Day 1 – Microsoft Ignite Keynotes and Announcements
We’re excited to have a dedicated team from across Content and Code in attendance at this year’s Microsoft Ignite in Orlando, Florida. We were very keen to ensure that we covered all basis this time round. To ensure that we can add value to each and every one of our clients, and ourselves, we have compiled our Ignite team to cover all bases.
Of those represented, we have our Unified Communications and Technology enablement team, our Solution Architecture Team, our SharePoint Development Team and me, leading the charge for our Client Success and Office 365 Change Management team. Also in attendance flying the flag, is our very own Office 365 MVP, Steve Goodman, who will be running a number of sessions focusing on PowerShell, Exchange and Office 365. The aim is over the course of the next week, we’ll be reporting back on the latest announcements, enhancements, and general things of interest, from the Microsoft Mothership throughout the week.
Microsoft have a huge focus in the world of AI this year
A big focus on AI, Azure (specifically Machine Learning) and Security this year. For me, the stand out announcements from the Modern Workplace keynote were the new Microsoft Search experience, @ mentions in documents and the new Windows Virtual Desktop.
The keynote kicked off with a video from Julia White, Corp Vice President – Azure Marketing, discussing diversity and empowerment, highlighting the sessions over the week for those from all backgrounds and disciplines to get involved with. We then got the man himself, Satya. Straight away it’s clear there is a renewed focus on AI and Azure, 90% of the customer stories shared using them with a sprinkling of IoT and Microsoft 365.
You’ll all be pleased to know we have a new Microsoft phrase for the year as well for us to get stuck into and pick apart… Technology Intensity.
What is Technology Intensity? Ultimately, it’s technology adoption and building technical capabilities as a digital business. This is something that we strive for at Content and Code, and we have been placing this at the heart of every Office 365 engagement we deliver. It’s reassuring to know that this is something that Microsoft have a renewed commitment to. Satya regularly called back to tech intensity, calling out the fact that every company is becoming a tech company. The focus of the keynote was case studies, of which Satya talked us through examples of tech intensity in practise.
AI featured heavily throughout the session, covering everything from the benefits of cloud security for Coca-Cola to enhancing safety for Shell. A real interesting case study was from Buhler. 65% of the world’s grains pass through their machinery and using Azure services, AI and Blockchain they are able to identify contaminants in their supply chain by bringing in what would have previously been fringe data into AI and the Blockchain.
The announcement of a new Open Data Initiative
Live on-stage Satya announced a new partnership with Microsoft, SAP and Adobe on what they are calling their ‘Open Data Initiative’. They were light on details and real-world application in the announcement, but they hope to eradicate siloed data from disparate services and give customers back control of their data in a unified way. Chatting about this with the rest of the team, we came to the conclusion that this could be compared to the new Open Banking initiative that’s being rolled out in the UK at the moment which puts a focus on customers easily accessing their data from across multiple banks through a single banks service. I for one am excited to hear more about this initiative as it evolves.
The three pillars of Security and Trust
A larger part of Satya’s keynote was on Security and Trust. There are 3 pillars to Security and Trust for Microsoft; Operations; Technology; Partnerships.
Operations: rapidly scanning and analysing the c.6.5 trillion security signals per day
Technology: Using tech to guide end users safely through a security challenge
Partnerships: Using partnerships to quickly and effectively respond to security incidents
Satya started off by talking about their product Account Guard designed for protecting persons of political interest. With this they identified a number of domains that had been taken control of for the purpose of phishing attacks targeting key political individuals. Using their partnerships with the local government they were able to expedite procedures to gain control of the malicious domains while ensuring the technology could effectively and safely protect their end users while this process was happening.
Away from high profile individuals he talked through a use case many businesses could actually relate to: a malware attack on 58 small business based in Tennessee that were being targeted by the hacking group Ursnif. Malware was able to be detected by the machine learning capabilities behind Windows Defender through ATP.
Microsoft are extending humanitarian efforts
Microsoft are also now taking a leaf from their founders’ book and dipping their toes into humanitarian efforts…. Through AI of course. AI for Humanitarian Action is an initiative to help improve disaster response, better tackle the needs of children, help refugees and those displaced to find information and learnings and better track, monitor and support human rights. It’s great to see advancements in technology actually being used to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
It’s clear that in the Microsoft world there are some really cool, and exciting enhancements being made with a big focus this year on AI, Machine Learning and some Security aspects.
