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Change is Coming: 3 Takeaways from Microsoft Ignite

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella kicked off last week’s Ignite by talking about where Microsoft has been and where it’s going. Digital transformation was central to his message—he noted that, although digital transformation is not a new concept, its definition is rapidly changing with a new focus on the cloud, artificial intelligence, and the customer. We came away from the conference with much to talk about, but here are a few of the topics that resonated with us:

1. Skype to Teams: How to Prepare for the Switch

Microsoft’s plans to fold Skype for Business into Teams was the lead topic of conversation at our booth throughout the week. In particular, attendees asked us what they can do to prepare for the switch, and steps they should take to ensure users get up to speed quickly with the new application.

Teams is a relatively new platform—Microsoft released it in March 2017—that combines workplace chat (voice, video and text), meetings, notes, and attachments into one hub. Features include collaborative editing and seamless sharing of applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, plus calendars, files and email. Teams “Channels” can use artificial intelligence applications (“Bots”) to complete tasks with chat-based commands, as well as integrations (“Connectors”) to communicate with third-party apps like Salesforce and Evernote.

Although Teams is designed to simplify group work, it has a learning curve. First, it requires users to take a new approach to work—from siloed and isolated to visible, integrated and accessible. Second, Teams is more complex than Skype—it requires users to find their way around an unfamiliar, busier user interface.

At Ignite, Microsoft announced that Teams is now being used by 329,000 organizations, which is up from 200,000 in March and more than double what it was this time last year (125,000). As more organizations transition from Skype to Teams, we expect an even greater focus on user adoption of the platform, as well as a heightened interest in change management approaches.

2. Office 2019: What is it? How does it Differ from Office 365?

On the first day of the conference, Microsoft announced the general availability of Office 2019 for Windows and Mac. Office 2019 is the next “on-premises” version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, Project, Visio, Access, and Publisher. The announcement inspired a lot of questions—What is Office 2019? How does it differ from Office 365 and Office 2016? How will it affect my company and employees? In the coming weeks, we’ll take a closer look at the new version and what it means for users and business leaders alike. Stay tuned.

3. Encouraging Change: A Story that Never Gets Old

In his keynote, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella talked about the need for “tech intensity”—to capitalize on digital opportunities, organizations must ensure they adopt the latest technology and also build their own digital capability. “If you want to keep up, you’ll need to evolve,” Nadella said.

In a review of Nadella’s opening talk, Redmond Magazine’s Brien Posey noted that it was one of the more unusual Ignite keynotes. Unlike past years, he wrote, the opening keynote did not include any product announcements, nor did it feature on-stage tech demos. Instead, Nadella spent most of his time on stage discussing the bigger picture, including his vision of the next steps in digital transformation.

As we see it, Nadella’s departure from the norm is emblematic of technology’s effect on work and society. That is, while the details are important, for businesses and individuals to keep up and evolve, they must master the art of change—they must nurture it, manage it, and excel at it.

The topics above stood out for a few reasons, but mainly because they are prime examples of the ongoing challenges digital transformation presents. How well an organization transitions from Skype to Teams or how quickly it gets up to speed with frequent software changes will determine its success in the digital future.

Jen is an award-winning journalist who writes about workplace productivity and technology for Vitalyst. She believes in the power of using plain language, especially when writing about technology, and lists “achieving and enabling clarity” among her life goals.

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