illustration cloud PC

What is a Cloud PC and what does it mean for Microsoft Partners?

This year’s Microsoft Inspire was a busy one. If you missed it, we rounded up the highlights to help you make sense of it all. Perhaps the most significant announcement to come from Inspire was Windows 365; Microsoft’s simplified cloud PC solution that echoes a new-found commitment to Windows development and innovation in the world of hybrid work. As such, we think Windows 365 warrants its own explainer piece for tech heads and Microsoft Partners who want to know more about the opportunities it brings to the table.

Windows in a hybrid world

When offices around the world were forced to close and employees suddenly found themselves working from home (including here at Fifty Five and Five), Windows 10 (and all operating systems for that matter) became a vital tool for all those needing to connect to with colleagues. The ongoing global chip shortage left many people to “make do and mend”, bringing their old PCs and tablets out of retirement and into a new era of remote working. So, what could Microsoft do to make sure people using Windows remained productive?

Enter: cloud PC. Come on… did you expect anything else from the company that just announced ridiculous Azure growth? Windows 365 allows users to stream the full Windows desktop—including apps, data and personal settings—to almost any device. That means non-Windows devices like iPads, Android devices, Macs and Chromebooks can access the full Windows experience. In a world where Paul from Accounts needs to access SAGE from his son’s school-provided Chromebook (an unlikely scenario, but that’s not the point!), then he can certainly achieve that with Windows 365.

Whilst the tech is certainly nothing new (*cough* Citrix Workspace *cough*), Microsoft’s customers likely value remote desktop solutions as indispensable for employees now spending more time at home than in the office – perhaps evidenced by the fact that demand for Azure Virtual Desktop (AVD) exploded just as the pandemic hit. And that’s no surprise; virtual environments are easier to manage, more secure, and workplaces can provide access to corporate apps and services without sourcing and configuring a physical device (which, again, the chip shortage is making very difficult these days).

The cloud PC: Azure Virtual Desktop versus Windows 365

“So Microsoft have TWO virtual desktop solutions?!” I hear you yell. It’s true – and so confusion here is justified. We’ll try to break it down for you.

Windows 365 is the new kid on the block, but deep down it’s based on the same technical infrastructure as AVD. You might think that they’re the same service, in that sense. But they’re not. The differences start to become clear when we look at the pricing models for each service.

AVD operates on a pay-as-you-go basis where clients are billed based on their Azure consumption. This provides customers with some flexibility in terms of paying only for what they use, but it also means that usage must be closely monitored to avoid unexpected costs.

Windows 365, on the other hand, is billed using a predictable per-user-per-month pricing model, with different SKUs available to meet various user needs. Simply put, AVD is optimized for flexibility, whereas Windows 365 is optimized for simplicity.

Digital transformation and the cloud PC partner opportunity

Despite being built on the same tech as AVD, the partner story for Windows 365 is a little different to that of Azure Virtual Desktop. Because Windows 365 is a full-service offering, there is little for partners to tailor or “make their own” with Windows 365. That’s in contrast to AVD where partners like Citrix have created their own unique solutions.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t a partner opportunity with Windows 365. The last 16 months have seen companies embark on a period of intense digital transformation to support the remote working needs of employees. Microsoft have created a lot of buzz in for Windows 365, and partners could benefit from the free marketing that Microsoft is generating here.

Whilst Windows 365 is built for simplicity, it certainly isn’t the cheapest solution available. This is where the partner opportunity lies – you can ride the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) wave by leveraging AVD and coming in at a price lower than competitors who are simply re-selling Windows 365. The benefit for partners is that they can, in essence, provide the same service as Windows 365 but at a more competitive price to customers.

Offering value to your customers

But if AVD isn’t your thing, Windows 365 can add value to your broader set of digital transformation or cloud migration solutions. Customers will make the most of Windows 365 (and AVD) due to access to Microsoft’s suite of market-leading productivity tools that come with it – including documents in OneDrive, emails in Outlook, and Microsoft Teams. Windows 365 could provide that extra value-add that helps your customers migrate fully to the cloud.

Fifty Five and Five have a rich history of working with Microsoft Partners to improve their messaging and ultimately drive leads. If you want to improve your value proposition in preparation for Windows 365, get in touch with the team today.

Our favourite highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021

Following in the footsteps of last year’s event, Microsoft kicked off Ignite 2021 as an online-only affair once again. Whilst our fingers are crossed that Inspire will return to some form of in-person event for 2022, that doesn’t mean we haven’t enjoyed participating in this year’s conference from the comfort of our homes, offices, and home offices.

In this blog post, we’re taking a look at some of the biggest highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021.

Windows in the cloud – a new opportunity for Microsoft Partners

You may be familiar with Azure Virtual Desktop (formerly Windows Virtual Desktop) – Microsoft’s existing “PC in the cloud” technology. The remote desktop solution saw a significant increase in traffic from Microsoft’s enterprise customers throughout the course of the pandemic, serving as a means for employees to access their apps and files from (thin) client devices at home.

It’s therefore no surprise to see Microsoft expand upon Azure Virtual Desktop with a more complete solution for a broader range of customers with Windows 365.

Windows 365 “introduces a new way to experience Windows 10 or Windows 11 (when it’s available later this calendar year) for businesses of all sizes. Windows 365 takes the operating system to the Microsoft cloud, streaming the full Windows experience — apps, data and settings — to any device” describes Nick Parker, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of Global Partner Solutions.

And with Windows 365 comes a bunch of new opportunities for Microsoft’s partners. Systems integrators (SIs) and managed service providers (MSPs) can help organizations to make the most of their Windows estates, whilst independent software vendors (ISVs) can build and deliver apps in the cloud to support customers wherever they may work. Hardware partners can also integrate Windows 365 into their portfolio of services alongside feature-rich devices and secure hardware.

Windows 365 currently operates on the basis of streaming a full desktop environment to client devices, but it’s not difficult to imagine a future whereby individual apps can be streamed to thin clients instead. That would make it much easier for legacy win32 apps to run on Macs, Android devices, Chromebooks, and maybe even iOS devices if Apple plays ball. Regardless, it’s clear that Microsoft sees remote desktop solutions as an important feature for customers looking to mobilize employees.

A fairer commercial marketplace

Speaking of Apple, you may have heard about that snafu between Epic Games and Apple regarding the App Store’s 70/30 revenue split. Well, amidst all that public tension between the two conglomerates, Microsoft revised its own consumer app store policy by decreasing its revenue cut for paid listings. And now that same approach is being applied to Microsoft’s commercial marketplace, which includes the Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource.

For all transactable offers in the commercial marketplace, Microsoft will be dropping its industry-standard cut from 20% down to 3% starting this month.

It’s a big (and very welcome) change which Microsoft hopes will enable them to do more business with partners in the future. It comes as part of Microsoft’s wider company strategy to do right by developers and make Microsoft platforms the best place to offer apps and services. It makes a lot of sense, and we’re sure many Microsoft partners will be happy to hear this news.

Viva updates

We’ve talked previously about Microsoft Viva and its promise to deliver a better online experience for employees. For Microsoft partners, the opportunity to integrate their services with Viva is perhaps one of the most unique aspects of the platform (we’re all up for more Headspace!)

At this year’s Inspire, Microsoft gave partners an update on the platform’s status, including new integrations with services such as Workday and Qualtrics, as well as the promise that more APIs will roll out for partners later in the year.

Specifically, new Viva Connections APIs will enable partners to integrate with the Viva Connections dashboard, enabling greater discoverability of services within the Viva itself. And Viva Learning APIs will allow learning providers to integrate their content into Teams, Office, and other Microsoft 365 endpoints.

Microsoft launched Viva earlier this year, but its plan has always been to expand the platform with additional functionality throughout 2021. This Inspire announcement reinforces that roadmap, and we should expect to see more changes as the hybrid revolution takes off.

New partner tools

Last year’s Ignite saw the introduction of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse in private preview – a new tool enabling IT partners to onboard, monitor and manage Microsoft 365 customers from one place. This year, Microsoft is announcing the public preview of Microsoft 365 Lighthouse, available to MSP partners serving SMBs using Microsoft 365 Business Premium.

But that’s not all. Project Orland is a new experience for cloud solution providers (CSPs) which enables Microsoft-powered customer insights designed to improve account management. Using actionable guidance, Microsoft anticipates that CSPs will be able to build more effective Customer Lifestyle Management practices “to better acquire, retain, and grow your Microsoft 365 customers”. Launching in private preview, Project Orland will use data models built by Microsoft Data Scientists to surface relevant actions for CSPs to take.

Each of these tools are intended to help partners identify new growth and profitability opportunities – further proof that Microsoft sees their partners as a valuable piece of the puzzle when it comes to Microsoft software.

Investing in partners for the hybrid future

Microsoft’s Nick Parker described how the company will be investing "more in partners across the company than ever before" during the fiscal year of 2022. In addition to the big highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021, those investments include new go-to-market and technical benefits such as ISV App License Management, discounted dev environments, and substantially reduced revenue sharing, all of which will enable partners to grow their businesses through unique solutions and rapid scaling with Microsoft. Curated training, one-on-one consultations and marketing resources will also help partners scale their solutions and become titans in the Microsoft partner network.

Substance to support the pledge

This year’s Inspire made it clear that Microsoft’s partners will remain an invaluable asset to the company long into the post-Covid work environment. Companies can sometimes fall into the trap of making empty promises or underdelivering on their word, but in this case, we’re glad to see the substance to support their pledge.

We hope you enjoyed these highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021!


Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing, get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

Microsoft Inspire 2020 Satya Nadella highlights

To follow on from our blog about Gavriella Schuster’s opening keynote speech, this post will provide a quick round-up of the topics discussed at Inspire 2020 by Satya Nadella.

Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, presented a half-hour keynote address at Inspire 2020, the virtual event, before making another appearance in an interview with Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster.

Here we will cover the highlights of his address, including:

  • Microsoft’s approach to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • How the partner network will navigate response and recovery
  • The value in Microsoft Teams for remote collaboration
  • The growing need for end-to-end security solutions

"We've been confronted by something unprecedented"

At Inspire 2020, Satya Nadella opened his keynote speech by celebrating the diversity of “our community of partners [and] global sales team.” He paid tribute to every business function, from sales and marketing to finance and operations – thanking them for all their contributions to Microsoft’s ecosystem and its customers.

He reflected upon how we, on a global scale, have been “confronted by something unprecedented” with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic issues of racial injustice and inequity in society. These issues, he stated, require a global response.

Nadella went on to commend the partner network, who he said have shown leadership amid such challenges – helping customers to become more resilient during this time of acute crisis.

“You’ve acted as digital first responders to the first responders, supporting those on the front lines of this pandemic, from healthcare to education to public sector, to critical manufacturing in grocery and retail.”

He continued to explain that, as we navigate the response, recovery and reimagine phases, we all have a collective opportunity and responsibility to define what comes next.

“It won’t be business as usual”

Nadella told his virtual audience how important it was to develop an acute sense of what should be rebuilt, and what needs reimagining. He also stated that the pandemic had accelerated a shift to the cloud – with 89% of CIO’s claiming they would hasten their public cloud investments. This figure, he went on, was at 54% prior to the pandemic.

The Microsoft Partner Network, Nadella explained, can build more successful businesses across fast growing areas like Teams, security and Azure.

“For Microsoft to do well, you all as partners have to do well. That’s ingrained in our business model...that’s why I always talk about us being a partner led company.”

“The hub of teamwork in Microsoft 365”

A key tenet of Nadella’s message at Inspire this year focused on Microsoft Teams. He outlined new and forthcoming updates for the app, including the Together Mode, due to launch this month. This new functionality, he explained, uses AI to digitally place participants in a shared background – making users feel as though they are sitting in the same room while reducing background distractions and making it easier to pick up on non-verbal cues often missed on video call.

“Our research shows that the brain exerts less effort when participating in a meeting using the Together Mode, compared to the standard grid view.”

“Businesses of all sizes depend on partners to provide critical security and compliance”

Nadella highlighted how Microsoft is helping customers protect sensitive information and meet compliance requirements. He referenced the new Endpoint Data Loss Prevention in Microsoft 365 which helps businesses to identify and protect information and data across all endpoints.

He discussed how security is a strategic priority for every organisation and that the shift to remote work only increases the need for an integrated zero trust security architecture that reduces complexity and cost.

“We’re the only company that offers integrated end-to-end capabilities across security compliance as well as identity powered by cloud intelligence.”

Nadella explained that Microsoft received eight trillion threat signals each day, and that COVID-19 has made the situation much more acute. Cybercriminals, he said, have exploited the fear and vulnerability created by the pandemic to scam people and organisations for personal information.

It's up to the partner network, he continued, to provide the end-to-end security solutions that are so crucial and essential for business across all industries.

"Microsoft is innovating to address customer needs across the cloud and edge”

Nadella turned to Azure and pointed to its AI and responsible machine-learning capabilities, which can help customers better understand, control and protect data and models. He referenced the multiple functionalities of Azure that make AI accessible and allow companies of all sizes to automate solutions and improve productivity.

“We are the only cloud that extends to the edge, from Azure edge zones for 5G to Azure Sphere for secure IoT – and we’re removing barriers for anyone who wants to migrate to the cloud by addressing their data sovereignty and regulatory needs.”

He concluded this point by highlighting how Microsoft are using such technology to make a positive impact in the world – encouraged by the “enormous potential for partners to have a local impact that ultimately has a profound global impact.”

Inspired by our Inspire 2020 Satya Nadella roundup?

Nadella’s key takeaways shine a positive light on the work being done by the Microsoft Partner Network. He highlighted the need for continual growth, innovation and the importance of staying connected so that communities around the world can build business resilience in these trying times.

Everyday innovation, from COVID-19 symptom checking bots to remote assistance working, has helped businesses, services and communities round the world adapt faster than ever to business continuity and resilience.

We learn about exciting developments in the Microsoft Partner Network each year at Inspire. With these insights, we help companies to realise their ambitions and achieve more through their digital marketing efforts. If you’d like to improve your marketing, drop us a line today.

Inspire 2020: The future of remote work takes centre stage

Like much of what’s happened this year, Inspire 2020 turned out a little differently from what we originally expected. Since 2018, the annual event has taken place in Las Vegas. This year, however, it took place in our homes, transmitted via laptop screens, phones and other portable devices. It was perhaps fitting therefore that the theme of this year’s conference was the future of remote work – and how Microsoft is supporting businesses in their remote working journey.

In this blog, we take a look through some of the key takeaways from the Inspire 2020 conference and consider how that will affect the direction of travel for the Microsoft Partner Network over the next year.

The rise of Microsoft Teams

No conversation about the future of remote work could be complete without a mention of Microsoft Teams. Before 2020, Microsoft Teams was already one of the most popular pieces of Microsoft software. Since the global lockdown, however, it’s only risen in popularity, with companies now relying on the software as a vital part of their business continuity plans.

In his keynote speech, Nadella acknowledged the significant rise in the popularity of the software, giving examples of businesses as diverse as a Miami based florist, L’Oreal, and the University of Texas now relying on it to keep going during the pandemic. The latter of this group have moved around 13,000 classes online since the going into lockdown.

Nadella also announced several new features to Teams, including ‘together mode’. This feature uses AI to digitally recreate the impression of being in a shared space with colleagues, reducing background distractions and making it easier for people to communicate. At a time when, for many, physical collaboration is impossible, Teams is working to bring people closer together.

Focus on: The Power Platform

We’ve heard plenty about how Microsoft Teams and similar software has helped countless businesses keep going during the pandemic. But it’s not the only Microsoft technology that’s featured prominently in the Inspire chatter over the last few weeks. The Power Platform, and in particular PowerApps, has enabled businesses everywhere to transfer more complicated processes into the remote working world.

Much of enabling remote work involves installing the right videoconferencing software and scheduling the right meetings. But not everything is quite this simple, as Nadella outlined when discussing the case of T-Mobile. After having been designated an essential service, they realized they’d need a way to share information about which employees were willing to work and where.

> PowerApps: the unsung hero
Within 48 hours, PowerApps allowed the mobile communications company to build an app that encouraged employees to give information about their availability, location and willingness to work. This meant that the company had the information to complete this complicated re-allocation of staff, allowing the maximum number of employees to stay working, and enabling business continuity for T-Mobile.

All over the world, PowerApps is allowing companies to solve complex problems that would have otherwise made remote working either difficult or impossible. One of the vital takeaways of the Inspire 2020 conference is the emphasis that Microsoft is placing on those unsung heroes like PowerApps that have helped keep businesses afloat during this time.

The future of security and compliance

Earlier this year, companies were forced to facilitate remote working in the space of just a few short weeks. That means security, access and compliance has been top of every IT or network managers’ list of concerns ever since. As remote working is almost certain to be a fixture of working for the foreseeable future, this year’s Inspire conference featured a renewed focus on how companies can enable this safely. As Nadella said:

“The shift to remote working only increases the need for an integrated zero trust security architecture that reduces both the cost as well as complexity”.

Relying on people to remember information or maintain best practices is an inherently risky way of staying secure, which is why it’s so much more effective to build a security system that doesn’t require this. Using AI-powered risk-based, and multi-factor authentication, technology companies can start to build a truly secure IT system.

Planning for the future of remote work

For some time, enabling better mobility and remote work has been consistently discussed as vital trends in the partner network and wider technology world. The events of 2020 haven’t forced a drastic change in direction but they have provided a fresh stimulus, meaning the need for change is now more important than ever.

It’s clear that for Microsoft the future of remote work lies in supporting as many businesses as possible through their transition to a new way of working. And for partners, there is clearly vast business potential in helping transmit this ambition and direction directly to the customers that it will benefit.

If you need help communicating your message and direction to your customers, get in touch. We help technology providers of all shapes and sizes realise their ambitions.

Microsoft Inspire 2020: keynote takeaways

Microsoft Inspire 2020 kicked off on Tuesday – this time in an online-only format. Like the rest of the partner network, we were disappointed to miss out on attending in person (last year, Queen and Adam Lambert played – yes, it was epic). But it hasn’t stopped us from enjoying the highlights from the comfort of our homes. Vegas will still be there next year.

As well as the Nevada sunshine and musical headliners, another regular highlight at the Microsoft conference are the annual keynote addresses. In case you missed it, we’ve put together the main Inspire 2020 keynote takeaways from the speakers on the first day, which was led by Gavriella Schuster (Microsoft Corporate VP of Commercial Partners) Judson Althoff, (Executive VP of Worldwide Commercial Business) and Nick Parker (Corporate VP of Consumer and Device Sales).

The COVID-19 pandemic

Unsurprisingly, the pandemic was a central talking point for this year’s Inspire 2020 keynote and event. The speakers celebrated frontline workers throughout – highlighting how they continue to make daily life possible. Schuster, Althoff and Parker also commended the many Microsoft partners that have built solutions to help the world adapt to these trying times.

Althoff referred to the ‘digital first responders’ behind frontline workers – those that have built rapid solutions to make continued education, remote working and accessing necessary services possible. He praised these people for connecting the world digitally and helping communities to move forwards.

Accelerating the cloud shift

Althoff explained that the growth of the cloud is still crucial in helping customers achieve their economic goals:

‘Our solution areas, our cloud capabilities – from modern workplace through security, business applications, apps and infrastructure, data and AI – across Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure – these are the ingredients that will help customers persevere in these difficult times.’

