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In this Podcast, 2019 Microsoft Ignite Conference Summary by ThreeWill, we discuss…

2:38Making Every Company an AI Company
3:40AI – Code Words
5:00Project Cortex
7:28Content Type Hubs – Managed Metadata
8:29Jeff Teper – 24 Demos
11:20Microsoft Teams!


Danny Ryan:It’s Monday, November 11th and today I talk with a couple of folks from ThreeWill, Pete Skelly, Bo George and Will Holland about last week. They went to Ignite 2019 a conference from Microsoft. We’ll talk about the key takeaways from the conference. Hope you enjoy.


Hello and welcome to the Work Together Better podcast. This is your host Danny Ryan. I am joined together with the group of folks who had the distinct pleasure of going to Microsoft Ignite last week. And I can see visually everybody’s got a nice suntan from being down in Florida. You’re looking good guys. Well rested. It was a very relaxing week of just sitting around the pool and taking it easy and no it wasn’t that way was it? It was a lot stuff going on, wasn’t it?


Pete:A little bit of walking and fluorescent suntan.


Danny Ryan:Excellent, excellent. I wanted to meet up with you guys to find out what your key takeaways were from the week. I know I was following it remotely, so getting lots of news what was coming Microsoft. It seemed to be like the first day everything came out. All the news came out the first day and then as the week progressed it slowed down. It must’ve just been from the embargo that they had and as soon as that was gone they just flourished. Everybody told everything they know and then it was just Monday that was the big release. But want to get from you guys, I know you had a chance to go do a little bit of dividing and conquering and maybe get your thoughts on what you’ve taken away from the week. Anybody want to jump in first or anybody feel so-called to jump in?


Pete:I can jump in. Kind of the biggest takeaway I have is really, I said it earlier in a conversation on teams is it kind of came in the first 30 minutes of the whole event from Satya. Basically saying one of the goals is to make every company an AI company. And to me pretty much every announcement that they had keyed around their investment in, as he said, going from being reactive with data to being proactive with data.


And so to me that covers pretty much everything we saw almost across every product. Whether it’s Azure or teams or SharePoint or whatever. So to me the big takeaway was the investment in, and we’ve talked about it in our digital workplace sort of levels of maturity that that our maturity from a visionary perspective is using your business data for insights and that’s getting there using AI or machine learning or whatever buzz word you want to throw at it. Microsoft seems to be investing heavily in that for us to help customers kind of achieve that goal with all of their data. Regardless of kind of workload, if you will.


Danny Ryan:What does it mean to be an AI business like … I wasn’t there so I don’t even know what, what does that mean to our typical customer where they’re becoming an AI business? So they’re using … Can you give me an example of maybe something that just a high level example of what that means?


Will:Yeah, so I think I, one of the, the common examples that they kept giving or showing in all of the different demos or the booths that you go to. They would pull up like word documents or something where working inside of any organization, you’re a part of a project, you come up with code words and acronyms that have a lot of context and meaning for you and the people that you work with. But somebody coming onto the team, brand new has no idea what these different things mean.


And so you can create a knowledge center and have these, you can teach the AI what these different things mean. Or it will pick it up on its own. And start to go through all of the different office apps like SharePoint, Word, Excel, Outlook, everything. And it’ll just find those acronyms, those code words, those sorts of things to kind of help bring some of the knowledge that is built into that context to people who might not otherwise know it. So you’ll see.. TW for example, appears in some of our stuff frequently. And that’s probably pretty obvious one, but it ends up being kind of an interactive element in a Word document for example. You can hover over and you get a little bit of an information card. I think on the flip side of that too, the phrase that I kept hearing was they wanted to connect people to the content and the content to the people.


And so one of the things they also show a lot of is that you frequently see somebody’s profile card and office 365 and so what they’re going to start doing with Project Cortex is, is having it, if I deal with migrations a lot, for example, that’ll be a topic that Project Cortex has identified in our business. And then you hover over my profile and it will have collaboration and migrations are two topics that I deal a lot with. So kind of help to find the right people to talk to about whatever topic you’re looking for.


Danny Ryan:Nice. Nice. muted. Sorry. Here we go.


