Microsoft's partner-focused Inspire 2022 has started, with the tech giant making several new announcements, amidst a time of great change for its partner program.
The company boasts one of the largest and most diverse partner programs in IT, with 400,000 partners employing 22 million people worldwide.
Here are some of the biggest announcements at Inspire 2022:
Microsoft Digital Contact Centre Platform
A new contact centre offering combines technology from Teams, Azure and other portfolio products with newly acquired voice-to-text company Nuance.
The platform brings in artificial intelligence (AI) to power self-service and live customer engagements, collaborative experiences with live and virtual agents, business process automation, fraud prevention and advanced telephony.
Technology from Nuance improves the conversational AI, security and automation capabilities with the goal of resolving customers’ issues faster and with more personalised service.
Contact centres can also offer targeted incentives to improve customer loyalty and upsell opportunities for more revenue, according to Microsoft.
The platform uses AI and Microsoft’s Context IQ feature to anticipate customer requests and predict intent.
Customers are protected with integrated biometric identification, authentication and fraud prevention.
Users also receive customer journey analytics to improve experiences.
Teams Connect Shared Channels
Inspire 2022 saw Microsoft make the Teams Connect Shared Channels feature generally available.
Announced as a preview last year, this feature allows Teams users to “collaborate with people inside and outside your organisation in one shared space where everyone can work, chat, meet, share, co-author files, and develop apps together,” Microsoft said.
Teams Connect allows for collaboration among multiple organisations.
It enables Teams users to chat with people outside the work network with a personal account as well.
At last year's Microsoft Ignite, the company's chief executive Satya Nadella called Teams Connect an identity security effort.
Microsoft’s “trust fabric” is “what makes experiences like Teams Connect possible today,” Nadella said.
“With Teams Connect, powered by our identity platform, you can establish seamless, secure and trusted collaboration across organisational boundaries in a matter of minutes,” Nadella said.
Excel users can now collaborate on workbooks in real time in Teams meetings with the new Live feature.
Excel Live builds upon the Live Share in Teams feature announced at Microsoft’s Build conference in May. Live Share allows users to collaborate within a Teams meeting window.
Independent software vendors (ISVs) and developers can also build applications for Live Share with new Teams software development kit (SDK) extensions.
Video clips and collaborative annotations for Teams
A new feature called video clip allows users to record, send and view short videos in Teams chat and is now generally available.
Users can “capture your video and then deliver your message at the tap of a button,” Microsoft said.
With this feature, all Teams meeting participants can “draw, type, and react on top of content shared in a meeting using the rich toolset of Microsoft Whiteboard.”
Beginning of August will see the launch of Viva Goals which “is a goal setting and management solution that aligns teams to your organisation’s strategic priorities to drive results,” Microsoft said.
Although Satya Nadella has long touted Teams as a revenue generator for the tech giant, during Microsoft’s April quarterly earnings call he highlighted Viva as a member of the “new growth engines to meet the demands of hybrid work.”
Teams gets Viva Engage
Microsoft used Inspire to announce a new Teams application called Viva Engage that “brings consumer-like social networking to the workplace, building on the strength of Yammer to build community, spark engagement and grow personal networks, right in the flow of work.”
Company executives and supervisors can share news, answer questions and have conversations with employees through Engage.
The goal is to “build community and connection, along with providing tools for personal expression,” according to Microsoft.
Azure Migration and Modernisation Programme updates
Microsoft reported that more than 500 partners have enrolled in its Azure Migration and Modernization Program (AMMP) across applications, data and infrastructure.
The tech giant will now provide up to 2.5 times larger incentives for Windows Server and SQL Server migrations as a new effort for Microsoft sales organisations to locally allocate them for their areas and give partners more opportunities, updated best practices for the Cloud Adoption Framework for Azure and Azure Well Architected Framework (WAF) and new Azure Migrate capabilities.
Among the new Azure Migrate capabilities is the option for ISVs to integrate their own intellectual property.
Last year, Microsoft announced new support for security, Azure Arc, SAP environment migrations to Azure and Red Hat OpenShift environment migration to Azure as part of investment in AMMP.
ISV Success programme
Microsoft has added new benefits to its ISV Success Program.
This helps independent software vendors (ISVs) build applications and publish them to Microsoft’s commercial marketplace.
The company also plans to announce industry designations for ISVs later this year,
These designations are based on performance with customers, technical maturity and customer success with the first for health care, retail and financial services.
ISV Success is in preview and set for broad availability in the coming months.
The program can be used to access cloud sandboxes, developer tooling, technical resources, business resources and other offerings.
Participants can access nearly US$128,000 in benefits related to software production, Microsoft said.
In addition to the programme, Microsoft has updated its commercial marketplace to make margin sharing generally available.
It also announced a partnership with Tackle.io to help ISVs reach Microsoft customers.
Azure Space Partner Community launched
A dedicated Azure Space Partner Community with exclusive access to technical support and scaling services was launched at Inspire 2022.
Members of the Space Partner Community include Nokia, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Airbus, SpaceX, Kratos and others.
The space partners ecosystem includes space operators, manufacturers, systems integrators, ISVs, data providers and others, Microsoft said.
Their capabilities range from connectivity to earth observation and include ground infrastructure, virtualisation, data processing, analytics and more.
Community members will receive Azure Space training, a quarterly roadmap and ability to influence it and private preview programmes, among other offerings.
Members receive Microsoft first-party product integration and add-ins with Teams, Power BI and other productivity tools, Azure Marketplace onboarding support and other help.
Azure credits, sponsored accounts and volume discounts are available for an Azure Consumption Commitment.
Members can participate in Enterprise Agreement programs such as Licensed Service Providers and Azure Online Services Government to qualify for rebates, and they can receive credits for competencies and partner marketing benefits, Microsoft said.
Microsoft Cloud for Sovereignty
A new Cloud for Sovereignty, designed for the government sector, broke cover at Inspire 2022.
The goal is to allow public sector customers to build and transform workloads in the Microsoft Cloud while meeting compliance, security and policy requirements.
Customers get cloud-powered resiliency, security, scale and capabilities plus control over data, residency and transparency.
The announcement comes amid investment from Microsoft in industry-focused cloud packages of software and tools, including clouds for health care, manufacturing and nonprofits.
CRN has contacted Microsoft Australia for local availability across Australia and New Zealand across all announcements.