Microsoft's Inspire 2019 partner conference in Las Vegas last month was once again a great chance for Microsoft partners from across the world, including New Zealand, to learn first-hand about the company's plans and how they affect its global partner community.

This year 160 Kiwis representing 75 local partners attended Inspire - and, as always, a team from Auldhouse joined them.

For us Inspire is an opportunity to find out what areas Microsoft - as one of our largest vendor partners - will focus on in the coming year, which helps us set the direction for our learning offerings.

It's also a perfect chance to connect and network with fellow Microsoft partners from New Zealand - something we don't get around enough day-to-day. There's nothing quite like being together as a group overseas for a bunch of Kiwis to bond!

But back to business - here's are some of our highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2019:

Inclusion and diversity

Inclusion and diversity were big themes at the event this year with a lot of content touching on these topics. I found it very interesting how diverse the Microsoft community is now - given the global reach of technology.

Inclusion and diversity were also the focus of the panel during the Women in Technology luncheon at the event. Although not an unexpected topic for such a session, it was very interesting particularly as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was a surprise guest. Speaking with Gavriella Schuster, Microsoft's vice president for partners, he said: "At Microsoft, our mission is inherently inclusive: empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more. Each of us - no matter what our level, role or function - play an active role in creating environments where people of diverse backgrounds are excited to bring all of who they are to do their best work".

Key partner announcements

As would be expected there were also several major announcements for Microsoft partners. In her corenote (Microsoft speak for each day's main presentation) on day one of Inspire, Gavriella Schuster outlined six big market opportunities for partners over the next year, aligned to Microsoft’s core solution areas:

Modern workplace

  • Microsoft 365 Security

  • Microsoft 365 Teams extension & adoption

Business Applications:

  • Dynamics 365

  • PowerApps

Applications & Infrastructure:

  • Azure Cloud Migration

Data & AI:

  • Analytics & AI

We delve more into these opportunities for partners here.

Simon Sinek on human skills vs soft skills

Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek's presentation on day one was an inspired choice. He spoke about the importance of learning 'human skills' not 'soft skills' - as there is nothing soft about learning and having these skills. Human skills give us the ability to create honest business relationships through active listening, empathy, teamwork and leadership. At Auldhouse we have seen a significant increase in our customers looking to train teams on many 'human skills' topics, such as facilitationcommunicationactive listening and negotiation skills, as well how to improve assertiveness and self-confidence, or managing difficult conversations.

Growth and changes in certifications

As a Microsoft Learning Partner, it was very exciting to see the growth in the number of people trained in Microsoft technologies over the past year. Here are just some of the stats shared at the event:

  • 151% growth in students trained in Azure

  • 21% increase in certifications exams

  • 42% growth in students trained on Office 365

We were also eager to hear more about the Microsoft's new role-based training and certifications, which aim to help IT professionals gain the skills they need, while demonstrating how they're keeping up with current technical roles and requirements. The changes include 23 new role-based certifications, along with new role-based and performance testing exams, focused mostly on Microsoft's cloud technologies like Azure, Dynamics 365 and Microsoft 365.

Overall, whether discussions were about new certifications or where the biggest opportunities lie for partners, one theme that dominated throughout Inspire was the cloud.

So, our main message to Microsoft partners - and customers - from the event is: Start your cloud journey today!

Image: leigh_richardson_auldhouse

About the author: Leigh Richardson is Northern Area Manager for Auldhouse and is involved in sales management, branch management, vendor management and advertising/marketing. Connect with Leigh on LinkedIn here.

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