Bo George:So for me, I don’t know how many years it’s been, it feels like it’s been five or more years. I’ve been waiting for Microsoft’s Knowledge Base solution. And for the longest time I kept thinking, when is this thing going to come out? And I think finally seeing Project Cortex and all the things that Will and Pete are saying is that Microsoft has … They didn’t just want to put out a site collection and say now let’s make everybody go out there and create the knowledge management articles and do all of this manual work to build up a knowledge base. Because that’ll always fail. And so the AI stuff and the new buzz word intelligent internet is that that stuff is being done for you in the background based on the things you do on your internet already.


So that’s the artificial intelligence part of it. And then you have the opportunity to enhance it. So if the Wiki article on what the TW acronym, when that’s produced, you can customize it and say, well, I want to add a little bit more to this and shape it a little bit more. And so Knowledge Bases, we’ve all dealt with them. And whether or not you just have a normal intranet in a digital workplace, you’re going to have knowledge in there. And I think that’s what Microsoft is saying is everybody needs a Knowledge Base no matter how you’re using SharePoint. Even if you’re just one of those file share people that … I just got my stuff off the G drive and put it in SharePoint, there’s still knowledge in that. And so that’s pretty cool.


Danny Ryan:So that right away when you’re chatting with somebody in IM, you type in knucklehead, it replaces it with Danny, right? Stuff like that where they realize-


Bo George:It knows, it knows.


Danny Ryan:It’s got the smarts to realize that every time [crosstalk] is talking about knucklehead, it’s Danny. So it doesn’t think in remember that MTV commercial? It doesn’t think in..


Bo George:Yeah. Building on that too. What I thought was dead for awhile was content type hubs, content type syndication because there wasn’t a lot of investment or talk about that. And now Microsoft has … They have a new managed metadata experience, which everybody clapped to and new content type syndication. So for a while there it felt like metadata was dead to some degree. But seeing that they’re investing in that stuff and that Project Cortex feeds into that because I think as it learns those acronyms it builds out the term sets and populates them and uses them and all that kind of stuff.


So metadata isn’t dead for all of us longtime SharePoint people that used to say, we would tell our users, you just need to upload a document and fill out 80 fields. I mean how hard is that? So now it’ll do it for you.


Danny Ryan:Do you guys have a favorite session that you went to? Sort of, this is along the lines of takeaways. Were there anything that pops out that you guys were at that was your favorite?


Bo George:I’m the lucky one that went to the Teper’s because we had to divide and conquer. So his are always fun. I think when I was bragging to Will and Pete about it afterwards, they were like, dang it. But I won that battle and got to go to that one. So I think he had 24 demos, which was a lot to go through. So …


Danny Ryan:Was he showing off primarily stuff that’s coming or things available today. And then along those lines, what were some of the most exciting things that he showed to you?


Bo George:I think it’s mostly things that are coming. I can’t remember some of those may be there today because we’re getting early previews of stuff. But I mean, everything was exciting. The hubs stuff with push … Hubs are getting more love too with the ability to push permissions from the hub site down to all the spokes. When we’re doing information architectures with customers a long time, there were a few things we said were good about hubs and now it feels like there’s even more goodness to hub spoke relationships. He went through so many demos so fast I can’t think of one that jumped out at …


Will:Yeah, I went back and I was not in the session live, but I did go back and watch it earlier today. And I think it’s probably, if there was one session to watch, that’s probably the one that gives you the best oversight of all of the other sessions because he kind of touched on all of the big announcements for the various sessions. And then the other sessions were kind of going into way more detail on some of the various things.


But like one of the things that popped out to me in particular, just because of things that we’ve been dealing with for clients lately was he revealed the page scheduling for example. So you could create a page in SharePoint and then set it to be published at a future date and time, which is a problem that we’ve been trying to solve for a little while and it’s been solved [inaudible 00:10:54] now.


So yay, for that. I think probably favorite session maybe it was not the biggest one, but my personal one was the PNP session. One of the last ones we attended, actually it was the last one we attended at Ignite with … I’m not going to try to pronounce his last name because I’ll butcher it, but that was just my personal favorite. I try to be in all of those calls and getting to see faces and associate those with the voices. The people that I hear from all the time. So that was a personal pleasure.


