Day one of SharePoint Fest Chicago 2013 kicked off with a keynote address from Steve Fox, Director of Microsoft Consulting Services (MCS). Steve and his team focus on mobile technology and cloud solutions for Microsoft. His keynote speech addressed Microsoft’s current and future strategic vision. Similar to what we heard from Joel Oleson on the STP trip, Steve stressed the importance of mobile technology and cloud storage/computing and assured attendees that Microsoft is taking these areas seriously. Microsoft’s end goal is to have a seamless experience across devices and operating systems.
This goal is best explained through an open letter from Steve Ballmer. Microsoft’s main areas of focus in executing this goal include:
- Always on, always connected
- Multiple devices working seamlessly
- Empowering businesses
- Extending enterprise needs
- Social + fun
These areas are addressed products such as the Surface, Office 365, Windows Azure, the Xbox network, Skype, and Bing. In addition to these proprietary offerings, Microsoft is also focusing on the support of third-party hardware manufacturers as well as their own in-house hardware manufacturing.
Given that the focus of this conference is SharePoint, Steve switched gears from a more general overview of Microsoft’s strategic goals to a more specific discussion of the SharePoint journey. This conversation was heavily influenced by the commentary he ascertained from yesterday’s workshops. He talked about how SharePoint is a huge product and that there is a bit of a learning curve that requires people to learn as they go, sometimes hitting their heads against a wall. He also touched on the fact that the SharePoint community is the most tightly-knit and supportive community he has seen.
From the SharePoint journey, Steve shifted into talking about the Cloud journey. He presented three case studies that spoke to the three main concerns of today’s CIOs; Security, BYOD, and Cloud. Using a European financial institute as an example, he explained how SharePoint out-of-the-box could use governance to comply with this industry’s strict regulation and security concerns. BYOD was exemplified through partnerships with Delta and Japan Airlines. In the near future, Delta pilots will be carrying Windows 8 tablets instead of a briefcase full of documentation. On Japan Airlines, flight attendants will carry their own devices and be able to access passenger information, such as meal preferences, on the fly (no pun intended). For a cloud use case scenario, he turned inward and looked at Microsoft. Currently, Microsoft is using Office 365 for everything among their hundred thousand plus employees, including High Business Impact (HBI) documents. He explained how they are able to monitor and regulate document use and access all through Office 365 at an enormous scale.
At this point, Steve passed the floor to his colleague Donovan Follette. Donovan gave a demo on how SharePoint integrates with Windows Azure. He explained how, with SharePoint 2013, companies can build their websites with any kind of coding they want, as well as any features they want, all while still being able to access SharePoint. As Donovan pointed out, using the Azure system also allows for a sort of “cloud firewall” which enables single sign-in to a company’s entire network.
Next, the microphone was passed back to Steve with just enough time left to close the presentation with a video about Microsoft’s partnership with Aston Martin.
The main takeaway for me was that Microsoft is acknowledging the need for mobile technology that is connected not just to other people, but back to the office as well. Allowing this physical and virtual network to thrive is the next step in business advancement.