Microsoft's Vision for the Future of IT Bring Cool Tools to the Enterprise
By Damon Tompkins, Senior Vice President of Corporate and Business Development
It’s rare to go to tech conference these days and not to hear an earful about the “Future of Work” and the new knowledge worker. Among other things, Wikipedia says that knowledge workers are people who think for a living.
Hopefully, that’s most of us, right?
If you ask what is marketed to knowledge workers, and their employers, the answer is tools. Software, to be more precise. And while some might say that it’s software that thinks—referring to machine learning, intelligent fabrics like office graphs and social graphs, Analytics, vizzes and productivity tools—the reality is that it’s just software. It processes the data and returns it in a useful and consumable way so that we can use it to work smarter, be more productive and make better and more informed decisions.
It took Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella a little while to put this idea into words. Early on, he was stuck on the same “cloud-first, mobile-first” mantra that every other vendor was using, but by the time of his “state of the (Microsoft) union” last June, he had the right one nailed down.
Microsoft’s mission is “To empower every person on the planet to achieve more.”
Nadella and company have been innovating at a rapid clip in that regard not only, or even mostly, by way of Windows 10 but also with the wide range of new, or greatly improved, productivity tools it has put within easy reach of its customers.
You can now reach Office 365 from almost any screen that you can read a document on (the web, iOs, Android). Digital assistant Cortana is ready, willing and waiting to answer your questions wherever you use Windows 10 (rumor has it she’s coming to Android). There’s Skype for Business for enterprise-grade messaging meeting, sharing and collaborating from within Office. There’s Delve which predicts what information you’ll need next and then puts it in front of you… and a whole lot more like calendaring app Sunrise and Wunderlist.
While these tools, no doubt, lend themselves to leaps in personal/workplace productivity, last week we got a glimpse of something that could change the game: PowerApps.
From an oversimplified point of view, PowerApps puts software development-like tools into the hands of workers so that they can build the apps they need to get their jobs done. No training, no coding required. It’s supposed to be as simple as creating a PowerPoint.
To be more specific, PowerApps uses visual tooling with which any power office user can create screens, customize layouts and themes and bind data and controls. Data connectivity is simple with no IT intervention required. All you have to do is to use your account credentials to any SaaS and you can instantly connect, create and edit data. And when it comes to sharing apps, type the email of the person or group you want to give access to your app and it is instantly available to them.
Users who tried PowerApps thus far have reportedly built things like a recruiting app for an internal team and a mobile app for banking employees that connects to their CRM data.
While it could be that some startup or other vendor has tried to offer similar capabilities before, chances are good that the tool (or even a working app) would have been booted out of the Enterprise as soon as it was discovered. After all, what Enterprise IT Manager is going to be happy about unauthorized or unsanctioned access to API’s and Connectors to services such as Office 365, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, Dropbox and OneDrive and on-premises systems including SharePoint, SQL Server, Oracle databases and SAP?
Microsoft’s support of a tool, practically, makes that problem go away. Its magic is not only in its understanding of the Enterprise but also in that the Enterprise trusts it, as a vendor.
So when a guy in Inventory Control goes to use PowerApp, chances are good that he won’t be treated like a guy who read “Java for Dummies” over the weekend and is now destined to make a mess.
There’s also something else that could be absolutely game-changing for IT Managers in the PowerApps announcement— with PowerApps IT can bring a hot, and much needed, technology into the Enterprise before workers go rogue and find something for themselves out of desperation.
In other words, this is Microsoft’s moment to take the lead.