Microsoft Ignite 2019 Wrap

Another Microsoft Ignite Conference is in the books.  This year’s event, hosted in Orlando, Florida unleashed a treasure trove of announcements both big and small.  Just within the area of Azure there were 118 announcements queued up for last week in the Azure Updates listing with most (if not all) of the services in Preview this fall making their official transition to General Availability last week.

Announcements

Here are the five focus areas I noticed:

  • Hybrid
  • Data
  • AI
  • Security
  • Serverless

Hybrid

Arguably the biggest announcement of the conference may have been the Azure Arc service which provides organizations a consistent, single interface to govern and manage resources on-premises, using Azure Stack, in Azure, or other cloud platforms.  Should be a great service for organizations that still manage multiple local or collocation centers, in addition to cloud services on one or more platforms.

Data

There was a lot going on for data people starting with the official GA of SQL Server 2019 and the introduction of Azure Synapse, Microsoft’s new data warehousing and analytics tool that can leverage on-premises and cloud data sources in addition to ML to quickly create powerful new insights on your data.  You can find a detailed introduction by Rohan Kumar here:

Azure Synapse.png
Azure Synapse Analytics – image from Microsoft

Three other Azure SQL announcements I find interesting include:

AI

In addition to all of the great AI capabilities being leveraged by Azure services like the Azure Security Center and the Azure Synapse Analytics previously mentioned, I was introduced to a new service currently in preview within Cognitive Services called Anomaly Detector.  Anomaly Detector is a tool that makes it super easy for developers to feed it regular time-series data.  Over time the ML will determine what is normal and abnormal operations and provide rich analytics for proactively identifying and solving problems.  I already have a rich use case for this, so look for a detailed write up soon.

Security

Security and trust continue to be a big area of focus both for Microsoft and its customers.  I see a continued focus on trying to get consistency between on-premises and cloud resources to identify issues as well as new ways to easily remediate identified threats.

Here are four announcements with impact that I noticed:

Serverless

I continue to be super excited by all of the great work happening in the world of serverless computing at Microsoft.  Ignite brought three big announcements I was happy to see.

General Thoughts and Wrapup

As a cloud consultant and technology evangelist I always find conferences like Ignite valuable to help me get aligned with where Microsoft is going, where companies are, and where they are trying to go with their technology decisions.  It can be difficult to remember that consultants are often on the cutting edge solving new and challenging problems so we forget that we may be ahead of the pack.  The continued focus on hybrid operations reflects the reality of where organizations are.  It was interesting to see how many organizations are still in the early planning or adoption for their cloud journey.

If you are reading this and near the beginning of your cloud journey, I highly recommend taking a look at Microsoft’s Cloud Adoption Framework (CAF) information which can help speed up your adoption remove some of the guesswork early on.

It was a great time, I learned a lot, and had a lot of great conversations.  Any conference that leaves me energized and hungry to learn more is a great investment.  Looking forward to future events!

Making Automation Personal: The Next Step in Digital Transformation

True digital transformation requires more than incremental improvements and goes beyond individual projects or processes.  As George Westerman, Didler Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee presented in their book Leading Digital, to become true digital masters, organizations need to think differently and work to enable their members to rethink everything they do in order to identify opportunities for automation.  By addressing the capabilities for enhancing workflow automation as a personalized technology capability, organizations can take a giant leap forward and feed the innovation cycle without limits. 

In the context of SharePoint-based workflows, this likely goes against common practice with most organizations who choose to focus on automating core business processes or system integrations used throughout the organization.  These projects are much bigger in scope and complexity and require a lot more of the organization’s resources to complete.  These projects often have a great return on investment, but there is ultimately a limit to the number of projects an organization can take on.  Many organizations will see a long backlog of open project requests; commonly stretching at least 2-3 years due to lack of resources.  In addition, the people that use these systems often do so in a very detached way.  They follow the process and use the stated system, but they often are not engaged in the decisions or in making further improvements in this or other processes.  This is one of the fundamental differences in classic Business Process Management (BPM) versus the current trends for Workflow & Content Automation (WCA) with the former being very focused on formal process optimization by a few experts and the latter being more focused on less formal automation lead by a much wider audience of citizen developers.  To achieve digital mastery, everyone needs to be fully engaged and driving innovative changes which aligns well with the WCA concepts that bring together people, process, and content.

So it is with this concept that we make our pivot and focus on making automation personal!  If we teach the members of the organization how to think about these automation improvements and how to leverage the tools they have access to we have a much bigger impact than solely focusing on those larger, complex processes.  Think about the ramifications of enabling the members of your organization to each find a way to save 30 minutes a day.  The productivity boost would be staggering.  This is a journey more so than a destination so if we teach them right they can save 30 minutes today, and then look at the next thing they could do to make their lives easier, save time, or eliminate a mundane task. 

Available Automation Platforms

There has never been an easier time to make this transition from a technology standpoint.  With readily available tools that create no-code or at low-code solutions, most organizations have access to the tools needed.  Here is a selection of potential tools:

Culture Can Amplify Capabilities

The real challenge though is unlikely to be technology but rather culture and user enablement.  Many organizations have this mindset that there is a solid wall between business and IT.  They also believe that IT is responsible for providing both the tools and the solutions.   While organizations can have some success with this model, there are some extreme limits tied to the size and spend of a given IT organization.  By promoting the tools + solutions and enabling users to use them throughout the organization, this wider audience of citizen developers can have a significantly higher impact. 

To get to this point, the organization as a whole needs to support a culture of innovation and user enablement.  This cannot happen without full support from senior management and aligning it with the expectations set for positions throughout the organization.  Aligning productivity improvements with personal goals can help lay the support foundation, as can a regular award or recognition program that highlights individual or group improvements.  In many lean and manufacturing environments there is the concept of offering regular Kaizens which offer a great opportunity to grow both teams and individuals focused on solving a particular problem.  This concept can be applied to just about any business or organization. 

When organizations make this culture shift to empower and enable their users the benefits can amplify organizational capabilities and have a dramatic impact on reducing cost and improving profitability.  A recent Gartner study entitled Process-Centric Technologies Increase Revenue, found that CIOs are finding that process-centric technologies have the ability to increase revenue, in addition to the traditional benefits associated with cutting costs and increasing efficiencies.  This is change even the most hardened of executives can get behind. 

Nintex InspireX Conference

Nintex recently announced registration for their 2nd Annual InspreX Conference.  This year it will take place in New Orleans from February 13th-15th.

I was able to attend the 2015 version in Las Vegas earlier this year with two of my team members.  The conference was very well run and it easily exceeded all of our expectations.  With the current size and scope of the Microsoft Ignite Conference, it is a nice alternative for all things Nintex.  We especially found it easier to move around and have meaningful conversations with people since the audience was smaller and more focused.

The early bird registration rate is a real bargain at $695 (through October 31st).  With over 50 breakout sessions and dedicated areas for interactive demos there will be plenty of opportunities to network, learn, and share.  It is highly recommended for anyone working with Nintex on a regular basis!

Nintex InxpireX Info and Registration

 

 

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