Now, I’m no roving reporter, just a techie who likes a bit of Blogging, but on this occasion I thought I’d do a bit of roving reporting, with my view on the Microsoft Future decoded event which I had the pleasure of attending at the beginning of November.
So after a few hectic weeks, I thought it was about time I dusted off my notes and gave a couple of thoughts about what Microsoft discussed and what I picked up that maybe of interest to us Enterprise tech folk.
Let’s start with my general view of Microsoft – full disclosure, I’m a fan, I’ve always been a fan of Microsoft technology, cutting my very first technical teeth on Windows 3.0 (well even a little bit of 2.11… but only a little bit) and I think they do lots of things well, there had been a “cool” problem recently for Microsoft, with lots of industry watchers getting very excited by anything Apple, Google, Amazon or any other current flavour of the IT industry month did, while everything Microsoft did was most definitely lacking on the cool front.
However lots of this is changing, under Satya Nadella Microsoft are visibly changing, the focus now is returning Microsoft to their roots as a software company first and foremost. Aiming at delivering great software and services and getting these solutions out to a wide audience, focussing on getting it to them though, because they want it, not because they feel there is no choice.
To Microsoft’s great credit they are delivering, the very impressive Azure and the business behemoth that is Office 365 are dominating forces in the public cloud arena. This alongside the generally positive views of Windows 10 and some great hardware such as Surface has started to have many industry watchers sipping away at the Microsoft Kool-Aid.
Certainly in my day job, we are seeing customers embrace this new Microsoft, one of my colleagues this week was telling me about how a couple of his customers had reported to him about the positive impact of their move to the Microsoft cloud, seeing both productivity improvements as well as a real reduction in running costs.
So that’s the context I approached the event with. From the event itself I was looking at what Microsoft where bringing to the IT party, that would allow us to meet other business challenges that our customers are facing.
If you’ve not attended Future Decoded before, this is a UK event aimed at Microsoft partners, customers and industry professionals from systems architects to developers, and certainly something worth putting in your calendar. This year it was split into two days, business (the day I attended) and developer.
What gems did the business day reveal for us all this year?
The morning session included some interesting insights from a range of business leaders from Richard Reid to Martha Lane Fox, with a healthy dose of Satya Nadella thrown in for good measure.
All of the non Microsoft speakers had something of interest to say, and if there was a theme it was the power of innovation in their day to day jobs, be that from IT at Arsenal, to Virgin Atlantic, Innocent drinks to the Ministry of Defence, they all focussed on how innovation and disruption where the key to moving forward.
What was equally important however was placing innovation in the context of your organisations overall goals and certainly not technology innovation for the sake of it.
One of my favourite statements of the day came from Hywel Sloman, IT director at Arsenal who knew it was critical for him to
Be a business leader first and IT leader second
Alongside innovation was the simplification of IT, (A favourite hobby horse of mine) Mike Stone CIO at the MOD, has spent the first 18 months of his tenure working his way through the mixture of old tech, over running projects and restrictive contracts which are no longer fit for purpose and although his issues where maybe more complex than many of us find because of the nature of his work, those themes of complexity and inflexible IT are something I certainly see in many of the customers I work with.
However, although his current infrastructure was complex, he understood that embracing the cloud and mobility where key to his future strategy. However, all this was in the critical context of security, in fact secure by design, not built and then secured, but securely built.. good tip!
A selection of really informative and diverse business leaders, but regardless of their diverse backgrounds and requirements, their needs where very similar.
- Data Control
That wish list sound familiar?
What did Microsoft have to say?
Well if that was the business leaders wish list, what did Microsoft business leader Satya Nadella have to say about how Microsoft where helping IT leaders to meet those challenges.
What where the key takeaways from Nadella’s session?
One of my favourite phrases from him was the take on mobility, he re-emphasised the Microsoft strategy of cloud first, mobile first, but the slant on what was meant by mobility was interesting.
Nadella said that the view of mobility, was not about devices, but mobility was about the user experience, that a user should be able to move between devices, both those we use today and those that will come in the future and their application experience should be able to go with them.
If you look at the Office experience now across Windows, IOS and Android, you can start to see how that vision is taking shape, with the experience been pretty much the same.
I like that, I like the idea of simplicity in technology and if we can develop our software experience to be the same on whatever device we access our information on, then I think that’s a huge step in the right direction.
As an aside, I spoke with a couple of really interesting guys on the Microsoft mobility team about some of the plans for mobile device management, they covered some really interesting ideas about building the mobile management into the applications and not the devices, that gives freedom of choice to do what you like with the device and pick the device you want, you then bake all the control into that corporate app you want your users to use, if you think back to Mike Stone and secure by design, you can see where that helps.
Mobility of human experience not about devices, computing will be ubiquitous it’s about your experience using it that will matter
Next up on the list of things I couldn’t agree more with, was the assertion that the future for our organisations is about our data and how we use it, it’s a drum I’ve been banging for quite a while and anyone who’s read my Data Fabric info know my views on how we manage and move our data, is key to taking advantage of technology innovation.
However this was also about how we understand what’s in our data, Nadella talked about the interesting work Biobeats are doing around their analytics and machine learning based solutions in healthcare, which was a great example, but to be honest I’m seeing that in all kinds of areas, we all have so much data in our lives, organising and understanding it is absolutely key to how we approach our business and increasingly personal lives in the future.
Nadella also spoke about the importance of not designing silo’s in our technology solutions, again, right on board with that discussion. The ability to integrate our technology stacks is a huge part of that, but also Nadella talked about how Microsoft where developing the ability to collaborate and looking at how we do that regardless of platform and technology choices, that shouldn’t matter, if we need to work together, if we need to access data from all kinds of sources, we have to consider that in our design and enable it.
He then gave a couple of great demo’s showing how Microsoft technology was helping people to understand their data with Power BI and the very interesting Delve (available in Office365) , both of these technologies are interesting tools, because they make data analytics easily available, removing it from the preserve of just those who can afford it. Analytics is a huge part of the value of 365 and Azure, delivering “big data” capability to organisations of all sizes.
Last up was a great presentation on continuum showing how a Lumia 950 could be docked and turned into a usable tablet device with a keyboard, monitor etc. switching seamlessly from its mobile persona to that of a tablet device, again a neat feature and maybe demonstrates Microsoft’s view of it’s phone platform, as something to show the art of the possible, rather than as something that is going to displace Android and IOS as the dominant smartphone platforms.
There was also a couple of really interesting videos shown during the session, I’ve popped the links below as something worth taking a look at.
The afternoon was a selection of break out sessions and the expo area, where I picked up some interesting bits of information, but they can wait for another BLOG.
Future Decoded delivered an interesting day, certainly something that if you’ve not attended, it’s well worth giving a spin, it’s always interesting to see Microsoft’s view of the world and where they are looking to head strategically and always quite nice to hear from technology leaders highlighting the same challenges I hear day to day, so at least we know we are working on the right kind of challenges!
Well that’s your roving reporter at Microsoft Future Decoded, signing off!. Hope you enjoyed the little review – Give the videos a look and maybe check out Future Decoded for yourself next year.
Cities Unlocked – A Microsoft Collaboration with UK Guide Dogs (Brilliant video about technology changing lives)
There was also a really great video on MS futures – but I can’t quite remember which one – so I’ve found a couple that are pretty cool anyway, so here’s some bonus material!!