Microsoft Inspire 2019 #CallingSatya

Firstly, I want to apologise for the delay in the publication of this blog, myself and the entire team at The Instillery have velocity with confidence in our DNA but more importantly, we also understand the importance of timely information sharing - but the short version is, we’ve had a ton of cool stuff on which had to take priority.

For me, my 2nd trip to Las Vegas for Microsoft Inspire is probably my most career-defining ICT event. 

While many may look to guzzle from the Microsoft firehose, my objectives were slightly more calculated and can be summarised by a couple of key themes which I’ll indulge through this blog:

Connect, Challenge, Collaborate, Explore, Inspiration, & Learn

However, I know there's a number of you who are also very keen to get an update on the #CallingSatya mission and whether or not we were able to deliver our precious taonga to Satya.

But let's start from the beginning. In my cloud-agnostic view, I now see Microsoft as our strategic partner with the “big boy pants” (most mature) approach to multi/poly-cloud. I say this from an enterprise perspective with a few pockets of blue-blooded, Microsoft only team members, still refusing to engage with the likes of The Instillery who proudly wear our multi-cloud “armour” and our customers best interest at the forefront of everything we do.

So joined by the All Black coaching staff, Grant Baty my GM of Cloud Ops and Vanessa Sorenson, Director of Sales from Microsoft New Zealand at the Koru Club in Auckland Airport along with 140 of our kiwi Microsoft partner ecosystem peers it is always interesting to discuss the amazing opportunities that present partnerships like ours, not only in our own backyard but on the global stage while also reflecting on just how much of a privilege it is to be able to call 4 days in Las Vegas “work”...

As for the flight over, anyone that has been before knows that the trip to Las Vegas is not without its challenges - particularly when paired with a sweaty-palmed transit through LAX. However, the sweaty palms had NOTHING to do with the flight. But rather despite our Air New Zealand Airbus having wifi on-board, there was an innate inability to live stream the 2019 Cricket World Cup final so like the memories of when I was a kid listening to the cricket over the radio in my pop's shed each summer - we dialled into live commentary via iHeartRadio... About halfway to LA, the commentary became unbearable, so we downgraded to consuming the greatest opportunity in NZ cricket history via live updates on CricInfo. Needless to say, while a great effort from the lads in a result not without its controversy, I was still a proud kiwi landing in LAX as NZ was named the second greatest cricketing nation of 2019.

Fast forward 24 hours to Microsoft Inspire 2019, Day 1. With a couple of global conferences under my belt, it never ceases to amaze me the military precision that must get into effectively executing an event of 50,000 attendees. And once again the team killed it!

Given the theme is in the name of the conference itself it seems fitting to kick off with INSPIRATION. The corenotes were full of it! A line up that included legendary team and motivational speaker Simon Synek, Gavriella Schuster, Vice President of Microsoft One partner, a host of global Microsoft clients. And of course the main man, Satya Nadella, Who I believe is one of the most influential people on the planet today.

Kicking off with Simon Synek in a Q&A with Gavriella, Simon talked to the simple trait that enables “good partnerships to go from good to great” are trust & the ability to have direct honest conversations even in tough times.

Simon also had a simple message for the leaders and future leaders in the room. Challenging everyone to be the leader we WISH we had while also empowering the younger generation and reaching to ask for their help in a rapidly evolving workforce.

Democratising digital was a theme interwoven throughout the corenotes and sessions all week. This has been covered at length in other blogs and reviews but one of the key takeaways for me was how do we enable our customers to get better engaged with their customers through technology, people and process change.

In the session with Judson Althoff, Executive Vice President of the Worldwide Commercial Business, he said we should always be challenging customers to understand how they can better “connect the boardroom to the front line and edge of our business”.

One of the examples that really stood out for me was the digital transformation that is underway at Unilever and specifically their soaps and fragrances division (which is a multi-billion dollar business in its own right). 

He said he’s lead the transition from being an FMCG business to a data insights company, and this meant a huge cultural shift in how they work. Unilever encourages everyone in every role to be “constantly curious” to explore new ways of work.

Unilever now leverages a digital architecture including Microsoft Azure, PowerBI, Flow and Teams to provide insights and collaborate to make better decisions and even "predict the future".

The feedback from the Unilever team is that this newfound empowerment is encouraging everyone to be better every day. “If you make technology the empowering force, you put it to work, you enable human time and attention to solve the problems of the planet.”, noted Microsoft’s Judson Althoff, during his corenote.

Connections & Levelling up.

The Instillery’s mission is twofold, elevate Aotearoa’s future & enable kiwi businesses to dominate at home and on the global stage.

This means a critical part of investing the time to travel to Microsoft Inspire each and every year is the opportunity to connect with like-minded business owners (albeit with more scale) from all corners of the globe.

