Even though Microsoft‘s Inspire 2020 global partner conference will be online-only next week, what’s not likely to change is the yearly deluge of information for partners on everything from compensation to programs to product capabilities.
CRN reached out to solution providers who work closely with Microsoft to find out what‘s on their minds ahead of Inspire--and what they hope to hear addressed by Microsoft Channel Chief Gavriella Schuster, CEO Satya Nadella and many others from the Redmond, Wash.-based cloud and productivity technologies giant.
The digital conference takes place July 21-22, and anyone can register to attend for free.
What follows are the key things Microsoft partners want to hear about at Inspire 2020.
Programs, Incentives, Specialisations
Not surprisingly, a number of partners said they hope to receive updates around compensation, incentives and specialisations during Inspire 2020. (The partners who spoke with CRN are not being identified in this article.)
One partner cited the “speed with which they introduce new programs and new specialisations” as an issue that ought to be addressed by Microsoft.
“It’s really hard to keep up with these changes. All of them are posted and in blogs—there needs to be a better way to integrate them into their communications,” the partner said.
Partners also said they’re interested to hear how Microsoft is changing channel commissions and incentives.
One partner said they want to hear about additional benefits for partners surrounding the Microsoft 365 product suite—including Advanced Threat Protection, multifactor authentication and Intune benefits for partners.
“Also, if any changes will be occurring for the Partner Investment Engine (PIE) in regards to new rates/percentages that partners can expect to receive,” the partner said.
The PIE incentive is centered around Azure, Modern Workplace and Business Applications and funds a range of presales and post-sales activities, the partner noted.
Teams—an Office 365 collaboration app that includes group chat and instant messaging, along with video and audio calling—has seen explosive growth in usage as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and widespread shift to work-from-home. Microsoft last disclosed, in late April, that Teams had surpassed 75 million daily active users—up from 32 million daily active users as of March 11.
“I am looking forward to hearing about the next generation of Microsoft Teams,” one partner told CRN. ”We are extremely busy with Teams work. The question that I would like to ask is if they see Teams being the primary way that business will communicate and collaborate [as opposed to] email?”
Azure Active Directory
Several partners said they‘re hoping to hear about plans for additional capabilities around Azure Active Directory and deployment.
“My biggest concern is the direction for hybrid deployments (on-prem and cloud), in terms of Office 365, Exchange Online and identity services,” one partner told CRN.
“All cloud identity services like Azure AD are not quite up to par with on-premise Active Directory, especially around policy management. Intune appears to be the road map to replace group policy but it is not quite there yet, and Microsoft does not have a good solution built for managing a hybrid deployment when clients choose to use an on-premise Active Directory/group policy and Exchange Online. Azure AD Sync, the only tool available, will only support the on-premise AD as the authoritative source. This forces organizations to maintain on-premise Exchange servers to act as a management console for cloud-based Exchange Online. It is a major sore spot for MSPs, integrators and clients,” the partner said.
“What needs to happen is further development of the Azure AD Sync tool allowing seamless management of both on-prem identity and cloud messaging from the preferred management console: the cloud (i.e., the O365 portal),” the partner told CRN.
Dynamics 365 And Power Platform
Demand is surging for Microsoft‘s business application offerings, especially Dynamics 365, as the cloud shift has been accelerated by COVID-19, one partner told CRN. But partners are hoping to see more investment from Microsoft to make the offerings easier to implement with customers.
Partners are seeking “a more seamless and secure integration point that is going to allow for automation,” the solution provider executive said. ”That‘s really what we keep running up against. That’s a headache from a lot of clients. We get a lot of pushback from clients saying, ’Well, I’m not quite ready to move forward because I still have some concerns about the automation and the connectivity.’”
Partners shared a number of other items they’d like to see addressed during Inspire 2020:
• “Digital transformation success stories, in particular, stories involving cloud adoption and remote workforce. Looking for those ‘ah-ha’ ideas that we might not have had yet.”
• “Microsoft Azure—new capabilities and integrations that have been added or are in the works.”
• “New enhancements regarding blockchain, DevSecOps and business intelligence.”
• “The new Microsoft Endpoint Manager—this combines the capabilities of Microsoft SCCM and Microsoft Intune into one platform for easy management.”
• “What is the road map for smoother data migrations/integrations from on-premise to cloud for business intelligence overall? How do we ease this process? What is the next one-year road map for Power BI on data security? What is the next one-year road map for Power BI on more data source coverages with ease of use?”
• “A better SharePoint road map, more explanations on why we can‘t customize a lot more, and a dedicated SharePoint tool for customization (like we used to have with SharePoint designer) but one for SharePoint Online that would fit inside the Office 365 app model.”
• “Microsoft partner training opportunities that involve the ever-evolving Microsoft stack of offerings.”
• “The biggest benefit to attending this event is the networking--not only with vendors but with peers as well. The folks at Microsoft are very inventive and it will be interesting to see how Microsoft accommodates ‘virtual networking’ to the conference. Networking is important and brings so much value to many of us.”