This week I was fortunate to be able to attend my first-ever Microsoft Ignite 2015 Conference in Chicago at the McCormick Center. Me and 23,000 of my closest friends. We all gathered in one of the most cavernous buildings I have ever been in to see what Microsoft would unveil. We were not disappointed. Satya Nadella, Joe Belfiori and Gurdeep Singh Pall brought us insight into what was to come and began to showcase the innovation being delivered in the latest Microsoft miracles—miracles to empower IT Pros in companies all over the globe.
It quickly became apparent that Microsoft has made significant strides reinventing productivity for people and organizations. All of the new and upcoming Office 2016 features will enable successful companies to create effective communication flows between folks on premise and tele-workers. From my perspective, how can individual productivity not provide collective value from the co-creation feature available in Office 2016. Quite literally, you see folks type letter by letter, word by word from anywhere in the world. Gone are the days of email for this effort, painstakingly waiting for Jim to respond and then email it to Jennifer. In today’s new IT Integrator world, this means we can share documents with perspective customers via Skype for Business and mark them up live, with the customer adding to the flow real-time, in the actual Word document, not just on a whiteboard. Enable Track Changes and you can see what each contributor is doing and then merge the changes at the end.
This leads to faster turnaround on important Statements of Work, BAAs or other sales documents, speeding the rate of close on a particular opportunity.
For GreenPages, and our fellow IT Pros in their respective customer organizations, this is our collective opportunity to create better and more adaptable infrastructures. No longer are we burdened by hardware lead times and costs that blow up our budgets, just to add capacity for DevOps. The Microsoft Cloud makes it possible to create virtual datacenters on the fly, edit documents live, store them in the Microsoft Cloud and recall them from anywhere on a moment’s notice, and at a lower cost than ever before. I want to also highlight that this week at Ignite was not just about Azure, Office365, and Office2016. We also saw the walkthroughs on Skype for Business, Server 2015, Exchange 2016 and SharePoint 2016 in-depth for the first time. One word… Impressive.
Now, let’s talk about what Microsoft sees as the new online work experience.
Where work used to be a cube based, do your own thing and don’t lift your head (unless you smell food), it’s now a communal one. People still work individually on their own devices, in their own space, often on their own time, but now teams deliver projects more effectively to customers. With the foundation of new Office 365 Groups, they can work in communal, virtual teams, again anytime, anywhere. The ability to quickly bring people together to solve a complex business problem must be simple, lightweight, and allow team members to work the way they want to (much like the new millennial worker will or does want). It is the ubiquitous team element that allows organizations such as GreenPages to listen to customers, take notes, create content, video, IM, tweet—and ensure our practices and our customers are part of the OneTeam approach driving collaborative context. As a Microsoft VTSP, I have access to their Office365 portal as my communication and knowledge base toolset. I have often lamented to customers during presentations that I wished Microsoft would release Office Delve to the consumer. Oh, what a great real time presentation of data; pertinent to what you are working on and a single pane of glass experience. Well, viola, we saw the preview of the Office 365 Group’s “hub” in Office Delve – not to mention that Delve has been released into production in Office365. Also, I saw the ability to have group conversations in email, via Outlook 2016.
Today, work is what we do, not where we go. My mission at GreenPages is to have helped develop a next generation VAR that ensures people can be productive wherever they are, using whatever device they have, therefore resulting in exemplary customer services to all of our customers. This includes both GreenPages’ employees and GreenPages’ customers. There are many, many reports that say 80% of time spent on phones and tablets is within native applications, so Microsoft presents us with the step-future approach and releases Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Outlook, OneNote, Skype, OneDrive, Yammer and more—across all devices and platforms. These newly deemed Office universal applications for Windows 10 are another great step on this journey. So, I immediately updated my Microsoft Surface Pro 3 to Windows 10 and Office 2016. So far so cool.
I am now a mobility monster. Maybe I should change my Microsoft Surface touch type keyboard to green. No… the whole thing should be green. I’ll show you a picture in my next blog.
At GreenPages today, our meetings are as often ad-hoc as they are pre-scheduled, and there are very few meetings where everyone is in the room. Most meetings, even those with customers, include one or more remote attendees. But I live for body language; I need to see how the person is reacting to the information that I’m offering so that I can adapt to make sure they are comfortable with it. The physical queue is imperative for me. Virtual attendees don’t offer body language. They don’t offer queues and most of the time you hit it out of the park, but sometimes you miss that shift in the chair and don’t find out you were off base until a follow up from the customer crushing your record of successful delivery. I believe, as does Microsoft, that moving forward, every meeting scheduled in Office 365 will automatically be a Skype for Business meeting, so customers and fellow employees don’t have to do anything additional to make video meetings. With Microsoft’s roll-out of the new Skype for Business experience, it’s easy to get a meeting up and running in a few clicks, and video just works. There’s no need for plugins or special software; it is part of the default experience. Now, add in great hardware integration across the Surface Hub, Skype Room Systems, and with vendors like Cisco, Logitech and Polycom and you can have smart meeting rooms on the fly.
One of the more exciting things we saw in the Office 2016 Public Preview release was Content co-creation. In theory and practice, I tried this once my upgrade was complete. All Office content is by design and default saved to, and shared from, OneDrive or OD4B. This content can be created and edited with real-time co-authoring in Word 2016. Also, email attachments are a thing of the past with Outlook’s new attachments that are simply shared from the cloud, much like you would share a link from Microsoft SharePoint.
I think this is an unprecedented period in Microsoft history. A full on charge at the Cloud, better yet the Microsoft Cloud and finally a rich Office package that makes the cloud seem like it is the hard drive on your desktop, laptop, tablet, Ipad, Surface or Mac. It was a very exciting week, and this just begins the build up to WPC in Orlando this year. I am sure more is to come from this next evolution.
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By David Barter, Practice Manager - Microsoft Technologies