Two inspirational cloud businesses are Contino and CloudReach, I always massively value the time spent with representatives of each of these businesses. It’s the commitment to constantly learn, evolve and share ideas and learnings that enables not only our own businesses to accelerate our growth, but also a commitment from all partners in attendance at Inspire, acknowledging that a rising tide floats all boats. 

The reality is, as the Microsoft ecosystem and The Instillery contribute to a truly multi-cloud world, regardless of geography, we’re all in the business of solving the same problems. And our learnings from Inspire means we can push fast forward, better together.

Spotlight on inclusion and diversity 

Everyone knows I’m a passionate advocate of diversity and inclusion, and personally proud to be on the board of NZtech as well as the NZtech Diversity & Inclusion board. 

At Inspire 2019 diversity and inclusion was on show across both Microsoft and the partner community. It was exciting to see the theme threaded through so many partner experiences during the week.

My highlight each and every year is the opportunity to hear direct from Satya Nadella, a person I believe is one of the most influential individuals on the planet and someone I have massive respect for. Not only his work in the tech sector but also as a man all about whanau and a bigger purpose as well as a true desire to change the world for good.

In Satya’s address, he boldly stated (without any ego) that following Microsoft's transformation over the past few years, that “the momentum, whichever way you look at it is palpable all around us... Microsoft is the future!”

Satya went on to talk about three important numbers. 

100   •   17   •   7

“It's us coming together. That is the 117 to have an impact on the 7 billion people on the planet. But doing that with every community that we serve. The small businesses that we make productive, the large multinationals that we make competitive, public sectors that we make more efficient, health and patient outcomes, educational outcomes, and the depth and breadth of opportunity is what we celebrate. That's what gives us meaning in our work.

That's what's captured in our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”

Not a whole lot more needs to be said about the above but you could literally hear a pin drop while he was speaking and a genuine feeling of inspiration with humility that he uniquely possesses.

Beyond general industry discussion, another important highlight from Satya’s corenote was a spotlight on Azure.

Satya stated, "90% of the data that we have today was created in the last two years. That's the explosion of compute and data. We have 1 billion users of Windows, a couple of billion smartphones. But 50 billion [endpoints are] all connected to the cloud. That's what's leading to us building out Azure as the world's computer. We now have 54 data centre regions. We're very, very thrilled to have the latest regions in the Middle East and in Africa. It's so exciting.

And we're also building everything that we're doing across Azure with openness. Windows and Linux are first class. Java and .NET are first class. SQL Server, Postgres is first class. Red Hat, VMware, Oracle - all of these applications and infrastructure can be first-class on Azure. This doesn't mean we don't have a very opinionated view on what a modern application that is event-driven, serverless, could look like. We have a fantastic app model, with all the toolchains around it. But the thing that we've ensured is that this new-generation app model composes with everything that you've done in the past. That, to me, is the key to how we're going to move TECH INTENSITY [a new saying and sentiment I have been echoing since vegas - MJ] in every corporation, every company, every institution."


I’ve had so many amazing messages of support throughout our #CallingSatya mission that I thought the least I could do was provide an update here through the blog.

Every day the tech community continues to surprise and delight and this mission once again delivered, while proving there is literally 2 degrees of separation between us and Microsoft HQ.

Exclusively through the power of social media, we generated north of 200,000 unique impressions and were humbled to secure time with the upper echelon of regional and global Microsoft executives to share insights, benchmark and reaffirm our commitment to The Instillery’s FY20 strategy.

On this occasion, I failed to deliver on my challenge, set by Jeremy Nees (Chief Product & Technology Officer @ The Instillery), in terms of getting a meeting with Satya while in Las Vegas to present our precious taonga carried all the way from Aotearoa.

However in an amazing turn of events and unfortunately after landing back home, we were contacted by Satya’s EA and we now have a plan which will see us presenting our precious taonga along with an open invitation to come to Aotearoa on behalf of all kiwis to meet with The Instillery & a number of our clients (not to mention a few kiwi sporting legends!).


In Conclusion

There is so much I haven’t covered in this blog, but as I indicated earlier, so many bright minds and industry commentators (I’ll leave you to label each in your own time) have brought back their own unique experiences and perspectives. So I have tried to “colour in the gaps” from my reading to date and my own experience in my 2nd Microsoft Inspire. 

What I do know for sure is that based on my learnings from Inspire 2019, The Instillery is uniquely positioned in Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, to lead in the cloud revolution. I’m excited to see our business grow and evolve alongside Microsoft as a trusted strategic partner.

I’ve never been more fired up about our potential, not only in business circles but also for our ability through partnerships to expand The Instillery effect and impact on Aotearoa - with a laser focus on elevating our collective futures.