The Fifty Five and Five team were in Las Vegas, NV, for this year’s Inspire conference to learn about Microsoft’s past fiscal year, look ahead to the new one, and join with the ever-expanding Microsoft Partner Network. A week on from the first day of the event, we pick our highlights from Microsoft’s flagship partner conference.
An inspirational welcome
Although Inspire officially kicked off on Sunday 15th July, for most of our team, it began in earnest on Monday morning for the first of the three Microsoft Inspire 2018 corenote sessions (previously known as the ‘keynote’ sessions). The T-Mobile Arena provided an impressive venue for an equally impressive first session.
As previous Inspire attendees will know, the conference usually begins with words from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Instead, Inspire kicked off with an inspirational welcome and introduction by Gavriella Schuster—Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Commercial Partner Channels & Programs—with Satya’s talk coming on Wednesday.
Gavriella, meanwhile, emphasised the importance and value of the Microsoft Partner Network, both to Microsoft and to partners. With 2018 being such a successful year for partners, 2019 has a way to go to surpass it. But that is why we are all here at Inspire. If there’s one message that comes across in all the sessions, it is this: now is the time to celebrate the year’s successes, but it is also the time to think ahead and push forward into 2019.
Some good news already
2019 has brought with it Microsoft’s fastest start to a fiscal year in its history. And Gavriella seemed confident that this year was going to be bigger and better than ever before and looked forward to coming back to Inspire next year with record-breaking numbers once again.
More from the first Microsoft Inspire 2018 corenote
Following on from Gavriella, Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Commercial Business, was enthusiastic and entertaining as always in discussing the opportunities of the intelligent cloud and the intelligent edge, focusing on how digital transformation is providing new ways to solve real-world business problems. Judson highlighted Microsoft’s work with Carlsberg, illustrating how the Danish brewer makes use of Microsoft Teams and Surface Hub to unlock the potential of collaboration in a digital world.
Trust and responsibility are key themes at Inspire this year and Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer, took on these topics in his session. He focussed on the public’s growing anxieties around trusting the big technology companies. He proposed Microsoft and its partners had a responsibility to directly engage in discussions around the issues that are causing these anxieties. And that it is key that technology companies do not shy away from meeting these issues, saying:
“We need to engage in conversations with people around the world, and we need to back up those conversations, not just with words, but with deeds.”
Key to this is Microsoft’s commitment to the stance that privacy is a human right. At last year’s corenote, Brad Smith emphasised the need for a Digital Geneva Convention. This year, he demonstrated just how serious Microsoft was about this by talking about the Cybersecurity Tech Accord, which Microsoft has spearheaded and now has 44 companies signed up for.
Marketing magic for Microsoft Partners
It wasn’t just Microsoft providing food for thought. There are hundreds of sessions held at the conference during the week, including three from Fifty Five and Five’s own Chris Wright, who gave two sessions on Monday.
The first of Chris’ talks, titled “Marketing your product/IP, what you need to know” outlined the differences between marketing products and marketing services. There was a huge turnout for this session. Microsoft actively encourages partners that provide services also to develop a product or an IP. The fact that so many people showed up highlights just how important this issue is for partners.
The second session was titled ‘What exactly is social selling?’ At the outset, Chris asked the audience if their organisations engaged in social selling. Remarkably not a single person said that they did. This session proved valuable for an audience that wanted to know more about this vital aspect of modern marketing.
Another busy year for us at Inspire
Every year at Inspire, we launch our annual report celebrating the digital marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners. The Top 50 Inbound Marketing Excellence report, to give its full name, ranks partners on their blogging output, social channels and their website.
Now Inspire has drawn to a close, you can download the report online here. Rackspace won the race to the number one Microsoft Partner marketer due to its outstanding social media score, which is the highest score in any category that we have seen since first putting the report together.
You can view the first Microsoft Inspire in full here. For those that don’t have those hours to spare, you can check back here as we recap all the important highlights from day two of Microsoft Inspire 2018 tomorrow!
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