Highlights from Microsoft Ignite 2021

As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we look forward to Microsoft Ignite every year. At Ignite, Microsoft articulates their vision, unveils new products and enhancements, and shares meaningful perspectives on how organizations and individuals will leverage the Microsoft suite to improve communication and collaboration.

While this event is typically an in-person event, this year’s Microsoft Ignite was a virtual 48-hour event.

At the end of Ignite, we highlight a few things that we think will be exciting to our Microsoft clients and we share advancements that will be valuable to organizations that are making a digital transformation. Over the last year, we have seen a huge increase in demand for tools that enable remote work. We’ve been busy over the last year introducing clients to the capabilities of two applications in Microsoft 365 that have been critical to distributed teams, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams. These tools were available when we needed them because Microsoft has been refining them for a decade, improving the technologies to better meet the needs of the modern workplace.

Microsoft has acknowledged that the people that attend Ignite are dedicated to being on the forefront. We are those people. The Kiefer team has made significant investments in making sure that our team is in alignment with Microsoft. We recognize that digital transformation starts with us and we have the unique ability to support organizations and assist them in preparing for whatever disruptions may come their way.

Our CEO, Greg Kiefer,  was quoted in Comstock’s magazine. He recognized that the pandemic was a disruption that many organizations simply were not prepared for.

“I tell people that if you can’t come out of this stronger and more cohesive as an organization than you went into it, then you’ve failed.”

Greg Kiefer (Comstock’s Magazine, January 2021)

The need to change and modernize the workplace is no longer a dream, it is a necessity.

Here are a few takeaways from Ignite that are important to organizations that are embarking on a digital transformation journey, or are already on the path.

Hybrid Work is Here to Stay

We saw huge changes in commercial real estate over the last year, signaling that work from home models are working. Microsoft has even gone on record and said that they are focused on offering as much flexibility as possible to their employees. Over the last couple of weeks, we have witnessed a move back to offices and classrooms, but I think it is safe to say that we will not be going back to our pre-pandemic reality.

Hybrid work models have people working from home, office and everywhere in between. The cloud will enable these models and Microsoft continues to introduce and expand upon cloud-powered solutions to support this idea. Organizations will continue to rethink workspaces to accommodate both physical and digital presence.

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At the core of his hybid model is the  “glue” that binds us all together, Microsoft Teams. Teams allows us to communicate, collaborate, and interact in real time. At Ignite, Microsoft unveiled Teams Connect, which allows multiple organizations to collaborate across company boundaries.

Hosting Webinars in Teams

Once users start to understand what Teams can do, they want to understand it’s limits. Web-meetings in Microsoft Teams do have a webinar-like feel, but up until Ignite, Teams did not have the features that would make it a practical replacement for WebEx. That may change with the announcement that Microsoft Teams can be used to host interactive webinars.  At Ignite, Microsoft shared the ability to host a webinar in Microsoft Teams up to 1,000 attendees, with audiences both inside and outside the host’s organization. Additional features include;

  • Custom registration
  • Host control over disabling attendee video and chat
  • Post-event reporting after the webinar concludes

More to come on this feature and its capabilities.

The Power to Automate, Without Code

We have been helping clients leverage Microsoft Power Platform for over a year. Internally, we even built an app earlier this year to encourage employee wellness, KieferFit. The great thing about Power Platform is that non-technical users can build apps and automate cumbersome processes. Microsoft continues to invest in tools that enable self-service and low-code development to reengineer and optimize critical processes.

Microsoft announced Microsoft Power Automate Desktop — which offers robotic process automation (RPA) capabilities that easily automate time-consuming manual work.

Microsoft also announced a new open-source, low-code programming language called Microsoft Power Fx, a language for low-code based on Microsoft Excel. Power Fx uses familiar formulas to develop low-code solutions.

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Power BI Premium Per User

Good news for all of the data enthusiasts. If your organization is looking to leverage Power BI and a more robust feature set, you are in luck. Power Premium BI Per User will be released into generally available on April 2nd. We have seen tremendous growth in Power BI and over the last year and significant interest in connecting Power BI to other systems to learn more about the business. Our Data Analytics and Visualization Practice can help you do more with Power BI.

Check Out More Highlights

Be sure to check out Satya’s keynote on demand and the more than 300 sessions that can be watched virtually, on-demand.


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