Danny Ryan:You guys haven’t said anything about very much, or if you’ve said the word, I don’t think you’ve said the word teams yet, which I’m surprised.


Will:Oh gosh. That was because it was said all over the place. [crosstalk 00:11:39] Yeah, we opened that can of worms, it’s over.


Danny Ryan:Because we’re in a Microsoft team right now. it’s part of the water about water right?


Pete:But I think, I think what will said earlier captures teams. I think teams is still the linchpin service right? So the investment in teams is obvious. I mean if you just look at the count of the team sessions, they invested heavily, but that kind of being reactive with data to moving people to being proactive with data. The whole team’s experience overall enables kind of that single pane of glass search. Getting some serious love, being able to have graph connectors that are custom search content.


All of the kind of takeaway that I had was umbrella takeaway. But if you want to go diving into specific sort of services or workloads, teams gets sort of the most love. There was a couple sessions that really for me kind of covered sort of the common thread going through everything is how do we enable those experiences and teams is just to me not only what Microsoft is investing in but it’s one of those places that from a out of the box configuration and surfacing all the content that you get, it really is the kind of one place to go.


But then all of the customization experiences surfacing intelligent use of data for search or for business apps, line of business apps and surfacing those inside of teams. There’s tons of investment going on in there. So …


Will:Yeah, I think that’s one of the … I think every session I went to … At some point someone said, and of course this works in teams or somehow and all of the SharePoint sessions and stuff. Like we went to … Bo and I both attended one that was about some of the new features coming to SharePoint lists and libraries. And in both cases they’ll “Yeah, and this works great in teams because of the way that we’ve kind of architected teams and SharePoint to work together.” So everything, all of the updates and stuff that they’re making to SharePoint and that experience work in teams, just kind of naturally because of the way that they’ve done that.


And so the more you talk to people or the more you see them talk about teams, especially for a team collaboration, that’s little T team. They’re really just trying to make it as frictionless as possible for you to do all of your collaborative efforts in teams and never have to worry about SharePoint being on the back end. It’s just kind of there. So a lot of cool stuff is coming down the road in 2020 or maybe a little bit sooner in some cases to kind of help make that possible.


Bo George:One thing I just thought of that Danny might really be excited about is a planner app in the left rail-


Danny Ryan:Yes, I saw that.


Bo George:All your planner tasks across all your teams, which is … That becomes a challenge for us. So that’s cool.


Pete:Yeah, I think that was one of the biggest, because I did the morning brew that week, so I sort of covered all of the news that came out from that first day. And I think I was really excited about that because if you’re talking about productivity, you can’t not talk about tasks and how they roll up to groups and all that sort of stuff.


And we’ve all been sort of like coming back to it and really trying to look at how we can use tasks that are shared across groups that roll down all the way to the individual level. And so it was good to see that get pulled in. The other thing I sort of laughed at was that they for so long, like the OneNote thing where they’re going to kill off OneNote, the Windows client and now they’ve come back and said they’re not killing it off.


You guys might not have heard that, but that was part of the news as well where for so many years they’ve been trying to use that UDP app that they’ve developed. And it just never got the feature set that needed for it to really take off on, especially in the Windows platform and really it’s the same on Windows and in Mac.


But they had an older version of it that had a lot more functionality and things where you could add an Outlook task inside of OneNote and actually manage your tasks from Outlook. It’s like you got it. Like I can’t put a to do in OneNote and not have it map over to my tasks and Outlook. And there’s still a lot to, they still have a lot of hard work to do with tasks in general. Trust me, there’s a lot … I mean it’s good to see that they’re investing in it. And I do think they are in but it’s still got a long way to go.


Will:Yeah. So as a self-described task junkie, Danny, did you see that you could assign tasks from like word documents and stuff?


Danny Ryan:Inside of them? Like within comments?


Will:Yeah, yeah.


Danny Ryan:I haven’t seen that yet. No I haven’t. I didn’t see that. That’s awesome.


