At the start of May I attended the Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago and observed some key things that I wanted to share. Microsoft is a very different company today than what they’ve been in the past and it is important to understand how they’ve changed and why it should matter to you.
Microsoft is iterating quickly and I suspect the pace of iteration is going to increase as the ‘new’ and ‘different’ Microsoft becomes more ingrained at Microsoft. The roadmap will be essential. One change evident to me after Ignite is how Microsoft has really embraced an agile approach to developing their product suite. There were many sessions showing features that have yet to be released. They talked about how their numerous product teams were more integrated and talking more to each other: the evidence was in their demos that showed the integration between products. In the Behind the scenes: Engineering NextGen Portals session they even demonstrated concepts of features they are considering in the future. While speaking with someone from the O365 NextGen Portals team, he mentioned that they might pull the mobile authoring feature while they fix some issues they have found with it. Imagine attempting to do this with the old Microsoft. The same can be seen with Windows 10 as they have consistently been iterating and pushing out updates that include taking feedback and incorporating it into new releases. And all this is being done in a period of weeks and not years. Microsoft’s new pace of development means it is essential that you stay on top of what’s coming by keeping tabs on the Office Blog and O365 Roadmap sites. Microsoft is listening to their user community and incorporating the feedback received. Wow, what a difference a few years makes. I remember a time when Microsoft rarely accepted feedback, and if they did everyone wondered where it actually went. Need an example? Take a look at the difference between their Windows 8 and Windows 10 releases. During the conference there were numerous sessions that included a feedback form with the product team asking for feedback on what the attendees were seeing. Take a look at their Windows 10 OS and how they are iterating and tweaking features based on user feedback. On the Office 365 side of things, Microsoft allows a tenant to be in the Fast or Slow stream and pushes out updates earlier to the Fast, enabling them to “test” features, gather feedback and make sure it is generally ready for release. The other day, I was speaking with Jeff Dunmall, President of imason, about the new Power BI and he mentioned he provided some feedback regarding a feature request. He got a response the same day indicating the feature was coming! Each one of us has the ability to mold the Microsoft products we use so take the time to get feedback from your organization and send it to Microsoft because from what I can see, it looks like they’re listening. Cloud is Microsoft’s focus and direction. On-Premises products will incorporate cloud features (but not all of them). You need to be focused on Cloud as well. Last year at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, Microsoft’s big focus was the cloud. Microsoft Ignite has continued with that trend. The cloud is their focus and you need to be focused on this direction as well. Even if you are heavily invested in Microsoft’s Server products there are a number of reasons to stay on top of what’s being released in the cloud:
- In the Next generation Office 365 Controls, Extensibility and Team Productivity session, Julia White mentioned that Microsoft’s cloud products will drive the feature set that gets incorporated into their on-premises products. This means that at the very least you will get a window into what might be coming into future releases of their server products. That being said, it was also stated that not all features will make it into their server products and one such example is Office Graph (due to compute constraints on premises).
- Because it is so easy to spin up a trial cloud instance and play around with the features, business users may eventually start asking about what they’re seeing in the cloud. Keeping on top of what’s out there will help you prepare for questions that might come up.
- I predict that the shift to the cloud will become more and more compelling as time goes by, with more businesses moving in that direction. Being prepared for that potential will help you be a leader in that area should this happen with your organization.
Microsoft is a very different company and I find that what I’ve been seeing from them and the pace at which it is happening is very exciting. Stay connected with Office 365 and the cloud in general as this trend will only solidify as time goes on. Being a leader in this area will help both you and your organization in the future. Microsoft has made all the sessions from the Microsoft Ignite conference available at Channel 9 and to find out more about what to get started learning about and what’s coming, read my Top 10 Sessions to Attend at Microsoft Ignite blog. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these other Microsoft Ignite posts: