OTSE2 – Microsoft Inspire, Partner Ecosystem, AI, Bots, and Teams, with Dux Raymond Sy

Recorded Saturday July 18, 2017. Hosts Jay Leask and Craig Jahnke provide a bit more detail about themselves and kick off our show with guest Dux Raymond Sy, Chief Marketing Officer and Public Sector CTO of AvePoint, Inc.

On the SPOT Episode 2 is here! #spotpodE2 <– join in the conversation

In today’s episode we cover:

  • News (starting at 2:30)
  • Interview with Dux Raymond (starting at 17:10)
  • Coming Next Episode – What to use within Office 365(starting at 47:35)

News (2:30)

Interview with Dux Raymond Sy (17:10)

The below questions paraphrase Jay and Craig’s side of the conversation with Dux, the answers are his own words.

You’re a very inspiring speaker, you bring a big personality and high energy to the room. How do you do it?

I’ve been in this business over 20 years now, and I feel like we need some energy and we need some vibrance in the tech ecosystem, so why not? The way I look at it is we’re in an exciting field, so going up on stage, dancing, singing, shouldn’t be out of the ordinary. The way I think about it is edutainment, the way I think about it is how I learn. If I’m engaged I will learn, although I realize that one cannot overdue it, because if you overdue it it will be cheesy or you’ll loose your credibility, so it’s a fine line. The more I’m engaged, the more I learn, and it sticks.

You donated an opportunity to meet you as a raffle prize for donation to the Philippines Hurricane Relief, what inspired you to donate yourself as a prize?

I’m a firm believer in giving back in as many different ways we can. For the longest time, if there is any major calamity I pretty much do a virtual fundraising. First of all, I would connect with companies, communities, or people who would be willing to donate their time, prize money, or anything, as a raffle. Then I would call out to the rest of the community and say “Hey, go donate to Red Cross, or whatever charity you want, show me proof, and I’ll put you in the raffle” and I think Jerrod won the raffle where I donated my own time as the prize, that’s how I met Jerrod (editors note: thanks for listening, and telling us about it, Jerrod). It’s just something little that I do, and every opportunity to provide some help to the rest of the world, I do it.

Can you tell us about your trip to Uganda and #TechForGood?

I was very fortunate to be involved in a charity work we do through our church where we support an orphanage in Uganda, which is also a boarding school; and last year they asked for help to jump start a tech program for graduating seniors there, so I got involved. We raised some funds and also some visibility into it. Companies donated software, Pluralsight, LLC donated training. I went there, we setup a computer lab, we did a boot camp on techonlogies. It was great. As a result it gained some visibility through the tech community, through Microsoft, but also through AvePoint. As a result of that AvePoint stood up, formally, our philanthropic arm, where we focus on three things: Technology, Education, and the Local Community. The work I did in Uganda is part of the Education initiative we do through AvePoint. Also, we give away free software for non-profits through TechSoup, and then each of our offices support local charities from around the world. It’s a great effort, and as I said, if we have the opportunity to do that, I believe all of us should be taking care of one another.

Can you tell us what #ShiftHappens means to you?

The way I think about it, we’re in this very exciting and transformative time, where if you look at the world and how technologies evolving, I say every company now is a technology company. I would also argue, that everyone in an organization is a technologist. If you don’t want to admit to that or are still denying that fact, than it’s a problem. For me, when I think about the Shift that we’re going through, be it in technology or business, we should be open to it.

For example, in the technology we use is in a shift from on premises to the cloud. Three, four years ago, people said that was a fad, that it wasn’t going to happen; but it’s happening, it’s juts a matter of when. The shift, around business, where you look at the top companies today from Airbnb to Uber to Facebook – all these tech companies – I mean who would have thought five years ago these companies would overtake the traditional organizations like [General Motors] or Time Warner. That’s a big shift we’re seeing.