He continued by explaining that the world needs this innovation now more than ever. He called on partners to help in addressing customers’ needs – whether they have the consulting practices that bring these virtual solutions to life, or the assets and intellectual property as an independent software vendor (ISV) or software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider.

Opportunities for remote working

On the topic of remote working solutions, Schuster explained that the pandemic has changed the way we work forever. She referenced how demand for Microsoft Teams has surged, and highlighted how the real transformation could be seen when customers learnt the ‘full value of Microsoft 365 as a secure, remote work collaboration solution.’

To expand on this point, Schuster turned to Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) as a notable opportunity for partners moving forwards:

‘With WVD, organisations can get up and running in minutes from the Azure portal. You have the flexibility to choose the virtual machines, the regional locations, and you can set up multi sessions for the users...You can manage that environment and turn it into a managed service opportunity – without much heavy lifting.’

Moving towards Managed Services

Schuster told her audience that now is the right time to meet customers where they are. She said that, with customers uneasy about big up-front costs, it’s possible to develop a managed service practice and show up as a hero to the customer.

‘What happens if you don’t take this step? Now may be the time. Maybe this year, your investors are expecting a little less from you, and the customers are asking for monthly terms. You can make the investment into managed services that will help your customers and build your business long-term. And if you don’t have the resources for all this support, this is a great opportunity to partner together.’

Partners were ready for this moment

Perhaps the most inspiring part of this Inspire 2020 keynote was Schuster’s comments on the Microsoft partner ecosystem. She explained that, while there is uncertainty all around, the MPN manage it by creating certainty – wherever they can:

‘You were built for this moment in time. You are the certainty...we were ready because the solutions we’ve been building together over the last 18 months are the same ones our customers need right now – solutions and services around remote work, business continuity, security and cloud migrations.’

Each year at Microsoft Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

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Your Virtual Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips

  • This year's Inspire conference is entirely virtual
  • We share the best Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips 

Around this time every year, we share our tips for attending Microsoft Inspire. Usually, our advice is based on attending the conference in person. Whether it’s making new business connections, socialising, or absorbing the sights and sounds of Las Vegas, taking part can be a pretty amazing experience. However, the current pandemic has changed our summer plans. As a result, Microsoft Inspire 2020 is going to be a virtual conference. 

While this presents challenges, thanks to the cloud and today’s communication software, we’ve all got the means to make Inspire 2020 just as successful as any other year. 

In this blog, we’re going to give you some advice about taking your networking remote. 

7 Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips 

We’ve been to Inspire five years in a row, and those experiences have taught us some valuable lessons on what to expect and how to prepare. Here are our top 7 Microsoft Inspire 2020 preparation tips, adapted for a virtual experience: 

 1. Plan for new connections  

Inspire is an ideal time to make new connections, but it requires preparation if you’re wish to make the right ones. It’s useful to take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provide detailed data on the subject, including: 

  •  Attendee figures 
  • Sector and industry breakdown 
  • Job role breakdown 
  • Areas of interest breakdown 

As a digital marketing agency whose client base includes Microsoft partners, everyone at Inspire has the potential to be a customer, lead, or useful connection for us. But even so, it’s important that we take time to study exactly who will be attending. Doing your research ahead of the event pays huge dividends. Just because you're not in the room, this year, doesn’t mean you can’t make a valuable new connection – online networking events will be taking place across the week this year so it’s important to create a list of businesses and people you’d like to speak to and seek them out.  

2. Flaunt your assets  

Every year, we produce an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft partners: The Fifty Five and Five Digital Marketing Excellence Report. Usually we launch each new edition from our stand at the conference, giving away hard copies to attendees. 

This year instead of handing out physical reports we will release a fully digitally version instead. While we can’t create the same kind of face-to-face interactions at the event, we’ll be making sure to reach out to all our friends in the Microsoft partner world with access to our content – and, of course, congratulating those who ranked in our report. This is an exciting evolution to the “Microsoft Top 50”, and we are very excited to share it!  

Whilst it is always worth taking a proactive role in your value adding activities, it’s particularly important now. Try to stand out in your leads’ memories by going the extra mile – perhaps consider sending a free “how-to” guide or invite them to a specialist session that they simply can’t refuse.  

3. Who do you want to talk to? 

Despite not attending Inspire in person this year, you should still have a client ‘target list’ with information such as:  

  • People that you really want to connect with 
  • Companies that you also want to connect with. 
  • Exhibiting companies you want to check in with. 
  • Past or existing clients that are attending virtually that you should say hello to.
  • Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to virtually meet at the show. 

This list will help you to prioritise your time and make meaningful, valuable connections.  

4. Make the workshops work for you 

Every year Inspire hosts hundreds of workshops from some of the industry’s leading organisations and figures. We’re expecting that this year will be no different, except that these workshops will be hosted online.  

It’s important to maximise your ROI for your tickets, so create a list of the workshops you want to attend. Assign your team to different workshops and ask them to create summaries that you can share throughout your business. This can also be leveraged as content for during and after Inspire, why not turn your experiences and the advice you receive into blogs? There’s more onus on making sure you network and communicate – albeit virtually – this year, so don’t be afraid to share content that’ll get your business noticed.  

5. Follow up with leads 

When following up with your leads and new contacts from the conference, be sure to keep track of the following: 

  • Who was contacted? 
  • When were they contacted? 
  • Who in your business should contact them? 
  • When should you follow up again? 

You can use a good CRM system to automate this process. But a simple spreadsheet can sometimes be just as effective. We recommend that you take notes when talking to leads during the event so that you can remind them of the conversation when you follow up later.  

6. Get social  

To make the most of attending Microsoft Inspire, we invest time in writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We stay very active on Twitter during and after the conference and share videos and pictures during the week. Maintaining a vocal online presence will be crucial this year – show the leads you want, who you are!  

7. Calculate your ROI 

Ultimately, any company attending Inspire is doing so to grow their business. Understanding your ROI from the conference requires revisiting your experience of the event soon after its conclusion. 

One of the obvious KPIs is to look at the work you have won since returning. It’s very likely you need to take a long-term view that incorporates the length of your typical sales cycle or longer, as leads from a trade show will typically take longer to result in billable work or sales. Understanding how many leads you get from Inspire and what becomes of those leads is important for understanding the value of the event and if you should change your strategy when attending next year.   

Making the most of the circumstances 

Everything feels up in the air for a lot of businesses and their people right now. But one thing we can rely on is that we will all find ways to connect with each other, whether it’s for business or pleasure. We think of Inspire 2020 as an opportunity to generate new leads and make new connections, and also as a chance to feel solidarity with other businesses. And we can’t wait to hear about the great things that come out of Inspire 2020.  

