Assessing key highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021

Assessing key highlights from Microsoft Inspire 2021

All the big-ticket items announced during this year's big partner event.

Nick Parker (Microsoft)

Nick Parker (Microsoft)

Credit: Microsoft

A purely virtual affair this year, Microsoft kicked off its Inspire 2021 conference this week, with the vendor’s largest annual partner event holding a bunch of new developments, both big and small.  

Among the new developments Microsoft has saved up for this year’s event is the vendor’s move to introduce new benefits for independent software vendors (ISVs) that want to build and market Modern Work apps for Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Viva, the company’s employee experience platform.  

Eligible ISVs will receive access to Microsoft technology, curated training, one-on-one consultations and marketing resources to help them reach the estimated 145 million people who collaborate on Teams daily.  

According to Microsoft, ISVs planning to build Teams or Viva apps for business-to-business scenarios are eligible. However, partners must be members of the Microsoft Partner Network.  

“All Microsoft Teams customers will now receive access to Dynamics 365 data in Teams at no extra cost,” said Nick Parker, Microsoft global partner solutions corporate vice president, in a blog post. “This integration will remove barriers to productivity for customers, as well as silos between collaboration and business process.  

“The no-cost data access also provides flexibility for organisations to determine when and how they purchase Dynamics 365.  

“With Microsoft’s emphasis on trust and security, permissions and access rules can be configured to ensure only appropriate users have access to data,” he added. 

According to Parker, Microsoft has seen “incredible” partner integration opportunity with the vendor’s Viva offering. To date, the company has added new integrations with more than 20 technology partners, including Workday, Qualtrics and ServiceNow.  

“These integrations will complement the ones we announced in February with SuccessFactors, Cornerstone OnDemand, Headspace and many more,” Parker said. “Through these integrations, customers can seamlessly connect to the systems and tools their employees use every day right in the flow of Viva experiences.  

“We will continue to make it easy to integrate with, build on and extend applications into Viva. Our partners are already innovating and we will be rolling out more open APIs [application programming interfaces] later this calendar year,” he said.  

Meanwhile, two partner tools, Microsoft 365 Lighthouse and Project ‘Orland,’ are now in preview.  

These tools are intended to drive partner growth and profitability by making it easier to deliver managed security services and identify new growth opportunities. 

Announced in limited preview last year, Microsoft 365 Lighthouse is a unified portal designed to help managed service providers (MSPs) secure and manage their Microsoft 365 Business Premium customers and deliver standardised services.  

The offering is now in preview for all eligible partners. 

At the same time, Project ‘Orland,’ a new experience in the Partner Centre designed to help partners grow their cloud business by sharing Microsoft-powered insights about their customers to improve account management, is launching in private preview.  

"Cloud solution provider (CSP) partners will get recommendations from their existing customer base such as customers with trial conversion potential, customers who may need follow-up engagements, or customers ready for new workloads to deploy,” Parker said.  

Microsoft has also revealed that, two years after its ISV Connect program for partners was introduced, it is being reimagined to bring, in the words of the vendor, new value to ISVs. 

Based on feedback from ISVs, the program will introduce simplified, go-to-market benefits; new technical benefits, such as ISV app licence management and discounted Dev/Test/Demo environments; along with substantially reduced revenue sharing.  

These changes will be implemented by this northern hemisphere autumn, Microsoft said. 

Additionally, the vendor is making fresh investments in Microsoft AppSource to improve app discoverability and search results for its audience of more than 750 million customers in 141 countries. 

“Inspire marks the second anniversary of the Business Applications ISV Connect program, which offers platforms, resources and support to help ISVs develop, publish and market their apps,” Parker said. “We’re pleased to announce simplification and enhancements to the program that bring new value to partners building applications. 

“These enhancements aim to help partners reduce app development time, go to market faster, differentiate their solutions and more efficiently grow their business in new markets in ways they could not have scaled otherwise,” he added. 

As Microsoft reveals it has seen a 70 per cent year-over-year increase in transactable applications in its commercial marketplace, the vendor has decided to reduce its fees for transactable offers to 3 per cent — down significantly from an industry standard fee of 20 per cent — for every transactable application published in the commercial marketplace, including its digital storefronts, Azure Marketplace and Microsoft AppSource. 

This move is likely to be a boon to ISVs specialising in Microsoft’s ecosystem, with the company’s commercial marketplace hosting 30,000 applications from ISVs and other software makers, with 4 million shoppers engaging every month.  

“As software needs continue to rise, partners are looking to simplify the deployment process and are increasingly relying on a commercial marketplace to manage their software portfolio,” Parker said.  

“The reduction means higher margins for partners who publish transactable offers in our marketplaces and simplifies the fee structure. Both of these benefits reflect our commitment to do everything we can to make our platform partner-focused,” he added. 

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