A Microsoft technology conference covering all things Microsoft 365

There was a buzz in the air as Microsoft users and partners travelled from across Europe to attend the first in-person community conference of 2021. An opportunity to meet new faces only recently visible through Microsoft Teams; the chance to learn and absorb knowledge from some of the best speakers in the EU Microsoft Partner Network and a time to share ideas for how technology can further innovate and transform organisations when it’s needed most.

Day one began with a series of comprehensive learning workshops, including Robotic Process Automation, Data and AI, Azure, Teams Apps, and more. Teams were also welcomed into the Power Platform Hackathon, ‘Automate Everything’, offering the chance to create innovative business solutions using Flic Smart buttons, adding a hardware element to process automation for real-world use cases.

On day two the Ageas Bowl venue in Southampton became flooded with over 1,400 technology enthusiasts excited to attend 11 tracks of speaker sessions covering all things Microsoft: Dynamics 365, Azure, Modern Workplace and Power Platform, Data and AI, and more.

HSO’s Larry Merkelis receiving his award as part of the winning team at the ‘Automate Everything’ Hackathon.

HSO’s Larry Merkelis receiving his award as part of the winning team at the ‘Automate Everything’ Hackathon.

The Keynote Opening

An eager crowd were greeted by three influential and very inspirational Microsoft speakers: Dona Sarkar, Director of Technology, Richard Potter, Director of Digital Strategy and Helen Wilson, Director of Modern Work and Customer Success Team.

In light of recent macro events, the leading topic was around the emergence of hybrid work – a global transition made possible by the very Microsoft technology the room was eager to discuss. The resounding advice for businesses implementing this new way of working was to work with employees to create the right balance between office contact and remote working, as opposed to creating programs for them. In all business process decisions, it’s key to not assume what others need, but instead enter the conversations with a focus on co-creation of policies and infrastructure to bring hearts and minds onboard. The same applies to Microsoft Partners working with end-users of the technology, ensuring there is a clear and continuous feedback loop for any business looking to transform with the Microsoft stack.

A key point raised also was to place accessibility at the forefront of all design. To consider building applications and business solutions that are seamless to use, even with a screen turned off! This was Microsoft’s challenge for partners – one that’s very achievable due to the extensive accessibility functionality embedded into their technology.

Learning and Development Sessions

The main event ran 148 sessions across 11 tracks, providing a learning experience enjoyed by all.

HSO were ‘in it to win it’, delivering 4 presentations in total: scaling the Microsoft Cloud Application platform, building repeatable Power Apps, shaping the Power BI lifecycle and the main event closing keynote.

Learners were extremely engaged and receptive, asking many questions around how HSO deliver their consultations through the Power Platform Adoption Framework, an open source model available on GitHub and co-authored by several of the HSO team.

A key question arose around how to ease the trepidation of business stakeholders who would like to empower their employees but in a controlled way. There’s a common misconception that the Power Platform opens up technical territory to untrained professionals, creating severe business risk.

Keith Whatling, HSO’s solution specialist, explained that as a ‘low code, no code’ platform, it’s a fast upskilling process for non-technical team members, and emphasised the layers of governance built into the Power Platform Admin Centre, ensuring that IT have centralised control over who can build apps and which environments they have access to. With this reassurance, business’s can enable citizen developers to solve everyday challenges with apps, very quickly, freeing up the time of IT whilst also  ensuring that management and governance is maintained top-down.  Poignantly, these questions circle back to points raised in the opening keynote by Dona Sarkar – putting a focus on co-creation of applications alongside the people who are closest to the problem.

The HSO Cloud Application team are here to help guide Microsoft customers on this journey. We work with IT leaders and stakeholders to transform mission critical workloads in the organisation, but also ensure the platform is set up in a way that’s safe for employees to use, in order to solve every day problems that slow down productivity.

We help you create an ecosystem that’s safe for all.