What we learned from Satya Nadella at the Inspire corenote 2019

What we learned from Satya Nadella at the Inspire corenote 2019

  • Our top takeaways from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s corenote speech at Microsoft Inspire 2019
  • Power Apps and AI-powered presentations
  • Digital marketing for Microsoft Partners

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s corenote speech is the most widely anticipated event of the annual Microsoft Inspire and Ready conferences. 2019 was no different. After packing out the 20,000-seat T-Mobile arena in Las Vegas, as well as a ram-packed overflow theatre across the road, Nadella spoke for 90 minutes about the successes of Microsoft technology and the future direction of travel for the company.

In this blog, we discuss some of the most important takeaways from Nadella’s corenote – together with some fascinating case studies into the success of their existing technology.

An integrated tech stack

In the last four to five years, the way Microsoft sells its technology has fundamentally changed. By now, everyone knows how important the cloud revolution has been to Microsoft – transforming it from a company that sells one-time software licenses (largely Windows and the Office Suite) to selling cloud subscription – with a specific focus on enterprise technology. The transformation is so profound that the company briefly became the world’s most valuable company last year, which in turn inspired a recent feature from Bloomberg, detailing this ‘Nadellaissance’ in further detail.

To partners however, this is all largely old news. What has been far less widely discussed is the extent to which the cloud transformation has allowed different types of Microsoft technology to work seamlessly together in ways they never had before. While never directly mentioned, this interoperability between different technologies in the Microsoft stack formed a vital theme throughout Satya Nadella’s speech.

The ability of Microsoft apps to pass information seamlessly between each other has long since powered the success of Office 365. But in Satya’s opening speech, it became clear that there was plenty of further potential for developers to provide leading customer experiences by applying the same logic elsewhere to Microsoft technology.

Today, Office 365 has been widely deployed, and its benefits are well known. But perhaps the most important takeaway from Satya’s corenote was how the future of technology development would be influenced by these current platforms: GitHub, Azure, Power Platform, Dynamics 365, Mixed Reality, and Microsoft 365.

Throughout the corenote, the best case studies demonstrated how combining these platforms could allow exponential business results.

Democratising digital transformation

Microsoft have always been desperate to emphasise a higher vision than simply selling products, licenses and software. That goes as far back as 1980, when Bill Gates stated his mission statement; ‘to put a computer on every desk and in every home’.

Today, the phrase, ‘democratising digital transformation’ lies at the heart of what Microsoft are trying to achieve. So, what does that mean in practice? Satya’s opening contribution set out this vision through a set of interesting, and at times surprising, metrics. Perhaps the most important of this was that, by 2030, 10% of global GDP will come from tech companies.

This is a 100% rise from the 5% of global GDP that technology provides today. But Nadella was clear; it’s not the 10% that matters – it’s the 90%. Because in today’s world – every company is a tech company. He stated:

"Every business is going to be a software business."

In today’s business market, non-tech companies increasingly require technology to succeed. Whether this is a website, an app, or a custom data management platform, technology has become inevitable. This was emphasized by the fact that, over the next year, 500 million apps will be created.

Democratising digital transformation involves giving the 90% of non-tech companies the tools to power their own technology; creating software that non-developers can easily customise to their own requirements. The days when the keys to digital transformation were held by developers, IT companies and software experts are fast coming to an end. By combining the potential of different platforms, Microsoft are powering this transformation.

The potential of the power platform

Later in his talk, Satya unveiled another set of eye-catching statistics:

  • 90% of all data in the world today was created in the last two years.
  • Of this, 73% cannot be analysed, because it’s siloed in different applications and databases.

This creates two challenges. Today, the world processes exponentially more data than ever before. But, increasingly, we’re struggling to find the resources and capabilities to effectively analyse it. It’s this conundrum that inspired the development of ‘the power platform’ and Dynamics 365 - as the world’s connected business cloud.

The Power Platform includes three Microsoft applications:


Data analytics and visualisation


A dedicated custom app builder

MS Flow

Business workflow automation

Anyone who knows these applications will know they all have one thing in common: to empower non-developers to achieve more with their technology. In his speech, Satya referred to these people as ‘Citizen developers’, explaining the reason that the power platform exists, giving individual users and businesses the ability to power their own digital transformation. Satya made it clear that driving forward the potential of these applications was a vital part of Microsoft’s future strategy.

AI Builder

A new addition to the Power Platform is the AI builder. In the same way as the other platforms bring data analytics, app creation, and automation to non-developers, AI builder aims to do the same with artificial intelligence.

 When released, the AI builder will feed into other platforms like PowerApps; allowing businesses to feed AI into a range of business functions. Harnessing the data fed through from PowerBI will allow the AI and machine learning algorithms to make predictions on common business scenarios, such as:

  • Will a customer convert?
  • Will we get paid on time?
  • Will we have the resources to process this customer/client request?

This is just yet another example of how Microsoft are working towards seamlessly passing information between different platforms. With the addition of the AppBuilder, this interoperability is further increased.

Julia White demoing a hologram of herself delivering a keynote in Japanese

Technology in action

Satya’s talk wasn’t just about discussing the future of Microsoft cloud technology. In fact, at various points, we were also treated to fascinating demonstrations of technology in action. While there’s not enough space to discuss every inspirational story in detail, there’s certainly room to discuss two of the most memorable. In both cases, the focus on different platforms working together lay front and centre of these success stories.

1. Holographic corenote

One of the most eye-catching moments of Inspire 2019 came when we saw a virtual reality hologram of speaker Julia White delivering a corenote speech in Japanese – a language she doesn’t speak. She stated:

"What you're about to see is an exact hologram of me wearing the same outfit that we recently captured at a Mixed Reality Studio. Using Azure AI technology, I can translate my English into Japanese and train it to sound exactly like me. The same voice tones, the same inflections"

This might seem like a wildly futuristic concept, but in fact it just uses a synthesis of different Azure powered technologies, many of which businesses already use today:

  • Mixed Reality Technology to create the hologram and render it live
  • Azure Speech-to-Text capability and English transcription to record the English speech
  • Azure Translate to create the Japanese translation
  • Neural Text-to-Speech technology that recreates the Japanese translation with her own voice and inflections

Individually, these technologies are well-known and widely available in Microsoft Azure. But when combined, they have the potential to redefine the landscape of what businesses can achieve.

