As soon as national lockdowns began to limit the spread of Covid-19 it was clear that the world would never be the same again, and last week’s Microsoft Build conference has highlighted what some of those changes will be, starting with the event itself being fully virtual for the first time.

Remote working set to increase longer-term

While remote working was becoming increasingly popular in the run-up to the Covid-19 crisis, few organizations were well equipped to accommodate this. In the past two months, however, just about every organization has had to find a way of enabling employees to work remotely and everyone has adapted.

Fortunately, Microsoft and other software makers have responded with more tools and support for secure remote working than ever before. As a result, remote working or home working will increase several-fold and become far more common than it was in the past as employees and businesses count the cost and time savings and other benefits.

For more on working from home during the pandemic crisis, see the blog post by me and my colleagues John Tolbert, Matthias Reinwarth, and Alexei Balaganski

Cloud first strategy to become common

The only way many organizations have been able to continue business in the face of restrictions imposed by national lockdowns is to embrace cloud-based services, often way ahead of schedule and without any trial period.

Covid-19 has become the unexpected catalyst for rapid cloud adoption, which has in turn proved the value proposition for many organizations that have been sitting on the fence. Covid-19 has forced the hand of conservative organizations unwilling to make the leap. But now that they have, the value proposition is clear, and these organizations are highly likely to pursue a “cloud first” strategy in future without bothering with lengthy proof of concept trials.

The pandemic crisis has shown the power and agility of the cloud, according to Rajesh Jha, executive vice president, experiences and devices at Microsoft. Similarly, it has shown organizations how to enable business processes in a new world and new ways of doing things.

For a discussion on the benefits of Identity and Access Management delivered from the cloud, please see this video by KuppingerCole principal analyst, Martin Kuppinger.

Spotlight on innovation

According to Microsoft, another significant effect of the pandemic crisis has been an increase in requests from organizations for help in becoming digital organizations and thereby more resilient.

In the face the crisis, there has been demand for rapid innovation, according to Julia White, corporate vice president, Azure at Microsoft, with a huge increase in uptake of Microsoft’s low code Power Platform aimed at enabling rapid development.

In a post Covid-19 world, organizations are expected to become more “tech-intensive” and pursue innovation through adoption of a wide range of development tools, including low code development tools, as well as adopting cloud services and open-source code.

All this means that the need for developers has never been greater because they play a critical role in driving innovation. “There are lots of [legacy] systems that need to be modified, so innovation is going to be extremely important,” said White. Although Microsoft already provides support for organizations seeking to modernize their applications, Microsoft expects to see an uptick in demand for these services.

Upskilling to become a key focus

The drive toward digital transformation, the need for innovation and greater use of the cloud means organizations need to become more focussed on upskilling their workforce to keep up with the rapid pace of change in business and supporting technology.

For its part, Microsoft is continually adding modules to the Microsoft Learn platform to acquire, update and certify Microsoft skills, with a reported 25% increase in active users since the start of the pandemic crisis.

A new way of doing business

Taken together, it is easy to see how the forced adaptation to enabling business under lockdown will have lasting effects on the way organizations operate in future and how their employees work and collaborate to get more done at a faster rate than ever before.

For a discussion on the topic of collaboration, please see a discussion by some of my colleagues on the five golden rules of virtual collaboration and the measures necessary for securing online communication platforms.

In retrospect, Covid-19 will not only be remembered as the catastrophe that resulted in the tragic loss of life, but also as the catalyst for rapid cloud adoption and accelerated innovation that enabled a new way of working and doing business, and there will be no going back.

For more about coping with the pandemic crisis and cloud adoption, see our research and our KuppingerCole MasterClass on Business Resilience Management in a Pandemic Crisis. For actionable guidance, our team of advisors can assist you in developing tactics and strategies.

Virtual events will become more common

Like KuppingerCole and all other organizations that have hosted live events in the past, Microsoft has had to “re-imagine” Microsoft Build, but indications are that virtual events are likely to become more common in a post-pandemic world.

Covid-19 has been the catalyst for developing ways of presenting events virtually, and now that ways have been found to do so technically and proven to be so successful, all that remains is to refine ways of making virtual events as interactive, social, personal and intimate as live events.

As a result, the first-ever virtual Microsoft Build has attracted more developers and analysts than ever before to become truly global 25 times more registrations compared with previous years. Clearly, the personal connections of live events are missing and all the chance encounters you can have.

KuppingerCole also believes there might be fewer physical events in future, but that key events such as the KuppingerCole European Identity Conference, especially where networking is essential, will remain physical or become hybrid. We also expect there will be post-pandemic demand for face-to-face meetings – some things can’t be replaced by going completely virtual. On the other hand, we are continually adding new virtual formats, beyond webinars, such as our own Virtual Conferences and Master Class online training, delivering tailored content and formats for everyone.

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