This content is part of the Conference Coverage: Microsoft Inspire 2022 news and conference guide

Microsoft Inspire 2022 points to 'digital imperative'

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella encouraged partners to push beyond digital transformation, while the company's channel executives updated the company's industry push.

Microsoft updated long-running initiatives at the company's annual partner event, revisiting digital transformation, industry-oriented marketing, co-selling and differentiated cloud offerings.

Microsoft Inspire 2022, which runs July 19-20, marks a transitional phase for the company's partner ecosystem. Microsoft appointed a new channel leader, chief partner officer Nicole Dezen, days before the conference. In addition, the company is in the process of inaugurating its revised partner program, which will debut later this year. Some partners have objected to the new program -- dubbed the Microsoft Cloud Partner Program -- and its requirements.

Microsoft mainly focused on overarching technology trends and recurring partner topics at the event, however. Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, kicked off the conference with a different take on digital transformation, which first made the list of the company's fiscal year priorities in 2016.

At his Microsoft Inspire keynote, Nadella urged partners to go beyond "talking about digital transformation to delivering on the digital imperative for every organization."

Satya Nadella, CEO, MicrosoftSatya Nadella

He described that imperative as infusing digital technology into all business processes: "It's what will make the difference between organizations that thrive and those that get left behind."

The digital business race and the struggle between leaders and laggards are nothing new. But recent economic developments such as inflation create greater urgency, Nadella suggested.

Digital technology is a deflationary force in an inflationary economy.
Satya NadellaCEO, Microsoft

"Digital technology is a deflationary force in an inflationary economy," he said. "It's the only way to navigate the headwinds we are confronting today."

Nadella cited the example of a consumer packaged goods manufacturer, which he did not identify, that deployed technology to boost throughput and avoid raising prices.

Industry focus continues

Vertical marketing is another conference theme and a continuation of a trend going back to at least 2017, when Microsoft said it would reorganize along industry lines. That focus has since shifted to Microsoft's industry cloud lineup, which covers the retail, healthcare, manufacturing, financial services and nonprofit sectors. The company also offers a sustainability cloud.

At Microsoft Inspire, Nick Parker, corporate vice president of global partner solutions at the company, called out industry clouds as a center for partner activity. Industry clouds let partners create "deeper industry-specific solutions" that integrate into Microsoft Cloud, a platform that includes Azure, Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and GitHub.

Microsoft works with its systems integrator and independent software vendor partners to create industry-specific offerings, he added. Partners point to industry clouds as a growth opportunity and a vehicle for digital transformation.

Microsoft Cloud, partner differentiation

Dezen, meanwhile, highlighted a few areas she plans to focus on during Microsoft's 2023 fiscal year, which began July 1. For one, she pointed to Microsoft Cloud as a way for partners to provide innovation and support customers' digital transformation efforts.

She also cited partners' ability to rapidly scale their marketing efforts through the company's 35,000-plus global sellers and online marketplace. Microsoft in recent years has been promoting co-selling to more closely align its salespeople with the partner ecosystem.

Also top of mind for Dezen: partners using Microsoft technology as a foundation for creating differentiated offerings for customers. Partners -- cloud consultancies in particular -- have been building their own intellectual property on public clouds to stand out from rivals.

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