ESPC19 Roundup

Originally posted to Wizdom blog on December 6, 2019.

At the beginning of ESPC19, you notice how well the branding and programme were put together. There’s something for everyone, the staff were super helpful, and there was always someone ready to give you directions. 

Branding in the software industry is important on many levels, and creating a community within the industry, goes a long way to develop a brand. The SharePoint, Azure and Office 365 community is a great showcase of this and is one-way software companies can see how to do it successfully. For example, the app for the ESPC19 event was a godsend and enabled everyone to find sessions, connect and find each other. Not just at the event, but during attendees stay in Prague. Christmas market gatherings were organised, dinners and sightseeing opportunities created, to make sure no-one was left alone and out in the cold. 

Jeff Teper opened ESPC19 with the statement that there are now 100 Million users of SharePoint in the cloud. That’s a massive community of people who are passionate about software and technology innovations. 

One of the highlighted conversations from the keynote was that, alongside cutting edge and updated technology, in the dynamic economy comes the need to find more skilled people, who can work with the technology. Jeff noted there is indeed a skills shortage and made the suggestion that Ai can cover some of the organizational-wide skill shortage issues. 

This could be done, according to Jeff Teper, by using, ‘Ai to augment people and help them succeed, with people controlling it and leveraging’ the possibilities to meet business needs. 

Some of the ways Microsoft is moving forward within this area are as follows.

Project Cortex

One part of Project Cortex is the mining of resources to enable the use of acronyms to show information in relation to a subject, based on processes that have been set up and taught how to mine. By training the process to extract certain information, and adding that information to columns. A great example of this is finance documents. 

Two of the ways this can be used in real-life scenarios could be:

  • Knowledge center web part content mining
  • Knowledge aware web parts being added into SharePoint information areas or knowledge networks.

According to Naomi Moneypenny, it will soon be possible to take a picture and extract text from the picture. This will be enabled and powered by Azure computer vision. 

Governance, adoption and training

Susan Hanleys, MVP, and owner of Susan Hanley LLC, gave a session on practical strategies for governance, adoption, and training. It was insightful, as well as practical.

The main points she reiterated is ‘governance is not enough.’ When thinking through governance strategies, and before implementation, a training and user adoption plan should be created and rolled out company, or organisation-wide.

This can be done by building a resource centre. As Susan describes it, ‘a one-stop-shop for governance, training and adoption.’

Through gaining a deeper understanding of what needs to be done, and planning accordingly, creates a good foundation to then create content around governance. After that, careful consideration should be given to the delivery method, should it be in tooltips within the application? 

The timing of governance is another area that warrants a greater need for a well thought out plan as well. If everyone has to go through one point of entry and the points of entry are not restricted, or, on the other hand, have too many restrictions, it will cause bottlenecks in your organisation. 

Considering where to have governance and how to deliver information about the governance model, alongside training materials, should set you up for success. 

Main points for the Governance, Adoption and Training session:

  • Planning is key
  • Make sure people know what is involved in a role before they accept it
  • Smaller teams are more efficient and keep things moving
  • Understand what needs to be governed
  • Split content up into sections, such as Policies, Guidelines and Roles
  • Deliver training where it is needed and at the right time.

How is MS Teams going to help evolve the workplaces of the future?

According to the Panel on MS Teams, a cultural shift is in the process of happening and needs to be encouraged. The mobility of the modern-day workforce highlights the need for greater technological independence. This includes meeting and general communication options that just work. It also means more virtual collaborative tools are needed. Having an omnipresent and intelligent intranet can help you there.

We mustn’t forget the human element and the importance of interacting with each other. One of the panellists, Maarten Eekels, MVP, Microsoft Regional Director, pointed out a simple way of achieving this is by turning on your camera when talking with your colleagues. If you’re worried about a bad hair day, or that your home is a mess, Tracy Van der Schyff, MVP pointed out that MS Teams now lets you blur your background. So there’s really no excuse. 

As mentioned, the cultural shift is akin to the change that took place when desktop computers were introduced. It took a while for people to stop printing off all their files every evening, as they thought it might be lost. While we might be well beyond that dark period, we are still wandering into the unknown. Delightful as it is, the unknown needs to be learnt, explained and examples shown, for people to adopt to a new way of working. 

There is a whole heap of middle ground of people who needs to be shown the benefits of the cultural shift. The good news is, there are many options to increase user adoption, and thereby speed up the cultural shift, of new technologies. Check out some of Susan Hanley’s tips to help you there.

According to Tracy, it will be through innovation and creativity that we move beyond the way we work now, into something even more exceptional. The age of Ai and the machine.

Empathy and Ai

Miri Rodriguez, Storyteller and Head of Global Internship Program at Microsoft, gave an interesting keynote about Empathy: The Race Against The Machines. In the keynote, Miri mentioned the main part Ai and machines can’t ‘learn’ is empathy. Perhaps, they can learn empathic responses to given scenarios, but the ability to really empathise on a human level is not yet possible. 

While we are entering the age of ai and the machine, we must consider the benefits of Ai. While talking with Alicia Pelton, one of Microsoft’s program manager’s, Anja Julia Hartzell, Product Marketing Manager for Wizdom and LiveTiles, talked about what she thinks about ai. It was quite interesting as Anja mentioned the possibilities that could be gained with Ai within the Healthcare space, but also how it will enable us, through automation, to step back from our screens and enjoy the world around us. Something to think about when considering arguments against Ai and machine learning.

JavaScript, TypeScript and creating your own life Script

Scott Hanselman once again delivered one of the most entertaining sessions at ESPC19. We were too busy enjoying his rhetoric to write notes on his session. The one piece of advice we did glean from the session, is just get out there and do it. There’s a myriad of ways to get to the same end-point, whether you use TypeScript, JavaScript or some other scripting language, the main thing is to get creating. Throughout time, there has been technology created that people thought would never see the light of day, let alone be used by billions of people every day.

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