Will:Yes, I was re watching one of the sessions and that was one of the things they were showing was the ability to have like an inline comment. You add it in Word and then it sends them a mention in teams and then you can open up … You get an email in Outlook about the task and you can reply to it in Outlook and that reply gets posted everywhere. And a lot of that has to do with the improvements that they’ve been making to the graph API to make it more universal so that whenever you’re interacting with a task or a comment in one application of Microsoft 365, it’s replicated everywhere.


So you’re reply to an email and it sends off something to the graph API and then graph says, hey, this is attached to a comment in a SharePoint file. So we’ll update it there too. And it just works. And they’re just trying to remove the friction so you can do the work wherever it is you want to do the work.


Danny Ryan:Cool. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Did you guys see the-


Bo George:Will mentioned, oh sorry. Will mentioned the graph API and Pete already said something about pushing content in there. So we could for search we could push content into the graph API. There wasn’t a session on this, but I was talking to the product team about graph notifications, which are in beta and that allows push notification to your device. If anybody’s ever done notification to iOS and Android with Verizon and Sprint, you know that push notifications to a phone can be a hassle. So it’s kind of cool with the graph we could build something on top of that to get the notification to somebody’s phone regardless of device and all that kind of stuff. So that’ll be cool.


Danny Ryan:Yep. Along the line, I saw some information about all of the … You guys, I don’t know if you attended any … Microsoft has all of these different connectors to different services. I don’t know if that was a part of any of the sessions that you guys went to. And it sounded like it had to do with the Microsoft graph but they had this slide where it was pretty much name your data source that they … And I don’t know how much of that’s marketing or how much of that’s real but it looked like they were really trying to pull everything in through, provide a way to get access to … Well what we used to do with all of our connectors. There’s like you want to be able to pull in information from different platforms into your, whatever you happen to be working on at that point in time. And it sounds like that they’re trying to do that type of thing.


Bo George:Yep. Yep. Will and I were in a graph connector session and there’s six of them out of the box, including ServiceNow. And then there were like hundreds, a hundred or more from third parties or whatever. So, and I was going to say I’m starting to realize that that the graph API to developers is what teams is to customers. It’s like the OnePlace for API versus OnePlace to get your work done.


Will:Yeah, yeah. I think Bo and I, we tried very hard to not be in the same session, but it just kept happening that our interests would and we’d find ourselves sitting next to each other. But like he said we’re both in that graph connector session. And I think he and I both kind of had this, it was news to us at the time and he and I both just kind of looked at each other and we’re thinking like, “Oh, this is big.” Because one of the questions we get a lot dealing with enterprise clients is I’ve got all of this data in other non Microsoft 365 environments or other tenants and I can’t search that. And our answer has been yeah you can’t, well soon maybe you can. And so that was a pretty big bone. Now we’re kind of nudging each other getting all excited. So that was a good one.


Bo George:Yeah. Or it was like a big hybrid configuration on premise to something. Something, it was like a nightmare scenario to crawl stuff and now it’ll be better.


Danny Ryan:The flow got a new name? What was all the stuff with that or is that right?


Will:Yes. And then they’ve rebranded it to power automate. And then the funniest part of all of Ignite was watching every Microsoft person stumble over that.


Bo George:And we’re still not sure what we call the instances now. Is it a power automation or is it automaton?


Will:My vote’s autobot. Because I want to talk about having like whenever you get an issue the Decepticons are..


Danny Ryan:Nice. Nice. What else? Anything else that you guys are taking away from the week that you’d like to share?


Bo George:This is going to sound a little bad, but having been with SharePoint for whatever years we’ve had 12, 13, 15, 500 I don’t know. Classic publishing portals had a lot of features that people have been kind of crying for a long time about with modern not supporting those. One of my favorites was the ability to customize the search results page now, which we used to add refiners and customize search results and all that stuff now and with adaptive cards, customizing the search results page and doing all that kind of stuff, which the PNP community has with the modern search web parts, I think we’re finally getting back to that ability to make search your own, which is awesome.


So, and then some of the multilingual publishing for pages too, which was really cool. So you can write it in English and then kick off your translations and have people create the translated version and people can see it in their preferred language. That’s awesome. You know, so my take away too is that Microsoft is looked at classic and all of the things that work bad there and they’ve taken their time to do it better in modern.


