Ignite is looking like it is going to be a fantastic conference but at over 700 sessions, parsing through that number can seem like a daunting task. To help keep your head from spinning, I have put together a list of specific sessions to attend at Microsoft Ignite for both IT decision makers and implementers. Just in case you aren’t aware, in July of last year Microsoft announced that they would be creating a “unified technology event” that would take a number of separate conferences and join them into one large conference. This conference is called Microsoft Ignite and will be held from May 4-8, 2015. imason has a long history of attending Microsoft conferences including Build, and SharePoint. Personally, I have attended most of the SharePoint conferences and have found it a great way to dedicate time to getting up to speed with the technology and meeting with other professionals. When I attended my first SharePoint conference I found it a bit overwhelming with the number of session options and I didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity to connect with so many people from difference backgrounds and experiences. As I prepare to attend Ignite I feel it important to share a few tips on selecting sessions and, to help you get started, I am sharing my recommendations of the top 5 IT decision maker sessions, and the top 5 IT implementer sessions that I believe will be important to attend. My approach to figuring out which sessions to attend at Microsoft Ignite: I first focused on the areas that imason specializes in from a technology perspective and this includes: Office365, SharePoint, Yammer, Azure, OneDrive, Delve, and Power BI. I also looked at the audiences that I wanted to focus on and these include IT decision makers and IT implementers/influencers. Lastly I focused on sessions that I have found to be beneficial based on the following: Roadmap or vision to what’s coming. Microsoft led sessions. There are a number of great speakers but I wanted to keep my focus on the people most connected to the technology and, in my experience, generally, Microsoft led ones have been good. After a bit of magic I have come up with my Top 5 IT Decision Maker and Top 5 Implementer Sessions. Top IT Decision Maker The Evolution of SharePoint: Overview and Roadmap This session is important for those who want to continue down the On-Premises path and may be considering a SharePoint upgrade. Having attended most of the SharePoint Conferences, I have found that it is particularly exciting to be there when Microsoft has just released a new version of SharePoint. This past February, Microsoft announced SharePoint 2016 but has provided very little detail about what’s in it. It was hoped that more detail would come out at Ignite however after reviewing the sessions, Microsoft is still not ready to fully detail the product. But there are a couple of sessions that will offer a glimpse into what’s coming. Office Delve and Office Graph Vision and Roadmap We at imason believe this is going to be a really powerful tool. And, with Delve now released to all Office 365 Customers worldwide, I highly recommend attending this session. One of the key areas that we consistently see as a challenge for organizations is discoverability of both content and expertise. Perhaps one of the more interesting and potentially impactful new applications that Microsoft released last year was Delve. Delve connects you to the content being created and individuals in your organization that’s likely to be relevant to you. Microsoft Office 365 Groups Overview and Roadmap This will be a good session to see what Microsoft has planned and get a better sense of the overall direction of this feature. In its current state, Office 365 Groups is not at a point where we would recommend it. However, the overall concept is a good one in that it marries traditional SharePoint Collaboration with Yammer and Email integration. I believe that, done right, Office 365 Groups may represent the future of collaboration within Office 365. Yammer Roadmap If you’re looking at ways to enhance collaboration within your organization or currently use Yammer and want to learn about what’s coming this is a session you should consider attending. Yammer is transforming the way organizations collaborate by breaking down internal silos, identifying experts in the organization and connecting individuals across departmental and functional areas. Most Portal and Collaboration solutions that we develop at imason incorporate the use of Yammer as it is becoming a standard in these types of solutions. Power BI Overview You should consider attending this session if you are starting to think about how to analyze and report on your data or if you have experience with Power BI in the past. Analyzing and reporting on data within an organization has always been a challenge. Solutions have existed that range from requiring highly technical knowledge to more business friendly scenarios such as Excel. Power BI is a tool that provides several capabilities to analyze and report on data. It is also a tool that continues to extensively change over time with more to come. Top IT Implementer Sessions What’s New for IT Professionals in SharePoint Server 2016 This session is important for those who want to continue down the On-Premises path and may be considering a SharePoint upgrade. Having attended most of the SharePoint Conferences, I’ve found that sessions can be particularly interesting when Microsoft is launching a new version of SharePoint. This past February, Microsoft announced SharePoint 2016 but has provided very little detail about what’s in it. Upon reviewing the sessions, it is clear that Microsoft is not ready to fully detail the product but there are a couple of sessions that will offer a glimpse into what’s coming. Managing Change in an Office 365 Rapid Release World If you are using O365 or thinking about a move to it, this is an important session to attend. Unlike On-Premises solutions that had a 3 year update cycle, change happens rapidly in O365. Microsoft has provided an O365 Roadmap that can help identify what’s coming. The second part of the challenge is how to keep your user base informed of upcoming changes. I’m looking forward to hearing what Microsoft has to say in this area and hopefully pick up some tips on helping with Change Management in general. The Microsoft IT Portals Journey, On-Premises to Office 365 Deciding or thinking about moving to Office 365 and wondering what the migration process and consideration might be? This is the session for you. This will be a good session to gain some knowledge based on how Microsoft IT approached migrating from SharePoint On-Premises to Office 365, and the recommended strategies and challenges they experienced. Gain Organizational Insights with Yammer Data Mining and Analytics Using Yammer or thinking about Yammer for your organization? If so, you should attend this session to better understand how to measure Yammer’s business value. Yammer is a great tool for enhancing collaboration within your organization. Having your Community Managers leverage Yammer Data and Analytics will go a long way to help drive adoption and encourage employee engagement. It also can provide the organization with a snapshot of how people are feeling and what they are talking about. The ability to better understand how to measure business value from analytics will be a powerful tool in the Community Manager toolkit. Implementing Next Generation SharePoint Hybrid Search with the Cloud Search Service Application This looks to be a great session for providing greater understanding of what’s possible and new in Hybrid Search scenarios. For most organizations, going to Office 365 will be a gradual process and include a roadmap that targets particular business objectives over time. Successful implementations work on making the transition as seamless as possible which makes understanding the options in Hybrid scenarios important. Typically the area of focus is search. Microsoft has been working on improving search in Hybrid scenarios so that search results appear as a single set which include content from both On-Premises and Cloud Applications. Some Things to Consider to Get the Most Out of the Conference So now that you have a base of sessions to start from, what’s next? Microsoft has put together a personalized scheduling tool that you can use to browse your sessions and add them to a calendar that you can reference throughout the conference. Here are some considerations as you work through what sessions you want to go to as well as some things to consider during the conference: As you put together your session schedule, consider choosing a couple of other sessions for the same time slot. A session description might sound great but the speaker or content might not be exactly as expected when you get there. Don’t be afraid to leave a session after it has started. It’s your time and money and you need to get the most of it while you’re there. I see a lot of people taking pictures of a slide being presented. Remember, generally, sessions are recorded and even presentation material is shared at some point after the session. The same goes for notes. Jot down ideas and thoughts rather than slide content. Ask questions. Presenters are usually available for 10-15 minutes after the session ends so take advantage of that time if you need to ask a question. There are also occasions when the presenter will give you their contact information or you will be able to connect with them through Yammer. And there you have it. A long post but hopefully I have provided some useful information for you to make the most of your time and the sessions you attend at Microsoft Ignite. Enjoy your time at the conference! If you are going to attend Microsoft Ignite, connect with me on Twitter @peter_grigoriou – and let’s meet up!