Microsoft Inspire 2018 Recap: An interview with Viktor Gajodi

Geomant’s Managing Partner Viktor Gajodi, jetted off to Vegas last week to join thousands of others for this year’s Microsoft Inspire conference. Its the one time of year when Microsoft invites partners from around the world to celebrate this past year’s successes, unveil changes with insights, and offer best practices with advice for how to empower customers and enhance the enduser experience in a digital world. We managed to catch up with Viktor to ask him some questions.  

Let’s start with why you think Microsoft chose to host this event in Las Vegas, and what did you think about the choice of location? 

Las Vegas, Nevada is a city full of excitement, world-class hospitality and ingenuity, what better place to host such an event! Particularly, too because so many people were expected to attend. I think there were around 21,000 Microsoft Inspire and Microsoft Ready delegates together, so you’d need a big city to accommodate all.  

Why do you think they chose to host two events at the same time in the same city? 

I think it was about having an integrated experience and more networking opportunities. Microsoft Ready, the largest Microsoft internal marketing, technical and sales kick-off and readiness event combined with Inspire, the largest Microsoft partner event makes it possible to have the entire Microsoft community at one place at the same time. Partners had the opportunity to connect, network and work with the Microsoft community.

For example, on Wednesday night, at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there was the One Celebration. An event where this big community of Microsoft Readand Microsoft Inspire delegates attend together. Not only was this so much fun and an unforgettable experience, it was a chance to meet people that might otherwise, be ‘outside of your bubble’. Without having the two events run in tandem, such opportunities would not be possible.

Another benefit of combining the two events was the ability to have a shared Corenote featuring Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella. During this Corenote, both Microsoft employees and partners heard Satya deliver the same message at the same time, helping ensure full alignment with strategic direction going into the new fiscal year.

Satya summed this up in a sentence quoting the Microsoft Mission Statement:

Thank you, it sounds great! Moving on to the conference itself, can you tell me what some of this year’s most important messages were and how they compare to last years? 

At Microsoft Inspire 2017, the speakers talked a lot about the what behind business success. This year Gavriella Schuster, Corporate Vice President of Worldwide Channels and Programs, focused on the how. How you can get there. How you can turn your great idea into a thriving business. 

Messages and some keywords were in this year similar to lasts, but each area introduced many improvements and new trends too. For instance, cloud-based systems and digital transformation were already a big focus last year, but at Microsoft Inspire 2018, Intelligent Cloud and Intelligent Edge were named as the biggest current opportunities; powering the AI (artificial intelligence) in multiple aspects, and Microsoft Teams as the key pillar of the Modern Workplace.

How were the keynote Corenote sessions? 

The Corenote speakers were particularly good this year, some that come to mind were Gavriella Schuster and Satya Nadella. Gavriella spoke about the cloud and data as ‘our modern-day gold rush’, while Satya focused broadly on technological change and the importance of forward-thinking.

To talk about Satya’s Corenote address a little more…he started by embracing the 54 Azure Datacentre regions, proclaiming Azure as the world’s computer – comprised of ubiquitously distributed computer fabric that creates the Azure Sphere. And then he moved on to talk about AI, promising democratisation in all focus industries like; Retail, Healthcare, Agriculture, Automotive, Financial, Manufacturing, Education and Media and Communication.

Combining these two areas empowers experiences and digital transformation through the intelligent cloud and edge infrastructure and services, to all focus areas: gaming, modern life, modern workplace, business applications, applications and infrastructure, data and AI. After sharing pillars of this strategy, the Corenote moved on to showcase examples around AI and ML (machine learning). One that comes to mind was Xiaouce, an intelligent virtual personal assistant developed by Microsoft.

Satya also shared insights into the tools that he uses in daily life, which strengthened the communication channel vision of Microsoft. He explained how communication is broken down into three channels; the open, inner and outer loops. The open loop handling email communication through Outlook, the inner loop managing daily communication between groups of users working on the same projects through Teams, and the outer loop used for social information sharing through Yammer. Other than using these communication loops, Satya also stressed the importance of Cortana and Todo actions in daily work habits, and also mentioned Power BI for KPI tracking. He named LinkedIn as the biggest professional social network, and Stream as the corporate video portal, capable of recognising people and converting content into a searchable transcript.

Uriel Rootshtain’s session was also very interesting to me. He talked about the journey from Skype to Teams (under NDA). He mentioned some interesting facts like 70% of SFB (Skype for Business) customers already using Teams, and 50% growth for Teams usage in Q2. But the main take away from the event was the recommendation that everyone starts using Teams immediately, either in parallel with SFB or independently.

Finally, Judson Althoff spoke about 2019’s focus areas: growth in culture and mindset, getting deeper into enterprise accounts (putting in co-sell solutions), acquiring more customers for Microsoft cloud, retaining and growing the current customer base and focusing on learning and readiness.

What do you think are the most important trends in 2018, based on the conference? 

I think, Jason Zander the Executive Vice President of Microsoft Azure summarised well in one sentence the most important message of this year: “Organisations around the world are gearing up for a future powered by the intelligent cloud and AI.” And this is the direction for Geomant’s developments as well.

Some would say the future is here – certainly in terms of meetings it is. This was evident in a demo where HoloLensand HoloBeam showed how a remote worker’s virtual image could be augmented to an onsite table, creating a virtual image of a full meeting. Meeting notes and action items were taken automatically. Another demo showed an onsite technician who was sharing through mixed reality information with an expert over a video call.

Tell me more about AI and what Geomant is doing to keep up with trends.  

Microsoft is putting an incredible effort into AI innovation, empowering partners to become experts and helping customers in every industry realise the benefits of AI.

Already last year, at Microsoft Inspire 2017, Geomant grabbed the attention by being the only Microsoft Development Partner showcasing a chatbot, the CallMe Bot which allowed customers to request a call-back via Messenger, Skype, Webchat and other channels powered by Microsoft’s Bot Framework. Since then, Geomant has launched its Chatbot Orchestration Framework, Buzzeasy.

Buzzeasy uses intelligent conversational bot technologies that can orchestrate personalised customer service and switch someone to live assistance, where and when it matters. This solution is a good example of using the latest Intelligent Cloud, Microsoft AI technologies.

Geomant has also launched its AI Practice to help customers accelerate the move from traditional customer interaction channels to new digital and messaging platforms taking advantage of state-of-the-art AI technologies. These are all backed up by the above mentioned Buzzeasy Framework helping our customers to be able to use standard bot types like FAQ, steering, data collection and survey bots. Or more complex bots that include CRM, e-commerce or retail system integration. In addition, Geomant has developed machine learning based bots – tailored for you by our professional services team.

We’re showcasing our FAQ Bot, Gemma on our website so that everyone can see how easy it is to start using AI, whilst keeping the human touch by transferring to an agent if someone gets stuck.