My trip here to Barcelona has gone far too quickly. I’m now sat in the airport lounge reflecting on the past few days and wanted to share with you the outline of what had been shared over the past few days. Before that though, a big thank you to everyone that came along with us and to Microsoft for being our host.
Digital transformation was an extensive theme at this year’s Microsoft EMEA Convergence 2015. Technology is of course changing the way that we have done things for a very long time but, what I have left with is that you can look at the world and see problems, or you can see opportunities.
Microsoft talked a lot about how to be disruptive and how to handle disruption – through technology – and are addressing the concept of “systems of engagement” and of course, systems of intelligence. Through the new updates as highlighted each day, it was clear that Microsoft are looking to reinvent productivity and business processes with intelligence, more adaptive systems and of course data.
The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is often described by technology companies as a huge potential benefit to organisations but sometimes it can be hard to turn the hyperbole into real-life examples. For this reason, it was fantastic to see Microsoft attempted to break down this barrier by showcasing several examples of real-world uses of IoT networks that companies have created using the Azure IoT.
Steve Fox, senior director of Microsoft’s worldwide Azure Apps and IoT practice, explained at Microsoft’s Convergence 2015 conference in Barcelona that companies need to think about how the IoT can benefit their business rather than simply jump on the trend.
Microsoft showcased how they are working with German utilities company EnBW to set up, collect and manage data from sensors attached to lights in smart city projects. The smart lights also provide wireless hotspots for citizens, and the IoT system can collect data from people logging onto the Wi-Fi and feed it back into an analytics engine that can identify where people are moving and going to, allowing city authorities to carry out more data-driven people management.
The system can track the performance of the street lamps to spot any potential malfunctions before they occur, allowing predictive maintenance to be carried out, and can monitor the environment around the lamps to provide authorities with granular data on air pressure, humidity, temperature and pollution levels in specific areas of a city.
The authorities can then use this data to take certain actions, such as rerouting traffic if there is a lot of pollution in one area.
Microsoft took the wraps off its new Azure-based PowerApps development tools. PowerApps is designed to make it easier for business users to create or extend corporate Web applications. The idea behind PowerApps is that business application development has been lagging, mostly because there’s a lack of mobile developers on hand. PowerApps offers a “Microsoft Office-like” simplified development experience that opens up the app creation process to more people, or it lets existing apps get extended by connecting them to software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps.
Examples of existing SaaS apps that can be used with PowerApps include Dropbox, Oracle and Salesforce.com, as well as Office 365 SharePoint and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, among others.
The PowerApps tools are already available for testing and derived from Microsoft’s currently available Azure App Service. PowerApps users can create Web apps, mobile apps, workflows in the cloud and API apps, according to a Microsoft video featuring Scott Hanselman, principal program manager for Microsoft’s Cloud and Enterprise Group. The PowerApps service will have a “simple pricing” model, he said, although a description of the pricing doesn’t appear to be publicly available yet.
On Wednesday morning, Microsoft presented a deep dive sessions about Lifecycle Services and its new enhancements. LCS is a very powerful toolbox that Microsoft offers to customers and partners before, during and after implementation of Dynamics AX. LCS allows you to choose from a variety of project methodologies, among others Sure Step Agile. For instance, as a project manager you would be able to keep track of the issues and tasks that need attention and assign them to a team member. But also, as a developer there are tools in LCS to assist in developing correct code, such as the code analysing tool.
Newly added, and now first presented at Convergence 2014, is the Configuration Manager tool. With this tool you can easily export or import configuration settings and data from an AX instance to another.
With the business process builder you are able to design your business process, using templates from the library, adjusting it according to your specific organisation, or building the process from scratch. You can add the actual steps out of AX by using the task recorder in AX and adding this to the LCS business process.
And finally you are able to log issues with Microsoft Support and track other issues and their status, find fixes or workarounds to solve your issues.
Microsoft announced that its Dynamics CRM 2016 offering is now generally available for online and on-premises deployments. The product includes advancements in intelligence, mobility and service, according to the company. Microsoft’s strategy is to “enable organisations to personalise customer experiences, engaging customers at the right time, in the right place and with the right content. I covered this in my day 1 blog.
All in all, a great conference. I’m feeling excited about what 2016 holds and look forward to working with our K3 customers on how we can together leverage all that we have learnt.