Microsoft Inspire, Microsoft’s annual flagship partner event, is always a great way to see the latest technology in action.

Microsoft Inspire brings with it an insight into many visions of the future and how these ideas will become reality. This year Microsoft Inspire showcased just how many of these advancements are already at play today.

Over the two-day event there were conversations around the pandemic, how it accelerated the uptake of technology, and the challenges small and enterprise-sized organisations face such as supply disruption and employee health and wellbeing. Despite the humbling discussions that recognised the human toll of the pandemic and why remote work has become normal, there was a real sense of optimism about the future.


“Technology has been a good servant to us through the pandemic and will continue after.”

Judson Althoff, EVP and Chief Commercial Officer, Microsoft


Digital optimism

A common theme throughout Inspire 2021 was how, consciously or not, we have all been gearing up for such an event like Covid-19 for years. Remote working and tools for collaboration have been in place long before the pandemic and mobility has been a buzzword in IT for a very long time.

A fascinating session was Digital Optimism hosted by Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, Judson Althoff. Throughout the session Judson invited some of Microsoft’s valued customers to share with the audience how they had leveraged elements of the Microsoft stack to enable throughout 2020/21.

During this session Ford Motor Company’s Global Design Director, Jennifer Kolstad, participated in a virtual meeting with members from Microsoft’s Immersive Experience team. The meeting was conducted using HoloLens 2, part of Microsoft’s mixed reality range for Dynamics 365. The participants went on to sit at the same virtual desk and pulled up, highlighted, and edited documents together as if they were looking at a physical piece of paper.



Could this be the future for collaborative working? Is physically working side by side a thing of the past? Perhaps, but I believe a hybrid approach is more likely and Microsoft firmly believes mixed reality must be a part of that conversation.

Empowering with technology

Another theme of Inspire 2021 was the problems organisations are facing coming out of the pandemic. These problems are multiplied for small businesses. In Judson Althoff’s keynote, he dived into some of the work AB InBev, a multinational drink and brewing company, has done for small business owners in Latin America. Pre-pandemic, 80% of small businesses in the region were failing just a few years into trading.

Empowered by Microsoft Technology, AB InBev created a digital marketplace for the food and beverage industry which allows shop and restaurant owners to digitally purchase stock at the lowest possible price, removing the need to deal with multiple sales reps. Using the Microsoft cloud, shop owners can use algorithms to detect which products need to be ordered and AI recommends a sales price to remain competitive and maximise sales. At just over 5 minutes, the session is worth catching up on.

Future-proofing the supply chain

“While no supply chain is 100% resilient, it’s true that digital supply chains or those fortified with digital capability are more resilient than those that are not.” Judson Althoff, Microsoft.

Another interesting discussion at Inspire 2021 was the use of Microsoft’s Azure Cloud technology in supporting FedEx’s supply chain of the Covid-19 vaccine and patient test samples. Supply chains were under immense pressure during the pandemic. For FedEx this intensified when it came to vaccine and patient test sample transportation, as patient test samples must reach laboratories within strict time limits and vaccines cannot exceed certain temperatures.

With a combination of sensors and FedEx Surround, the first solution resulting from the FedEx and Microsoft collaboration, FedEx can ensure patient test samples and vaccines arrive safely and on time. AI is used to analyze current and future weather patterns to predict when transportation routes need to be altered to meet timescales.

In summary, had we not been forced to change the way we work so dramatically over the last year, it would have been easy to overlook many of the features showcased at Inspire as gimmicks. The last year provided real examples of these technologies in play.

Personal highlight

A key Inspire 2021 highlight for us all at Incremental this year was the announcement that for the third consecutive year we achieved the prestigious Microsoft Business Applications 2021/2022 Inner Circle award, reaffirming our place in the elite group of top-tier partners across the globe.

As a Microsoft gold partner, the highly experienced team at Incremental is here to help organisations embrace the future and advance their digital transformations. Please get in touch to arrange a conversation.