Microsoft Tech Summit: The trainer's view

Last week I joined nearly 2000 ‘Devs and Techies’ at the NEC in Birmingham for the UK rendition of Microsoft’s Tech Summit. This was an opportunity for me to learn more about Microsoft’s enterprise solutions and catch up with likeminded people from around the country.

Keynoting the event was Cindy Rose, the UK CEO of Microsoft and Area Vice President. Kicking off the Tech Summit, she mentioned that there was no more appropriate a place to talk about a 4th industrial revolution than in the UK in Birmingham – a city of innovation.

Welcoming in this new industrial revolution is technology such as cloud computing, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s Microsoft’s hope that it’ll become not just a participant, but a leader in moving these technologies forward so that everyone will be able to take advantage of the promises and opportunities that they offer. We know this due to a survey Microsoft recently conducted with technical and IT leaders about the current state of cloud skills in the UK.

Cindy continued by giving details on the skills gap, stating that more than 80% of the technical leaders that were surveyed believe that cloud skills are vital to the success of their digital transformation strategies. Unfortunately, more than a third are struggling to find people with the right cloud skills to fill key roles, blocking this transformation effort. There is going to be a huge challenge in skilling up thousands of people to meet this demand. With added uncertainty with regards to future immigration laws, we can’t rely on attracting talent from overseas.

Due to these difficulties, over half of businesses have said that they would use external partners to provide the cloud skills necessary to drive their businesses forward. Further, just over 60% of businesses said that their chosen partner must have relevant cloud certification; about half of which stated they would be prepared to pay more for those services.

This is where I come in. As TSG’s in-house Technical Trainer how can I ensure that our technical colleagues have these correct skills and that we as a business hold the required certifications?

Being closely involved in the recruitment process, I would agree that the skillset of candidates confirm the findings from Microsoft’s survey and very few prospective employees already possess these required skills.

Fortunately, when I took up the Technical Trainer role just over two years ago, we identified this skills gap. In fact, the very first course I delivered was on Office 365. Since then, just over half of our technical teams have had some form of Office 365 training, but where next?

Well, back to the Tech Summit.

Security in a cloud-first, mobile-first world calls for a new approach. Data is accessed, used, and shared on-premises and in the cloud, erasing the traditional security boundaries. So how can organisations achieve the balance of security and end-user empowerment, with effective security controls across identity, device, data, apps, and infrastructure?

Azure Active Directory, with its advanced features, allows you to control how your data is viewed, who can view it and what they can then do with it.

Microsoft statistics show that approximately 70% of security breaches are related to compromised credentials. The new analytics will watch out for irregular login patterns and protect the accounts accordingly. For example, if a user logs in at 9am in London and 9:15am in Hong Kong it knows that the travel time would be impossible and takes action against the account. Another scenario is that if a user who normally reads a few documents a week suddenly starts deleting hundreds of other documents, action can be taken to suspend the account automatically.

With Microsoft Office 365, Groups and Teams data can be used collaboratively both inside and outside the business in real time; the first time you see colleagues editing data in your spreadsheet with your totals updating before your eyes is a joy to behold. But what if the same person decided to email that spreadsheet to one of your competitors? Microsoft’s data protection features can stop this spreadsheet being copied, emailed, or printed.

What does this mean for our training at TSG? Well, we’ll certainly be pushing the teams to get towards a full complement of skilled engineers. For myself, I’ll be preparing some more course development to make sure I take the skills learned at Tech Summit and pass them on to as many of our teams as I can.

Have you noticed the effects of the cloud skills gap? What are your thoughts on cloud security? If you attended the Tech Summit event, let us know what you found most interesting!