The other big shift we’re seeing is around the democratization of technology where because of the cloud, because of the web, now the barrier to entry is so low that it provides opportunities to every single person. It’s that shift from back in the days where you need a five year college degree and a diploma to get into that ecosystem — those days are gone. The way I think about the shift happening is that it is happening so fast, if we’re not on board we’re going to be left behind, and we should be open to it. That’s the kind of shift I’m excited about, especially those of us in the tech industry.

Tell us about your experience at Microsoft’s partner conference, Microsoft Inspire.

This is my eighth World Wide Partner Conference, which has been rebranded as Inspire, and I think this is the biggest shift for Microsoft, not only for partners but as an organization. And boy is it going to be a great time to be a Microsoft partner. At the end of the week, the theme was that Microsoft is not only going to be a Partner-led company, but it’s going to be a Partner-First company. So now their focus on partners is much stronger from all aspects of Microsoft: from engineering, to sales, to marketing. It was an exciting event. Talk about shift, it’s going to be a big big shift for Microsoft.

What were some of your key takeaways from the conference?

There’s really three big learnings I walked away with:

1. Microsoft’s Focus on Partners

Because of the cloud, [Microsoft realizes] they need this partner ecosystem to be working with them closely. One statistic they brought up is that with the growth of the cloud and edge devices, Satya [Nadella, Microsoft CEO] was pushing this concept of intelligent cloud and intelligent edge, which is a 4.5 trillian dollar opportunity. That’s a lot of money, or a lot of opporutnity, for partners.

One of the biggest changes, shift if you may, is the idea that partners should really be side-by-side with Microsoft. Number 1, when they build technologies, they want to build with partners. Back in the days, Microsoft would build a software, the developers would go at it, the engineers would go at it, and then when they push it out there for partners to figure out and sell. What [Microsoft is now] saying is “we want some top partners that we will work with, that we will share the road map with, that we will get feedback and build technologies with.” That’s a big change.

The second big change is they want to go to market with partners more. It’s not just a one-off event, or webinars, or brochures, but they really want to put together a holistic go-to-market program on how to market not only Microsoft technologies but partner technologies as well.

Last but not least, is they want to sell with partners. What they mean by that is essentially, obviously, partners that build technologies on top of the Microsoft stack, but what they’re talking about is their people, their sales team, would not only sell Microsoft solutions, but would also sell partner solutions as well. That’s really exciting and opens up a lot of opportunity for partners as well.

The focus on partners is much stronger and much bigger.

2. Microsoft is streamlining how they look at their technology stack

Technologies [have traditionally been] broken into things like Office 365, Dynamics 365, Azure, Windows devices, but Microsoft wants to reposition and simplify it into four core pillars:

  1. First, it’s what they call the Modern Workplace. When you think about modern workplace it’s the day to day activities, day to day work, which includes Office 365, Windows, EMS, anything that has to do with productivity. As a part of Modern Workplace they launched Microsoft 365, which is essentially a bundling of Windows, Office 365, and EMS.
  2. The second pillar is business applications; think Dynamics 365, App Source, any business solution.
  3. The third pillar is data and [Artificial Intelligence]. This would be looking at advanced workloads that azure provides; things like cognitive services, machine learning, big data, Cortana intelligence suite. Anything that revolves around data and AI would fall under that third pillar.
  4. the fourth pillar is infrastructure and devices; any of their hardware or infrastructure investment falls under that pillar.

You will start seeing Microsoft messaging streamlined into those four pillars instead of simply product specific. At the end of the day, the way we work, the way we will see those products is based on those four pillars that they limited it to.

3. Industry solutions, from a selling perspective

Microsoft already had that, but their sales organization, their account management, will have teams focus on industry solutions. When we talk about industry solutions this is government, education, financial services, health care, retail, and their selling team will be focused on those industries, versus having a selling team sell Office 365 or SharePoint.

Where do you see AvePoint fitting into that?

