Takeaways from Ignite 2017

To ask someone working at Microsoft about the capacities of digital transformation is increasingly comparable to a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ analogy. It’s ever-changing, ever-developing and largely, the pulse of Microsoft’s innovation story. At the annual event, Ignite, Microsoft revealed the pulse’s latest beats.

Ignite is an annual conference run by Microsoft where technical and business leaders come together and get immersed in the industry’s latest technological advents. Last week, AlfaPeople had the pleasure of sending our Director of Dynamics 365 Enterprise Architecture, David Tunnicliff, to the 2017 event.

Here’s are some of Dave’s key takeaways…

1. The conference was quite literally, huge.

Microsoft Ignite was massive. The Orange County Conference Centre where it was hosted is the second biggest conference centre in the USA. As always with these things, there was a lot of sitting, but thanks to the size of this place, a lot of walking too! I was getting in 13-17km a day!

2. Accelerating Digital Transformation

The event this year continued to focus on accelerating digital transformation through ongoing investment and rapid development of the Microsoft platform and graph. Backing this up were plenty of examples of Microsoft using its own technology in Microsoft’s internal transformation under the direction of Satya Nadella.

You can find some great videos here, including the Vision keynote from Satya Nadella here.

3. Enriching the Microsoft Graph

One key message was that the Microsoft Graph was becoming more enriched and more tightly integrated with Microsoft applications.

As part of this, we are seeing that LinkedIn is finally starting to become more available across the Microsoft tools. Ultimately, LinkedIn will feed into the business applications, providing more contextually rich data and as such, hugely enhancing sales, marketing, and recruitment throughout. Dynamics 365 for Talent will be further enriched with ‘Attract’ and ‘Onboard’. Not to mention from an HR perspective, having LinkedIn data associated to the Office 365 suite enables great networking facilities for colleagues. Microsoft also announced that Flow and PowerApps will become more deeply integrated into Dynamics 365.

4. Microsoft Teams

It wasn’t that long ago that Lync became Skype for Business. Microsoft announced at Ignite that over time (no time frame was given) that SfB will be rolled up into Microsoft Teams.

5. GDPR and Data Governance

GDPR and data governance was a big topic this year which was good to see. Azure has a load of useful tooling for GDPR – including threat protection. To find out more about GDPR compliance at AlfaPeople, read the article here.

6. Improved AI

Unsurprisingly, AI was big this year, including improvements to the bot tooling. Specifically focusing on Dynamics 365 CE and Dynamics 365 F&O, intelligent conversion, customer care and customer service channels are benefiting from AI components. Cognitive services were also shown off throughout, not to mention some cool things around speech to text and the OCR capabilities of MS cognitive services.

7. Connected Data

Common Data Services/Common Data Models (CDS/CDM) are clearly key to connected data. I spent a decent time talking to some guys from a commercial database company who are going live with a Dynamics 365 implementation using CDS/CDM to orchestrate centralised data. It was great to hear of a real-world implementation.

LogicApps was another area where huge advancements were shown. Some great demos and great examples of using real world no/low code integrations through logic apps and swagger endpoints – even a pretty whacky example of mapping a route between Orlando and Miami, picking up the traffic incidents along the way, then searching Spotify for tracks matching those incidents and creating a playlist from them. Not particularly enterprise, but an interesting example of the power of LogicApps nonetheless.

Focusing on PowerApps, data integration services are getting some power through the addition of power query. This brings the same capabilities provided through Power BI and Excel into data integration services as well. ‘Prospect to Cash’ templates have been hugely extended within the standard templates in PowerApps admin.

8. Advancements in Finance and Operations

Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations was an area I paid particular attention to – and I’m glad I did. Advancements in Retail, Talent, CEO Overview Dashboards / reporting, the new Distributed Order Management (DOM) model which is an upcoming feature, and connected workplaces all add to the overall power of Dynamics generally. Summarised below:

Keen to find out more about the latest events at Microsoft? You can also read our blog article on key takeaways from Inspire 2017 here.