Keeping up with the pace of change that Microsoft is delivering to the market is not a simple task for average IT professional. Since unfortunately not every IT & business professional can track every new innovation coming out of the Redmond, WA campus, events like Ignite help to accelerate the learning curve and offer an opportunity for many IT pros to advance their training and certification.
Microsoft is a bit caught up in the market as the man in the middle. IT and business professionals who have been exposed to Microsoft for 20+ years still get bent out of shape when you mention Microsoft and associate the company with a blue scree of death. Meanwhile, an emerging workforce is enamored with Apple, Google, and apps that make most businesses cringe with the mere mention of their usage in a corporate setting. What many people I speak with don’t understand is that Microsoft has turned a corner as it continues to innovate (beyond what most people think IMHO) on applications, server OS, PC OS, and a cloud platform (Azure), while the company has also embraced managing (and the usage of) non-Microsoft devices.
I’m anxious to see and speak with a variety of IT vendors and end-users while I am at Ignite, but I will be paying special attention to:
Management complexity: IT shops are in a pickle currently as companies embrace the cloud, devices proliferate throughout the workforce, and the perimeter IT pros need to protect and manage is rapidly expanding. It makes sense then that IT would turn toward a platform that can manage, protect, and control risk across a multitude of devices, networks, and identities…but will they? I see many IT shops very comfortable with the best of breed approach they have taken, but quickly becoming overwhelmed with an expanding perimeter and risks associated with it.
Identity: Balancing personal identity alongside business identity is not a simple task, but it is something users are expecting companies to provide while also protecting their personal privacy. You would think that Microsoft has a slam dunk here to help businesses succeed at striking this balance since so many companies use Active Directory, but we often see companies not using AD to its full capabilities (policy creation and enforcement) and as Azure AD has stepped into the picture, I speak with people who are still missing the obvious benefit of SSO (single sign-on) across SaaS apps.
Windows Device & Browser: This topic is a bit more tactical but, very relative to Ignite attendees. ESG has some compelling research that uncovered indicators that could put Microsoft at risk and propel Google into the enterprise. It’s not unreasonable for companies to be thinking of potential Chromebook usage as well as a comfort factor that is setting in with Chrome browser. Microsoft has responded with Windows 10 S, but it goes back to one of my initial points about Microsoft being caught in the middle here with folks who begrudge Microsoft, while others lean away from Microsoft based on their consumer experience and expect the same at work.
Each of these topics is complex for businesses and will drive excitement from Microsoft, its partners, attendees, and the competition. I’ll be sure to check in at Ignite with the typical social channels (@markbowker), and share any surprises as well as my overall observations.