AvePoint, as a company, I see fitting into all those major buckets. Number one, the exciting part is we have our technoloies already transitioned into the cloud. What that means, it further accelerates our technology to thse different areas. Our technologies which help our customers migrate, manage, and protect and accelerate their investments in the Microsoft Cloud, certain falls into the Modern Workplace pillar, falls under the Business Applications pillar, and even the Data and AI.

From an industry specific, as you may already know, we do a lot in public sector, we do a lot in financial services, education, healthcare, and I think the most exciting part is the first part I talked about, that they are focusing more on partners. The one commercial partner organization means that we’re going to work closer with Microsoft with engineering and also selling.

How was meeting Carrie Underwood?

Carrie Underwood is a sweetheart. As much as I’d love to say that I got to hang out with her and her crew for the whole night, it didn’t work out that way. But in the brief interaction we had, she’s very sweet, very low-key, and as you know, she’s a great singer. It was a great opportunity to have met her.

What was your favorite subject to talk about at Inspire?

Editors note: Dux was a speaker at Inspire on various subjects including:

  • Working with Government Business Decision Makers
  • Business Growth for IoT
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • CityNext for Urban Innovation

I’m greatful that I had various opportunities to speak in a quite diverse set of sessions. My favorite session that I did was a session I did with one of our partners, H3 Solutions, a session about AI. Essentially, our session was about how Microsoft partners can grow their business with Microsoft AI. So we talked about what we’re doing with AI as a company and we talked about how a partner, H3, extended our technologies to work with AI as well. If you’re not familiar, go to Microsoft.com/AI, Microsoft AI is a suite of technologies that encompasses bots, machine learning, cognitive services, etc. We talked about how we integrated it into our solutions, how it sets us apart as a partner, and H3 demoed what they did with bots and Teams and integrated it with our AvePoint Online Services. It was a fun session, there were a lot of partners intrested and excited to learn about this. That was a really good session because, as we all know, AI is the future.

@BinaryBrewery, Dan Usher, asks about what you’re most excited about with Teams, bots, and productivity capabilities

For the longest time the biggest complaint that we hear from folks is “that’s too much technology”; email, SharePoint, OneDrive, this, that and the other – that’s why people revert back to email. I think what Teams has done, I love Teams, I use Teams all the time, it’s my new Outlook, if you may. The fact that Teams has the capability to connect to other platforms using bots is a game changer. For example, the demo our partner did at Inspire, they essentially created a bot that connected to our technology called AvePoint Governance Online, a part of our AvePoint Online Services.

Essentially, Governance Online allows folks to enforce governance policies across SharePoint, Groups, etc. Literally, the demo in Teams uses a phone in teams and allows you to say “hey, can you create a site for me”. Through the bot, the Teams interface, it checked that user’s permissions, it contacted AvePoint Online Services and Governance Online, and based on that policy responded back with “what kind of site do you want” — so Teams became the interface. There’s the potential that in the future the user won’t have to worry about where to go to create a site — all that can be surfaced through Teams, and that’s just a very simple example.

Teams provide a chat-based work space, documents and sharing, a lot of the common and basic work loads, but what’s exciting to me is the bot integration and being able to tap into other line of business systems through that single interface.

If you think about end-users: if you can have natural language as a part of the way to interact with a single interface, that changes the game.

What appeals to you at that C-Suite level?

One of the issues and challenges that a lot of c-level face is that they put a lot of investment in these technologies but their’s no adoption. Second is that while all these issues are there, the biggest challenge and issue today is in the area of data breaches and violations. So by having these technologies, bots and AI, I can confidently say that these make it easy for users to do the right thing.