2. AI powered presentations

Let’s consider another example of AI in practice that’s perhaps a little closer to home. Almost all knowledge workers or first line workers will be familiar with the experience of hosting a presentation or sitting in a meeting – perhaps remotely. With AI, both these experiences can be enhanced, as Raanah Amjadi demonstrated during the corenote speech.

In one particular example, an AI assistant, plugged into Microsoft Teams, was on hand to assist the process of preparing for a presentation. The bot provided a range of real time information as Raanah rehearsed her presentation live, including feedback on:

  • Language choice
  • Using fillers
  • Pacing
  • When speech was too dependent on slide information

In one instance, the AI assistant even managed to identify when Raanah could have used more gender inclusive language.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

Once the performance was over, the assistant provided a detailed list of performance metrics to summarise this advice.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

Anybody who’s ever had to prepare for a stressful presentation or meeting will certainly appreciate the insights that this AI software can provide.

But this wasn’t the only way that AI could improve the presentation. It also helped enhance the meeting experience for those dialling in remotely. If for example the presenter of the meeting got up to brainstorm or write on a whiteboard, it could be difficult for remote viewers to feel included.

Raanah also demonstrated how AI technology in Microsoft Teams could find and focus on the whiteboard image, as well as make anyone standing in front of it transparent, to make it easier for remote viewers to appreciate what’s being shown.

AI powered presentations at Microsoft Inspire corenote

By combining the power of AI with the remote meeting potential of Microsoft Teams, Raanah demonstrated how technology can continue to enhance the everyday operations of knowledge workers everywhere. Though a small isolated instance, this is a classic example of Microsoft’s guiding vision in practice. With technology, everyday workers in everyday companies can be empowered to work better, smarter, and achieve more.

A step forward for the Microsoft Partner Network

Microsoft Inspire is a vital opportunity for partners to gather, collaborate, share and network each year. It’s an opportunity to gain leads, share ideas, collaborate with other partners, and establish a cornerstone from which progress can evolve over.

But most importantly – and the clue really is in the name – it’s an opportunity to inspire each other and discover what the potential is for us to achieve more with technology. With inspirational case studies, eye-catching technology, and fascinating statistics, this is exactly what Satya Nadella’s corenote speech of 2019 achieved.

At Inspire, we experienced this inspiration in action: chatting with clients, partners, and Microsoft themselves about the direction the network is heading. All that remains now is to look forward to Microsoft Inspire 2020.

Each year at Inspire, we discover more about the partner network and empower companies to achieve more through their digital marketing strategies. If you want to improve your marketing get in touch with the team at Fifty Five and Five today.

Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

  • Our four highlights from Gavriella Schuster's 2019 Inspire Corenote speech
  • Microsoft's transformation, Machine Learning, IoT, and more

2019 marks the fourth consecutive year that the Fifty Five and Five team have attended the Microsoft Inspire conference. And just like every year previously, we’ve had plenty of exciting and insightful conversations about the future of Microsoft technology and digital marketing.

Over the years, the two corenote speeches by Gavriella Schuster (Corporate VP, One Commercial Partner Organization) and Satya Nadella (CEO) have become the bedrock around which the rest of the conference revolves. 2019 was no different. In the first of these, Gavriella Schuster set out the direction the Microsoft Partner Network (MPN) is travelling in and took stock of the successes it would experience over the coming twelve months.

If you missed the speech, don’t worry. We’ve pulled together four main focuses of the corenote in summary right here. Read on to find out more.

1. Focus on: Being a partner

In what has since become a hard-learned lesson in timing, Microsoft announced controversial changes to their internal user rights (IUR) program, just two weeks before this year’s conference kicked off. The program, among other things, guaranteed that members of the Microsoft Partner Network (MNP) had free access to Office 365 licenses for their employees. The changes would have rolled back on these benefits, since the growth of the Partner Network was fast making the costs unsustainable for Microsoft. Or, as Gavriella Schuster herself said: ‘We just can’t afford this’.

In the days before the conference kicked off, however, predictable controversy abounded from partners who weren’t enthusiastic about the heavy costs associated with purchasing these licenses.

With such an overwhelmingly negative response to the changes, Microsoft had no choice but to roll back on the rollback. On Friday 12th, just days before Inspire 2019 kicked off, they announced that they were indefinitely reinstating the IUR benefits. Naturally, the controversy and discussions from the weeks that led up to this formed an important part of Gavriella’s speech. In fact, it was almost the first thing she discussed:

“In my mind there was no choice for us but to walk back on that change. We’re going to keep the IURs just as they are. You have my commitment that I will continue to listen and learn – and though we may stumble, we will learn and grow together.”

Regardless of the controversy and the timing of the decision, this theme of reconciliation and partnership continued through much of the rest of the corenote.

2. Focus on: Microsoft’s transformation

These days, you’ll have to travel quite far in the Microsoft Partner Network before you hear a bad word said about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Since the start of his tenure in 2014, the company’s fortunes have drastically changed – to the point where they overtook Apple to become the world’s most valuable company for a period towards the end of last year. At the start of this decade, the thought would have been unthinkable.

Nobody directly mentioned that particular fact in either of this year’s Inspire corenotes, but it reflects an important theme that did come up: Microsoft’s transformation. Since 2014, Nadella has ushered in a new era, in which the company turned its focus towards its strengths; business IT and software. After a decade of trying to chase the innovations of more fashionable tech companies like Google and Apple, Microsoft decided to go its own way.

Since 2014, Microsoft has almost exclusively turned its attention to cloud-focused products like Office 365 and Azure – updating their popular Office and Windows products for the modern, cloud-based age. Today, Office 365 has more subscribers than Spotify and Amazon Prime combined. In what Bloomberg recently described as a ‘Nadellaissance’, Microsoft’s fortunes have improved year on year since he took the reins.

This news won’t come as much surprise for most Microsoft Partners. But during the corenote, various speakers came back to this theme on many occasions, making it clear that it was only with the help of the vast Partner Network that this spectacular transformation was possible.

This was particularly prevalent during a contribution by Judson Althoff, the Executive Vice President of the Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business. In focusing on just the contracts won by Microsoft over the last two quarters, he demonstrated the success of this transformation. These include:

  • Adobe
  • Canadian Government
  • Coca Cola
  • Ford
  • Danish Government
  • Barclays
  • Unilever

The fact that all of these organizations have moved to the Microsoft cloud in the last six months just goes to show the remarkable impact that the company is now having on the wider cloud market.

