BY STUART MOORE
Note: this is pure speculation based on recent experience! Nothing here could be construed here as definitive!
DO MORE WITH LESS
If there is anything that Microsoft is focusing on right now, it’s helping customers do more with less. It seems that Microsoft is anticipating some financial headwinds in 2023, and the Do More with Less mantra is being rolled out. This is a broad campaign focused on helping customers understand what more they could be doing with their Microsoft 365 investments – either increasing productivity through automation, optimising infrastructure and spend, or reducing costs with eliminating redundant solutions.
In 2023, I think this trend is likely to continue, as well as the global economy will begin to stabilise after the COVID outbreak, now the war in Ukraine, as well as high inflation in recent years.
Customers should leverage Microsoft and partner expertise to optimise their Azure infrastructure spend, and cost takeout models by removing third party vendors. In addition, they should use what they are already licensed for, along with Microsoft’s Power Platform and Azure for increased business efficiency and automation.
METAVERSE & VR
There is definitely work bubbling away in this area, as you can see by the investment in Avatars inside Microsoft Teams. Rapid Circle is also using virtual reality and metaverse concepts when designing hybrid meeting room spaces – enabling customers to see and virtually feel what rooms will be like prior to deployment, as well as designing for accessible spaces and ensuring a quality audio and video experience.
With the advent and release of ChatGPT – AI is a massively hot space and will continue to grow. Microsoft is an investor of OpenAI, and it was founded by Elon Musk. If you haven’t checked out ChatGPT, it will seriously change high school essays and reports!
Microsoft is making huge investments in this space – mainly in Azure as well as in Microsoft 365 with Content AI and Context AI – this will continue to show up in products inside Microsoft 365 (like Word, Outlook) as well as SharePoint Online with heavy integration for Viva Topics and Syntex. The idea is to make information more accessible and indexable, ensuring that across the Microsoft cloud there is an underlying fabric of information that can be suggested and contextualised for users benefit. This ensures that new starters can come up to speed quickly by being able to find and understand deep corporate knowledge that exists across infinite documents and systems of record. This is an exciting space and we are already working with customers on AI models for prediction as well as process automation and context aware document management and workflows. There is so much applicability in this space that new innovations and ideas are being seeded constantly.
Power Platform is steadily becoming the go-to low-code no-code platform (that was a lot of hyphens!) – We can see this becoming the next big business at Microsoft outside of Azure, Microsoft 365 & Dynamics 365. With innovations in Power Automate like being able to verbalise / describe what you want the workflow to do, Power Automate can then scaffold the appropriate flow and then ask for connection to data to complete this. Even less than no-code, it’s almost nil-typing!
Managed Environments for Power Platform allow larger customers to delegate environments to business units – quite a common scenario with our customers – but give some ‘bumper bowling’ guidelines for governance at scale.
I think we can expect Power Platform innovation to continue at speed – providing customers opportunities to continue to automate and accelerate innovation with a combination of automation tooling and easy to use/build low-code applications for line of business applications.
I don’t think we need to elaborate on the goings on of the last few years in terms of changing the way people work, commute and live – but hybrid work is definitely here to stay. But with hybrid work comes challenges – including the productivity paradox is in full effect. A study by Microsoft elicited that 87% of workers believe they are being more productive by working from home, but only 12% of leaders/managers believe their employees are more productive. How do we quantify this further, and help employees and employers bridge the knowledge or context gap here. Tooling like the Viva Goals suite with it’s focus on objectives and key results – measuring the employee on output rather than hours sitting at a desk. Viva Insights can also give deep perspectives on employee wellness and burnout, mapped across survey data to provide business unit level detail as to burnout levels and productivity. This shouldn’t be viewed as a big brother approach – rather helping the employee and their managers manage their burnout and workload levels to keep the employee productive and producing for the organisation.
Hybrid work will continue for the foreseeable future, and this means changes to the way we work and interact with colleagues and remote participants. Inclusive and collaborative meeting spaces are important – when parties are local to an office and remote, how do we deliver the best meeting experience to minimise wasted time before, during and after meetings. This recording the Rapid Circle team did with Microsoft in late 2021 still holds true as to some handy tips for managing meeting workload, expectations and etiquette.