Next up… the Modern Workplace Keynote
The first sneaky thing we spotted was Microsoft Stream has found its way into the forefront of Modern Workplace messaging.
The fact that end users’ expectations are changing is being reinforced by Microsoft here in the same way we do with our clients. Ends users are acting more and more like consumers when it comes to consuming IT. The modern workplace is evolving and is no longer simply about being more productive or doing more with less – but about continuing to be competitive as a business.
Some new things were announced here:
- This is AI to highlight features or information to add to your documents. This will add images to your PowerPoint based on content in a slide and it will continue to suggest what you might want to do next.
- The same follows for Excel suggesting supplementary data to add from online sources and putting that information into already created graphs for you! The typical example was given here of having a column with countries in it. AI will auto add data to each cell and you can then simply add info such as population of GDP to other columns in your table then graph that data.
- Finally, a decent search experience. Microsoft Search will display a consistent search bar to follow you across Office 365 and Office apps.
- Microsoft Search will return multiple result types from across all your business data and people within your organisation. What does this mean? Users will no longer need to break their workflow to find information.
- Search results are contextual based on where you are and what you’re working on so results might vary from search in a Word Doc for an RFP to an Excel workbook forecasting financials for a fiscal year.
- On the roadmap for Microsoft Search is the extension of this functionality to include Windows and Bing search in the near future.
@ mention is a document
- It may be a seemingly simple functionality update, but it could prove to be incredibly valuable for the modern worker. You can @ mention and notify someone in the body of a document which will add an object to show a question in the document to be actioned. Simple, but effective.
Are we entering the brave new world of no more passwords?
Once again, we came back around to security, showing password-less authentication which looks awesome. For business that are using Azure AD, they will now be able to use the Microsoft Authenticator App in place of the traditional password.
But, the password has worked so well for some many years? Wrong? If you think about it, passwords are quite annoying, and they aren’t particularly secure in the modern workplace environment. Moving away from them can significantly reduce account breaches in comparison to traditional passworded accounts. While this has been in place for the consumer world for a while it is now available for enterprises which is great.
Updates to the Office 365 Admin Portal
We had some demos on the admin portal now being a single point of entry for acting as one dashboard which includes Windows and mobile device deployment status/progress across the organisation. Common and routine tasks have been added here to make day to day administration streamlined. Per team admin URL’s have been introduced to make it easier to navigate relevant portals e.g. compliance.microsoft.com and security.microsoft.com.
One of the cool new things we saw here was Virtual Windows Desktop which can be accessed in the browsers and supports many users at the same time. It’s the only virtual multiuser Windows 10 experience that exists! Pretty cool stuff.
An introduction to Desktop Analytics
We saw a quick demo of Desktop Analytics, a recently-announced cloud-based service that is intended to help customers shift to a modern desktop running Windows 10 and Office 365 ProPlus. As expected, pilot and production deployment plans mastered within System Centre Configuration Manager (SCCM) can be surfaced within the Microsoft 365 admin portal and used to help determine device upgrade readiness. In the demo, SCCM surfaced devices that were either ready to upgrade, blocked or required remediation – pretty handy for making upgrade decisions! The service will complement existing products and tools such as Microsoft Intune, Windows Analytics, and the Office Readiness Toolkit.
Meeting room experiences
We got the same new meeting room experience that was shown at Microsoft Inspire with Cortana facilitated meetings, real time transcription and translation with adding meeting participants via HoloLens. This is cool tech, but it’s important to note that this technology may take a while before it is regularly used within day-to-day meetings.
Sessions of the Day:
If you’re looking for some sessions to watch, take a look at these:
- “Modern teamwork: transform collaboration and communication with Microsoft 365”.
- “Windows 10 and Microsoft Office 365 ProPlus lifecycle and servicing update” also gets a mention.
- “An end-to-end tour of the Microsoft developer platform” with Scott Hansleman and friends. Definitely worth watching back again!
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