Althoff explained that there were five important pillars that have allowed Microsoft to experience such clear success over the years:

  • Becoming industry focused
  • Focusing on technical solutions
  • Investing in customer success
  • Creating a tangible digital impact
  • The success of the One Commercial Partner model (OCP)

The final point was arguably the most vital. With over 95% of Microsoft’s revenues coming through its partners, there’s no question that the MPN is a vital part of Microsoft’s transformation.

3. Focus on: Digital transformation in practice

Unilever was one of the companies that have recently turned to Microsoft technology to power their digital transformation. To demonstrate the success they’d experienced, a significant part of Judson Althoff’s speech was dedicated to exploring this case study in further detail. During this demo, he was joined by Unilever Chief Engineer Dave Penrith to explore the success the company has experienced with Microsoft technology.

As a large consumer goods company, Unilever are responsible for over 400 everyday household brands. In their talk, Althoff and Penrith focused on the production of Dove soap, to prove exactly how technology could deliver real benefits to businesses.

Using IoT and Machine Learning from Microsoft Azure, Unilever created a ‘digital twin’ of the machines in their factory, which collected and analysed data about the performance of these technologies. This is a popular model of leveraging data and analytics, in a way that Microsoft describes as a ‘next generation digital model of a physical environment’. Using analytics, they identified trends that allowed them to improve the productivity of these machines and identify any faults in advance. Through this technology, they’ve boosted productivity by 3%, and saved €2.5 million, with energy and material savings.

As well as this, Penrith and Althoff focused on how Microsoft Teams and PowerBI had allowed them to work towards their target of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. Using data extracted from IoT technology, and routed through PowerBI, they managed to create a database that compared the energy usage of major Unilever factories around the world, over time. That database was then shared universally among all of them in a simple interface using Microsoft Teams.

Four focuses from Gavriella Schuster’s 2019 Inspire Corenote speech

Sharing information in this way allowed the different factories to easily compare where positive workplace practices were being demonstrated across all their factories. From there, engineers in each factory could be encouraged to share best practices and improve processes right across the board.

But these weren’t the only improvements they made. Unilever managed to largely automate the quality control stage of their soap production process. In a live demo, they showed how they’d trained machine learning algorithms to assess the quality of the products, including perfume quality, colour, texture, shape, and logo stamp quality. In providing us with these case studies, Unilever gave us the opportunity to see the reality of how digital transformation can transform an organisation’s success.

4. Focus on: The Future

Of course, there’s only so much time we can spend congratulating ourselves on the success the MPN has had over the last few years. Inspire is also about setting out a roadmap for the future. On this point, both Judson Althoff and Gavriella Schuster were clear; the future is bright and ambitious – though with clear opportunities and challenges ahead.

To help focus efforts forward over the coming twelve months, Gavriella’s closing statement outlined three main things that Microsoft will focus on over the year ahead. These three themes were:

1. Technical intensity

This is all about raising the level of the conversation Microsoft and their partners have with customers to match the technical intensity of their working lives. ‘Every company is a tech company’, Gavriella said, and the resellers themselves need to raise the bar on the conversations they’re having with people to match the expectations and expertise of the 21st century customer.

2. Customer centricity

Customer centricity involves understanding the needs of the customer. To achieve this, partners need build a trusted network around each and every customer. To achieve this, partners should aim to offer a service that provides, integrates, manages, deports and supports the development of Microsoft technology at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

3. Simplicity

Simplicity involves making it clear to all customers and partners where Microsoft products are heading in the future and honing down on the customer-centric nature of their mindset.

A step forward for the MPN

Controversy about IURs aside, this year’s Inspire event was a useful and motivating look into the state of the Microsoft Partner Network as it moves forward into the future. With inspiring successes over the past year, and plenty to drive more motivation in the future, there’s certainly plenty to keep partners busy for the rest of 2019.

With technology improving each year and customer expectations higher than ever, competition has never been more important within the Partner Network. To continue generating leads, partners are employing ever more complex marketing strategies to stand out from the crowd. In our work compiling this year’s Top 50 Digital Marketing Excellence Report, as well as speaking to partners on stands at this year’s conference, we’ve been lucky to experience this excellence first hand.

If you want to find out more about how to succeed in digital marketing as a Microsoft Partner against this competitive backdrop, get in touch with the team here at Fifty Five and Five to start discussing your strategy.

digital marketing at microsoft inspire

Master the art of Digital Marketing at Microsoft Inspire 2019

  • Come and join our team's masterclasses at Microsoft Inspire.
  • The team will be sharing their expertise on SEO, great marketing tools, building successful landing pages, and more.

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There’s no sector quite as competitive as the IT industry is today. That’s why as a Microsoft Partner you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the crowd. This is where we believe cutting-edge digital marketing is essential.

With Microsoft Inspire 2019 fast approaching, the team here at Fifty Five and Five have been hard at work preparing research, building presentations and gathering data from the front lines of the marketing world to knock your socks off. And we can’t wait to show you.

Our masterclasses cover a series of subjects that will give your teams the inspiration and know how to up your marketing game.

Over the course of the week, we will be presenting on a series of essential marketing subjects that are very much in line with themes explored within our Top 50 Report (which you can download for free)!

Our masterclasses will take place at our stand (#616) multiple times throughout the week of Inspire—drop by to find out the schedule. Topics include:

Masterclass one: How to rank in Google in 2019

Towards the end of 2018, Google rolled out an important change to their core algorithm. Whilst this update did not impact all websites or content creators, the algorithm changes certainly reflected a shift in the direction that SEO is heading. Whatever your industry, it is now vital that you pay attention if you want to enjoy high website rankings when such changes occur.

With each passing year, the state of play for the SEO industry shifts. In 2019, these changes have become more fundamental than ever, which is why this masterclass will cover the top-ranking factors to consider at present.

Throughout the presentation, our Digital Marketing Executive Enrika will share (and elaborate on!) her 6 best tips for improving your ranking on Google:

  • Creating high quality content
  • Excellent on-page optimisation
  • Creating a secure website
  • Improving user experience
  • Improving website speed
  • Earning high-quality backlinks

Masterclass two: Top marketing tools and why you should use them

Very much in line with our Top 50 Microsoft Partners Digital Marketing Excellence Report, this masterclass will delve into top marketing tools and why you should be using them for your business.

The session will also be delivered by the super knowledgeable Enrika, who will take you through the very tools that we use at Fifty Five and Five to improve our:

  • Social media management
  • Paid media
  • SEO
  • Emails
  • Reporting

Enrika will cover 1 or 2 tools for each element of our digital marketing strategy – highlighting key features along the way.