We’re particularly interested in the Microsoft Places that was announced recently – a way of managing hybrid workspaces, attendance management as well as reporting on space utilisation as part of a new concept called Connected Workplaces. This is a missing link for hybrid work embracing employees – being able to find a way to connect, collaborate and socialise in the office now that the purpose of the office has changed somewhat.
Wow, what a year we’ve had and continue to have in the security stakes. Last year about this time we had Log4J/Log4shell – at time of writing there hasn’t been a critical vulnerability on that scale released – but only a matter of time! We also had big announcements from the likes of Optus, Medibank, Woolworths MyDeal, Harcourts and LJ Hooker about data breaches and data exfiltration. Cyber was a big topic and continues to be a big topic around the boardroom table – and has even filtered down to insurance policies for organisations – take security seriously or pay the price. You don’t need to look too far to see how organisations can be impacted both reputationally and financially for a breach, no matter how serious. The government in Australia is legislating large fines (amongst the highest in the world) for significant data breaches so its in an organisations interest to get on top of their security posture sooner rather than later. We still see organisations not implementing basic security controls in their organisations, like multi-factor authentication, device management and patching, as well as stateful access to corporate resources. This is just the basics every organisation should be implementing, no matter the ‘feedback’ from users. It is just the price that has to be paid. We will continue to see Microsoft Security provide the most comprehensive, integrated security suite from endpoint detection, SIEM, access brokerage, identity & SSO through to IoT platforms that operate outside the corporate network.
Data governance and lifecycle approaches will be key – as Optus has found out, keeping data for 10+ years on customers that are no longer customers wasn’t a great strategy – we’ve heard a good saying for data – its like asbestos – only keep what you absolutely need and for the time period you need it. Keeping data for long periods of time could be a failed strategy which will ultimately cost under the ratified Government legislation for data breaches.
WINDOWS 11 & THE FUTURE OF WINDOWS
Windows 11 has had a reasonably quiet year – a steady rollout of updates keeping the OS current and secure. The future of Windows is looking increasingly towards Windows 365 – a Cloud PC delivered to an array of endpoints (including Mac, Chrome and others!) that is always current with high performance. We are seeing a shift from the likes of Citrix and VMware to Windows 365 due to simplicity of management, cost (when thinking of the TCO of a VDI / app streaming platform) and ease of use. Windows 365 will continue to evolve – with some exciting developments we’ve been privy to under NDA that will make it even easier to adopt Windows 365 in organisations. One key we have noticed for simplicity for Windows 365 is to get current with your devices using modern management techniques (e.g. Intune) as this makes the deployment and rollout of Windows 365 much simpler.
AZURE COMMUNICATIONS SERVICES & MICROSOFT DIGITAL CONTACT CENTRE PLATFORM
A really interesting development this year and something that is going to be more and more prevalent with organisations is extending their collaboration tools beyond the corporate network – how does an organisation collaborate with the general public that doesn’t have a dedicated identity (or uses a Gmail or Outlook.com account, or none at all!) to deliver services or have a sales engagement? The solution is using Azure Communications Services, integrated with Teams, to allow public facing collaboration apps and portals that allow corporate users of Teams to interact with the general public. An example of this is banking appointments and consults, accountants or any professional field where you may need to access expertise at an organisation at your own convenience – or even being able to interact with a retailer to ask questions about products and services without actually visiting a store.
VIVA & EMPLOYEE EXPERIENCE
Last but not least, Viva has been big this year – lots of customer interest, coming from people & culture, internal communications and leadership – on how they can improve the overall employee experience to support and retain great talent, as well as keep an eye on employee wellness and support their ability to do great work and remain motivated. Viva as a suite keeps getting better – with more inclusions such as Viva Goals (the Ally.io acquisition) being integrated, as well as Viva Learning gaining more integrations with Learning Management Systems and learning providers to provide an aggregate learning portal for the individual.