An Ecosystem, Not An App

A key message that resonated across all sessions was the need for Microsoft customers to look beyond using Dynamics 365 as their sole 1st party application. Microsoft Partner representatives commented that Dynamics 365 genuinely does transform business processes, provide ongoing security and unlocks productivity, but it’s commonly forgotten that the Microsoft Power Platform is the technology that underpins it, with Dataverse at the centre. Therefore, scaling the capabilities of the entire Power Platform in an organisation allows them to unlock further greatness.

The Power Platform technologies allow any business to connect disparate systems and provide actionable insights from combined data surfaced in Power Bi – insights that guide an organisation on what to do next. The intelligence of AI within Microsoft Azure takes this one huge leap further, to provide intelligent recommendations around the customer journey, optimising the customer experience and maximising on business opportunities.

Furthermore, organisations are able to refine and re-imagine internal processes and needs using Power Apps and Power Automate, saving employees hours of their time traditionally spent on manual workloads. This frees people up to focus on business-critical initiatives, instead of manual process management.

The Expo

As gold sponsors, HSO were thrilled to be involved with the South Coast Summit exhibition, amidst the hustle and bustle of tech enthusiasts looking to see what the Microsoft Partner Network has to offer.

Having the opportunity to speak with Microsoft customers and Independent Software Vendors with likeminded goals was a brilliant experience for the team. To understand further the challenges faced by organisations and the solutions to support these, particularly in the aftermath of COVID-19.

HSO offered free Modern Workplace Clinics to help business’s further maximise their hybrid working initiatives using the Microsoft 365 stack, including Office 365, SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.

Furthermore, the team were excited to share HSO’s new Centre of Excellence as a Service approach to adopting the Power Platform within an organisation. Visitors were able to talk with our specialists about scaling the Microsoft Cloud Application Platform, in it’s entirety, to meet new business requirements, re-imagine existing applications, sunset legacy technologies and enable citizen developers.

Download the Power Platform Centre of Excellence Fact Sheet

 

Laura Graham-Brown and Sam Rothwell on the HSO stand, offering a free of charge Modern Workplace clinic and a new Centre of Excellence as a Service approach to Power Platform adoption.

Laura Graham-Brown and Sam Rothwell on the HSO stand, offering a free of charge Modern Workplace clinic and a new Centre of Excellence as a Service approach to Power Platform adoption.

Closing Keynote

HSO’s very own Keith Whatling brought the learning sessions to an end with his motivational talk on how the Power Platform changed his life, and can do so for other citizen developers out there.

His humble beginnings as a bus driver were no longer once he’d discovered the Power of the Power Platform! His adoption and advocacy of the technology have resulted in a very successful career leading to his pivotal role as Solutions Consultant for HSO, and a highly respected Microsoft Most Valued Professional (MVP).

Keith’s story is one of many examples of how Microsoft are changing lives for businesses, their customers and its people.

Solution specialist, Keith Whatling, taking centre stage at the main event closing keynote; inspiring others with his successful career journey.

Solution specialist, Keith Whatling, taking centre stage at the main event closing keynote; inspiring others with his successful career journey.

The Grand Finale

The conference was brought to an end with a Microsoft 365 quiz, co-organised by HSO’s Marketing Manager, Keegan Stanton. Ten teams totally over 160 people sat eagerly in the Ballroom working together to answer technology questions in the hopes of winning the coveted first place position. Not only was this finale great fun and informative, the ticket sales also raised over £2,500 for Breast Cancer UK – a brilliant cause to end a brilliant weekend.

Marketing Manager, Keegan Stanton, co-presenting the closing Microsoft 365 quiz alongside Most Valued Professionals from the Microsoft Partner Network.

Marketing Manager, Keegan Stanton, co-presenting the closing Microsoft 365 quiz alongside Most Valued Professionals from the Microsoft Partner Network.

 

Get in touch with the team today to learn more about how the Microsoft Cloud Application Platform can transform your business, at info-uk@hso.com.

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