Inspire 2020 Recap: How Microsoft Is Changing the Way We Work

Jennifer Gibson-Kautz

This year, on July 21 and 22, Microsoft held their annual Inspire convention completely online. I had been looking forward to attending the conference in person, as it is customarily held in Las Vegas. Once the world as we knew it changed back in March, all plans for in-person events changed as well. 

The event itself was excellent; given the fact that the people on the events team at Microsoft had less than 4 months to pull together a production that usually presents to 30,000 in person. 

The keynote speeches were, for the most part, all prerecorded, but many of the sessions were held live. It was fascinating that the schedule accommodated for all time zones. There were sessions being held at two o’clock in the morning, Eastern Time. 

Meetings in the Age of Remote Work

I attended several sessions that were focused on new meeting formats in this age of remote work. Other sessions were targeted at communication across meeting platforms that discussed how eye contact, voice inflection, and body language can all be difficult to read while working from home. 

In one session, they discussed the science behind “online fatigue.” This stems from having to be in online meetings where the backgrounds of the participants are static. Microsoft has been working to help alleviate this by building new features. One is Together Mode, which is a new way to change the background of the meeting for all participants. In this mode, the meeting attendees are shown as being part of a theater. By offering this, the single background allows the eye-to-brain communication to relax, and not work so hard. There are other backgrounds coming, but the Theater view is the first. By offering this feature, Microsoft is helping to relieve some real stress their users were experiencing. 

Solutions for the Way We Work Now

Another session I attended focused on how the offerings of the solution providers need to change to meet the new needs of the people we help. The days of “tell us what you need, and we will build it for you” are beginning to wane. You don’t have the ramp-up time you used to before COVID. We need to understand that sometimes our customers want the premade solution—everything in the box, so to speak. In a way, Microsoft has been doing that already since launching Office 365. They deliver a fully baked solution and then let you toggle features on and off via a control panel. Having everything available for when you need it helps you get your projects done sooner, solving your problems and helping to promote productivity. 

Doing Good

With all the above solutions, the underlying driver is to help others. The other aspect that reflects the changes that we see in this new world is that companies are now being scrutinized for what good they do, how they treat others, and where they stand on issues of social justice. Microsoft is leading the charge to become “purpose-driven” to bring good to others and to have others bring good to all those they interact with. 

In his address, Satya Nadella emphasized the mission of Microsoft: “At Microsoft, our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. This year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people around the world who are harnessing the power of technology to make a difference.” 

In a blog post on the day before the Inspire event, Judson Althoff, the Executive Vice President for Worldwide Commercial Business, wrote passionately about the new landscape we are living in, and how Microsoft is making a difference globally: 

Microsoft Inspire, our annual partner conference, kicks off tomorrow and we have transitioned the event to an all-digital format to maintain social distancing amid the global pandemic. This new format requires an evolution in how we engage with our partners to share content and ideas while providing an opportunity to connect with each other, consider the influential tech trends that lay ahead, and work together to bring innovation to life for our mutual customers. This change in approach exemplifies the many ways customers across industries are adapting in a COVID-19 world. By using digital technologies, they are becoming more resilient, accelerating their recovery, and maneuvering to anticipate customer needs. 

As organizations adapt to a COVID-19 world, their sense of purpose is taking on new meaning and encompassing where they are uniquely equipped to leverage technology innovation for good. This past quarter highlighted multiple examples of this trend, which we call “purpose-driven digital,” the art and science of leveraging technology innovation to drive business and societal outcomes for good. At Microsoft, we share this purpose and are honored to be a trusted partner and strategic advisor as we work with customers to bring new innovations to life now and in the days ahead.” 

So, I leave you with this question: what companies are you following that are making a difference? What corporations, retailers, and non-profits that you know of have changed their mission statement to reflect a desire to make a positive impact? 

At Connection, the employees and leadership team donated just over $34,000 to support our local foodbanks. Connection, like Microsoft, is driven to make a difference so that we empower others to achieve more. If you’re looking for ways to engage in this new era of remote work, we’re here to help. Reach out to us to see how we can help you solve your needs as you explore the new normal. 

Jennifer writes about her experience in customer service and software licensing. She is also a Microsoft Certified Professional. In her free time, Jennifer raises chicken and ducks for egg production and enjoys traveling.