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Microsoft Inspire 2022 Highlights: Top News and Themes

For the third year in a row, Microsoft’s Inspire conference, the year’s flagship partner event, was a relatively low-key virtual affair.

Day 1 and Day 2 keynote speeches, which included interviews with CEO Satya Nadella, new Associate Director Nicole Dezen, VP of Security Vasu Jakkal, and key chain executives like Nick Parker and Judson Althoff , featured a few curveballs. As expected, driving much of the presentations was the Azure cloud – how Microsoft customers increasingly live and die from it, and how partners can make money from it. Other recurring themes from the conference, which ended on Wednesday:

  • Remote collaboration tools (especially Microsoft Teams and Viva) are essential to support today’s hybrid work environments.
  • How Microsoft’s continued investments in its security products, from the ubiquitous Defender line to the relatively new Entra family, can help partners meet the challenges of more sophisticated, expensive, and high-stakes cyberattacks.
  • Data is everywhere, and Azure’s AI capabilities are needed to harness that data for practical purposes. “This is the age of AI,” Nadella said during his keynote.

The MCPP switch is coming
However, this year’s Inspire was notable for being Microsoft’s first major partner event since it announced this spring that it was retiring the current Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) in October and replacing it with the new Microsoft Cloud Partner Program. (MCPP). The MCPP will distinguish partners according to their competence in six areas:

  • Data and AI (Azure)
  • Infrastructure (Azure)
  • Digital and application innovation (Azure)
  • Commercial applications
  • modern work
  • Security

Microsoft views these skill areas as aligned with specific customer sales goals. Parker, head of Global Partner Solutions, described this concept at Inspire using the metaphor of a house:

Microsoft for Industry
Another change this year has been Microsoft’s hyper focus on industry. The company has planned six industry-specific cloud offerings — financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, nonprofit, and sustainability — each in varying stages of completion. At Inspire, Julie Sanford, vice president of go-to-market strategy and programs at Microsoft, described them as “vertical expressions” of the Microsoft cloud.

Microsoft is pushing its partners to take advantage of these different industry cloud platforms and tailor their offerings to the industries that work best for them. As Microsoft Chief Commercial Officer Althoff said during his portion of the keynote, “Our partners are key to our industry strategy.”

“Go vertical” is not a new exhortation from Microsoft; the company has been encouraging its partners to adopt a vertical industrial approach for years. Recently, however, Microsoft has made its industry goals more explicit, such as developing these six distinct industry-specific cloud platforms. Additionally, when the MCPP launches, it will feature built-in incentives for partners who take Microsoft’s industry guidance seriously.

Sanford said during the Inspire keynote that MCPP will have industry partner designations, starting with healthcare, financial services and retail. Microsoft intends to launch “co-design sessions” with partners to help develop these designations, she added.

News roundup
Several notable product launches and updates were announced as part of Inspire this week. Check out the links below for our coverage:

  • Azure Migrations and Application Modernization: Microsoft lists partner cloud goals on Inspire: According to Microsoft, partners can facilitate their customers’ digital transformations in three main ways and, unsurprisingly, they are all centered around the Azure cloud.
  • Microsoft Inspire 2022: On-screen enterprise collaboration upgrades: Collaboration enhancements impacted Microsoft Teams Connect shared channels capability, Excel Live for content editing by groups of people, an app video clip sharing and a collaborative annotations feature that has been added to the Microsoft Whiteboard application. Microsoft also outlined a new “Viva Engage” addition that will come to its Microsoft Viva “employee experience platform.” It also announced upcoming enhancements to its Windows 365 desktop-as-a-service offering.
  • New Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty helps government customers meet requirements: The new Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty has arrived to help public sector customers meet compliance, security and policy requirements when processing data and loads working in the corporate cloud.
  • Microsoft and Oracle Announce Database Partnership: This new offering brings tighter integration for Microsoft Azure customers who leverage Oracle’s database services.
  • Microsoft taps Nuance Tech in new AI-powered contact center: The new offering, dubbed the Microsoft Digital Contact Center Platform, significantly integrates the AI ​​technology that Microsoft inherited from its acquisition of Nuance Communications Inc. for $19 billion, which was finalized last March.
  • Microsoft touts cost-effective benefits of all-in-one security solutions: Among the needs enterprise customers seek to address, Microsoft said reducing tool proliferation – the state of having many security in place on a single network – is high on this list.
  • Microsoft cuts the ribbon for the “Azure Space Partner Community”: Partners who join the Azure Space Partner Community gain access to expert technical support and go-to-market benefits.