microsoft Inspire? Read his blog here.

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