Danny Ryan:Yeah. You guys, I was even in a conversation today with a client and we were discussing, they had done a release of on SharePoint and a lot of the things that they were looking for came out right when they deployed. Like they were waiting for things like with Mega Menu and with certain things that were out there. And we got into I think a good sort of conversation about how the world has changed a little bit and how like nowadays you really need to understand what’s coming out from Microsoft’s roadmap so that you sort of fit into it.


And as many things we have this sort of a conversation about well, where should we do custom and where should we not? And we just talking about sort of like if it’s a part of the horizontal, everybody needs this thing really try to stay away from doing a lot of custom work, but if it’s a line of business application or a departmental solution or those types of things, then yes, that’s a place where you’ll want to customize because that makes sense.


And as much as you can leverage what is coming out from Microsoft, we almost, it was in a situation where there were a lot of custom web parts built and our recommendation was go back to there’s already, there’s something that’s available from within the SharePoint platform that we can use from SharePoint online. It was sort of like a … Chris was there with me. It was a little bit of a surreal thing where he’s afterwards we’re talking about it and there’s sort of an existential sort of questioning that was going on where like we were recommending taking something that was custom developed and going back to the original platform because we know that Microsoft’s going to take that and run with it.


And I argue that in the creative and the innovative process, you have to create things and destroy … A part of innovating is sometimes you’re ahead of things and you have to be able to be okay with the fact that you’re not always going to be in line and sometimes you’ll be ahead of the game.


And that’s a part of being in it … Anybody who’s innovative knows that they’re going to create things that sometimes need to be destroyed. And so I just thought it was an interesting conversation about sort of the nature of things right now and sort of aligning yourself with knowing what Microsoft is doing and getting yourself to the place where you can build custom line of business applications. But just sort of leveraging the heck out of everything that’s coming out of Microsoft and people need help with doing that. We still need to help people with like, oh, there’s something from Microsoft that does that and we can utilize that. And then using the P and P in certain portions of it and things like that. I just thought it was an interesting conversation that someone was having today with sort of dealing with the nature of reality in a cloud and the fact that Microsoft’s coming out with stuff and they need stuff today and just a really good conversation.


Bo George:Yeah. No matter where SharePoint has been on premise or now that it’s in the cloud, I’ve always felt that it’s had that 80/20 rule kind of mentality where it’ll do 80% of what you do, but there’s always a 20% that you want it to do that it can’t. And that’s where that decision of do I want to build it, let me look at the roadmap. Is anything like that coming in the next six months or a year? Do I want to build it? And all that sort of stuff. And Will and I’ve worked with customers like that, the one thing that I didn’t see at Ignite that I thought might be coming is the ability for the news web part to filter across site collections.


I don’t know that I saw that. It may be on the roadmap, but that was one of those things we built for a customer because the news web part and it has the best display capabilities much better than the highlighted content web part. So we built that for somebody, but we built it in a very methodical way that we knew if Microsoft comes out with that replacement, we’ll just rip and replace ours out and get back into mainstream mode. So …


Danny Ryan:Along those lines as you guys are coming back and looking at either your current projects or past projects, anything that came out of this where you said like, oh, I’ve got to reach out to them and let them know this. And part about what I appreciate you guys going and doing is you staying on top of what’s coming from Microsoft so that we can make good decisions.


Anything that sort of came from the week where you’re either on a current project or a past project where you going like, oh we need to take advantage of that. Will’s smiling a little bit.


Will:Very long list, yeah.


Danny Ryan:Okay, that’s good. And I think you guys probably feel like this, like maybe something where we had to make a decision at the time. And I’m probably just, this is the nature of reality, which is at that time you might not have had it, but now it’s there and I want us to sort of to be able to go back to folks and it’s not so much … It was the right decision at the time, but you need to also sort of recognize that Microsoft’s coming along and that sometimes we’ll want to get them back on maybe something that’s out of the box so that they’re taking advantage of new features that might be coming out. So …


Will:Yeah. Yeah. Tons of stuff. And trying to keep up with everything that’s coming in Microsoft 365 is literally a full time job for somebody. And even then you find out stuff that’s not on their official roadmap or what have you. Twitter, all of those avenues come into play. But just I think about some of the things that I saw from, we’ve kind of been talking about internally, it was like formatting lists. Pretty soon that’s going to be super easy to do. Where you’ve got a status column and if it’s overdue the whole thing’s red and stuff like that was like a trick that I would pull out to show people because yeah, I’m a developer, I can do, that’s fine. But and it was not end user friendly and they’ve showed that quite a bit so that yes, definitely something in the past that we’ve not been able to really easily help customers do.