Masterclass three: The importance of backlinks

A backlink refers to any link from one website to another. There’s often a little confusion around the exact function of backlinks, alongside the distinction between outbound links and backlinks. For this reason, our Account Manager, Mischa, has crafted a masterclass designed to provide clarity and get you up to speed with:

  • What backlinks are
  • Why you need backlinks
  • Where to get backlinks

This masterclass will guide you through actionable steps for improving your backlink usage and show you exactly why their importance should not be underestimated within your digital marketing efforts!

Masterclass four: How to build a landing page for sign-ups

You’re probably already aware that free software trials are a great way of converting leads into customers. In order to maximise sign-ups for a free trial of your product, you will need a killer landing page that engages visitors. Your landing page – in a nutshell – is a form-enabled webpage where prospective customers can sign up for your product or services.

This masterclass will show you exactly how to create a landing page that will encourage visitors to sign up. The session will also take you through what to include on your page and how it should look overall.

Throughout this class, you will learn:

  • Why you need a landing page
  • Why landing pages are tricky to get right
  • What you should include
  • What your landing page should look like
  • How to get started with building your page

Getting your landing page right requires time and effort. In this masterclass, Mischa will endeavour to show you the ropes and help you to create a landing page that converts!

Get the most from your Microsoft Inspire experience with our team’s top tips

  • The Fifty Five and Five team share their Microsoft Inspire experiences and expertise
  • How to prepare for the conference and what to pack
  • Tips for first time attendees and what to look out for

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The long wait for Microsoft Inspire 2019 is almost over. You’ve probably turned your attention to people you want to see, what to cram in your suitcase and figuring out whether you can squeeze a Boyz II Men show into your jam-packed schedule.

Like many of you, this is my first time flying to Microsoft Inspire and I’m diving headfirst into making sure that I’m prepared to make the most out of the experience.

I sat down with some of the ‘Inspire experienced’ members of the Fifty Five and Five team to bring you (and me) some much-needed advice. Read on to hear their favourite bits and top tips to get the most value from this year’s Microsoft Inspire.

Microsoft Inspire is just around the corner. You’ve all been before, so you have an idea of what to expect. But what’s really getting you excited about this year?

Laura: It’s tough to narrow it down to just one thing! I can’t wait to see what new technologies Microsoft and the partners unveil this year. Last year they demonstrated how VR is set to change the way businesses interact with one another and it blew me away. I can’t wait to see what tricks they have hidden up their sleeves this year.

Chris: This year is especially exciting for Fifty Five and Five. We’ve released the highly anticipated fifth edition of our Microsoft Partner Digital Marketing Excellence report. It’s been a busy year and the hard work has paid off. It’s filled with the latest marketing analysis and insights across the entire Microsoft Partner Network, and I’m looking forward to meeting the companies that made it into top 250.

People reading this blog may not have been before. What can they expect?

Paulina: If you can keep your eyes open and don’t have an aching jaw by the end of Microsoft Inspire then you probably haven’t done it right. You get to meet so many people from all over the world and you gain a real holistic view of the Microsoft community.

Laura: Meeting so many people from the community really gives you a chance to feel involved and to make the most out of it you have to really immerse yourself in the experience. 

Chris: On a literal level, be prepared for blistering heat, the welcoming but sometimes overwhelming blast of air con, and the copious amounts of coffee you’ll be drinking. The days are long but incredibly fulfilling.

Stephen and Danny talking about Inspire 2019
Me talking to our Head of Content, Stephen, who will be attending Microsoft Inspire in a few weeks.

Pretend this is your first time attending Microsoft Inspire. What advice would you give yourself?

Stephen: Stock up on sleep before you get there. As much as you can. You’ll be spending so much time networking, checking out conferences and just hanging out on your feet. Forgetting to sleep is a real possibility.

Paulina: Bring a notepad to take notes about the people you meet, it helps to remember who you talked to and what was interesting about that person. And don’t forget to wear comfy shoes since you’ll most likely be on your feet all day. Save the heels for the evenings. 

Chris: I’m doubling down on both of your suggestions. Get plenty of sleep and wear comfy shoes. Stephen and I will save the heels for the evenings.

What should people remember to take with them to Microsoft Inspire?

Laura: Don’t forget to plan ahead with a to-do list. Set reminders for the sessions you think are most relevant to you. So much is going on that it can be easy to lose yourself and miss out. I’ve planned for this year, but I’ve left some time for surprises! There really is so much to do.

Chris: Comfy shoes. I cannot stress how much hard work it is

Stephen: Get your hands on a schedule and a map of the expo hall and read up on the partners and people you’re interested in seeing. Make sure to organise a meeting with them or if they’re exhibiting, find out where their stand is so you can introduce yourself.

We know every year is a massive learning experience. What lessons did you take away from last year’s Microsoft Inspire?

Chris: The biggest thing I learn every year is how massive Microsoft Inspire really is… spatially. It always surprises me just how easy it is to wander around endlessly and getting lost is an absolute certainty. But I’ll agree with everything you’ve all said. Preparation is key. So, plan the sessions you want to visit in advance, figure out which clients you want to meet, and arrange the work you need to get done. Once you arrive, you blink, and it’s over.

Paulina: I’d say turn your introductions into an elevator pitch. Learn how to introduce yourself in 10-20 seconds. It’s really useful to have a concise answer for when you get asked what you do or where you’re from. You can guarantee you’ll repeat your name so much that you’ll get bored of hearing it.

Laura: On a personal level, I really learned to get out of my comfort zone and to get more involved and familiar with Microsoft and the partners. As a marketing expert, my job is to master the best possible ways of marketing our clients' services. That’s not possible without an in-depth knowledge of the technology. Microsoft Inspire is 100% the best place to do that. It’s why I’ve crammed more technical sessions into my plan.

Finally, what are the absolute packing essentials?

Laura: I consider myself a coffee addict, so I’ll be taking coffee, and lots of it. They had great coffee last year but I’m risking nothing and taking my favourite brand. Come and find me at stand #616 if you need a top-quality cup of joe!

Paulina: Take comfortable shoes, a notepad and pen and a copy of the Microsoft Top 50 report!

Stephen: Take a nice big water bottle and some lip balm. Your lips crack like dry sand in all that air conditioning combined with the talking you’re going to do!

Chris: I think you all know what I’m going to say. Comfy shoes!

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The fifth edition of our Microsoft Partners Digital Excellence Top 50 Report will be released at Microsoft Inspire on July 14th. Come and say hello and pick up your hard copy at Microsoft Inspire. You can find us at stand #616. We’d love to meet you.

At Fifty Five and Five, we’re experts in creating professional-level marketing materials for your B2B technology business, including video marketing, animations, blogs and much more. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help your business.