For example, we all know this with SharePoint: we plead and beg and tell people to use SharePoint appropriately and it’s never done. Why? To us, it’s easy; but to the users it is unnatural, it’s too hard, “I gotta go to the browser”. But what if technologies like bots or, for example as a part of Microsoft AI they have a product called LUIS [Language Understanding Intelligent Service], where we lower the barrier to entry, make it easy for users to do the right thing. [End-users] don’t have to remember the policies, they don’t have to remember where they need to go. In this case they can go to Teams; and who knows, you may be able to integrate bots with Skype or Outlook, just the common tools people use day-in, day-out. But then the bots, the AI, take care of making sure they remember all the policies, making sure people are doing the right thing. I think that alone would be a great value prop to a lot of c-level decision makers.

Even with AI, this is so new, a lot of people just don’t know what they don’t know. This is the part where [partners] could be that trusted advisor, where we could propose a solution like this and say “we know investing in a specific technology take a lot of resources, but what if the technology can not only, again, drive better adoption, but can ensure that policies are better enforced in an easy way.” I think that alone is a huge value proposition.

Can you talk about how you built your brand and reputation as such a well-known, well-respected influencer?

People ask me “how did you get started” – I would tell everybody that as long as you enjoy and are passionate about what you are doing, the community will take notice. In all transparency, when I started my career in the mid-90s, and when I started my business back then, imagine being a one/two person shop: you don’t have an unlimited budget for sales. It’s tough, when it comes to being able to get work and get that paycheck to take care of your family; you have to be creative in how to get out there.

I had the good opportunity to author a book, SharePoint for Project Management, and that kind of became my springboard. When I wrote that book, I hvae to thank O’Rielly Media, they started to talk to me about this concept of thought leadership marketing. At this time, it wasn’t as big, so they said “start writing blogs about the topic you’re passionate about, your expertise” and also “people want to buy, they don’t want to be sold to”. At the time, people who I looked up to were authors or techies who share a lot of great technical information; so I started doing that. Twitter was relatively new, so I signed up with Twitter, it was free, it’s still free, and the premise I always stuck to was that it’s not about tooting my own horn, but it’s about adding value and promoting others.

As a result, the other big thing that I think allowed me to gain more exposure is how I set myself apart. Jay mentioned earlier about me dancing and being crazy and singing, all of that is very calculated. When I was working in small business I realized this was a big industry. I wrote a book, I was writing blogs, but I still needed to take it to the next level – how can I be different than everybody else speaking at a conference? How can I be memorable. From the glasses that I wear to my outfit, the way I speak, the way I sing or dance, all of that is part of the package; hence the good or bad, the visibility. Through the years I kept at it; fast forward to today, I’m grateful and very privileged to be quite active in the community.

Do you have any Dux Quacks or other videos coming up soon?

We’re looking forward to Ignite. This is kind of a teaser for everyone listening: we’re going to do a lot for Ignite. It’s not just me, we’re going to pull all the punches here, have a lot of great multi-media learning experiences in all the channels, so stay tuned.

Lightening Round (44:00)

These one-word answers were provided in a quick back-and forth, minimal context lightening round to end the interview:

  1. Favorite super hero?
    Iron Man
  2. With Ignite in Orlando this year: Harry Potter World @ Universal Studios, Star Wars @ Disney Hollywood, or Pandora @ Disney’s Animal Kingdom?
    Star Wars
  3. What’s your favorite dead technology?
    Windows Phone
  4. You’re into podcasts – what are you currently listening to?
    Andy Stanley Leardership Podcast
    Microsoft’s .Future Podcast
    Radical Candor
  5. What song do you have to dance or nod your head to?
  6. Brontosaurus or Triceratops?

Dux Raymond Sy | AvePoint, Inc | @meetDux

Coming Next Episode (47:35)

SharePoint Saturday New York – July 29th – D’arce Hess and John Peluso of AvePoint, along with 61 other SharePoint experts will be there talking about everything from IT Pro to Business Solutions using SharePoint and Office 365!

Dinosaur Fact of the Day: Some dinosaur had tails over 45 feet long that helped them keep their balance while running.

Next week, On the SPOT will be tackling Office 365 and the perennial task of figuring out what technology to use for what tasks … we look forward to talking with you about it!

Good night, and good luck!

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