And I think that’s just now another very easy tool to go out and pull out for people. Tons of stuff coming. Yeah. I mean just really too much to name. But I think the one thing that has really sparked my imagination I think was the conversations and stuff that we had around Project Cortex and machine learning and trying to think about how can we leverage that technology to help people understand their content in a way that in the past really just hasn’t been possible for us.


Speaker 1:Is that something we can dog food on? At ThreeWill or is that more of a-


Will:So, I’m currently studying to get my data scientist PhD so I can go back to Ignite next year and the engineer at Microsoft that told me that they had to dumb it down for developers and I thought I’m going to kind of go back and I got this. I mean it’s a very, it’s dense. It’s way outside of my personal comfort zone, but it is something that I think is very, it’s an interesting subject that has a lot of value. So if we can wrap our minds around it, then certainly it’s something that we could dog food as you say and then apply to others.


Pete:Yeah. I think it’s from a, how can we take advantage of it for our customers? I think first is being aware that what comes out of the box one of the things like Project Cortex, what are they going to give us, what are at our fingertips for additional customizations like graph connectors and all of the search optimizations that they’re making. But then being able to say, how can we utilize things like Azure cognitive services, vision API, are there opportunities that customers may just not know what’s available to them. So having the knowledge and understanding of not just the Microsoft 365 suite or the M 365 suite and those workloads that Microsoft’s going to put … They’re going to imbue all of their services with all of the AI that they can.


But finding opportunities that we can use. Not just Microsoft 365 and add a box but extended with things like custom connectors or some great examples that I saw in a few sessions are things like using the vision API or using the sentiment analysis or doing things that combined some of the data that customers have at their fingertips and they don’t know what to do with it.


But how do you make sense of that? How do you provide some insights based off all of the data’s in one place now or can be. So between what’s in Microsoft 365 and what you can now get into or will be able to get into Microsoft 365 but as far as search. And then making sense of that is kind of, I don’t think customers are going to come right out and say, hey, I want a cognitive service to be used in the solution. It’s really figuring out what’s the most of the business problem they’re trying to solve? What is a solution we can bring to bear and does that include some of those services that Microsoft really has made fairly simple to integrate some of those features. Now what Will’s talking about is taking it to the next level and saying, hey, I’ve got custom information and I actually want to apply some custom AI or ML to that. That I think is a little bit further down the road, but it’s more than possible.


Danny Ryan:I appreciate you guys doing this. Taking the time to do this and welcome back to reality and projects and fun stuff and for Pete, welcome back to security checklist.


Will:I’d just like to point out that pre-registration for Ignite 2020 is now open, Danny. There we go.


Danny Ryan:Wink, wink. Okay, excellent. Well you’ve been doing this podcast helps your cause wink, wink. If you want to do more of these I’m sure it would help your cause even more. Wink, wink. All the kids are listening. I’m here at home, every time I tell a joke they asked me to say wink wink afterwards so they know when I’m being sarcastic. Sometimes they don’t know.


So I appreciate you guys taking the time to do this and I won’t say wink wink right now because I really do. And look forward to seeing sort of what comes out of the conference and how this gets us into trouble in projects and what comes out of this. I appreciate you guys. I know they’re long days aren’t they? I mean, it’s a lot of hard work that gets put in, so I appreciate that for you guys. All right, thanks so much everybody for listening and have a wonderful day. Take care. Bye bye.




Danny Ryan:Thank you for listening to the Work Together Better podcast. We’re available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and TuneIn. If you’re looking for a partner to help you craft a modern digital workplace on the Microsoft cloud, please come by and see us that’s the number three spelled out, Thank you and have a great day.



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