Thumbnail What I learned at the ESPC conference in Copenhagen

What I learned at the ESPC conference in Copenhagen

Last week I was at the ESPC in Copenhagen, the European SharePoint, Office 365 & Azure Conference, the first in person conference I’ve got to be at since time immemorial, or so it seems. It has been more than two years and I was overjoyed to be back and be able to meet a lot of people I’ve actually only met online. Among them a part of the team of maintainers of the CLI for Microsoft 365! As I’ve been working with them remote and async for quite a while, it was great to finally meet them in person. I also learned a lot of new things. This post is about me highlighting some of those things and trying to remind my future self.

Table of Contents

AI

One of the recurring themes that the ESPC covered was the way in which Microsoft is investing in AI capabilities to support users to be more productive. A big part of that is the brand new and shiny Microsoft Syntex product. But Viva Topics and Viva Insights come to mind as well. As more and more organisations are moving to the cloud, the total amount of data stored there has grown significantly. I’m not the only one with customers struggling trying to find what they need. We all advise customers to use metadata as an important aspect of being able to find content later on. But having users fill out forms of metadata can be a challenge. Seeing how Microsoft Syntex is evolving, this might just be what organizations need to make this process easier. Implementing content understanding and enrichment promises to be a great addition that will really make it all easier for the end-user. Add to that Viva Topics with its automatic arranging of content around certain subjects. AI seems to be here to stay and may just be the thing we need to keep in control of a growing volume of data.

Syntex

Data Governance

An area that’s close on the heels of the above is how to manage security and compliance of this enormous store of Data. ESPC featured some great sessions on Microsoft Purview and Microsoft Sentinel by really knowledgeable speakers like Thomas Vochten, Jussi Roine and Chris Thorpe. It gave me a good glimpse into how Microsoft challenges organizations to be more intentional about the protection of their data. There’s enormous ground to cover here, which I’m sure many organizations only start to look at after they’ve been in the cloud for some time. And it’s not an easy topic, but very necessary.

Purview

I believe the above two points will become bigger and bigger for companies like mine. Many customers will not ask for these things themselves, so we should advise them in how to go about it and make sure their data is secure and reachable.

Azure AD cross-tenant access settings for B2B configuration

A very interesting topic that’s related was Bram de Jager speaking on External Collaboration in Microsoft Teams. He highlighted a recently introduced feature in Azure AD External Identities where you can configure relations with other Azure AD tenants. This has some very nice benefits, like being able to accept MFA claims and device compliancy from the home tenant of guest users.

Microsoft 365 Development

Of course a lot has also happened in the Microsoft 365 Development space. Installing SharePoint Framework solutions is gaining an even wider reach. You can now install SPFx apps in SharePoint, Teams, Outlook and the Office portal app. I really like this development from a developer perspective, but I can also see the benefits for our customers. Helping people adopt Microsoft 365 tools is sometimes made harder by the sheer number of available routes to get to your data. It’s an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Allowing us to extend Microsoft 365 and create apps that surface in different places can make it a lot easier to get users to see what’s important to them.

SPFx

Developments like Viva Connections Adaptive Card Extensions (ACE’s) and the Microsoft Graph Toolkit also got ample attention at ESPC. With these tools it becomes much easier to create solutions that reach mobile-first employees (regarding ACE’s) and building simple solutions with recognizable tools and controls. By using the Microsoft Graph toolkit you can build something that works good and looks great at the same time in much less time.

Microsoft Graph Developer Proxy

Another thing that triggered my attention was the announcement of the Microsoft Graph Developer Proxy. This will allow developers like me to simulate different kinds of exceptions to test if our applications can handle them. This ties in with some strong feelings I have on exception handling. As developers it’s so easy to postpone or even forget implementing a good user experience in case of exceptions. The Graph team just made this easier for us.

Sharing is caring / Paying it forward

But the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the keynote by Scott Hanselman on mentoring and sponsorship. Among other things he spoke about sharing information freely. To stop hoarding information, like some people do out of selfish reasons, like status. Scott called this attitude (or it’s followers) the “Technology priesthood”. To truly mentor others within (or even without) our organizations we have jump off our high horses, stop hoarding knowledge, embrace the fact that we’re all amateurs in a way, and start mentoring others by putting them in the spotlight.

It’s about humanizing the tech world. Probably almost everyone has insecurities and/or impostor syndrome. That feeling that someone will notice you actually don’t know what you’re talking about because you ask some stupid question or other. But there are no stupid questions, and it’s time as many as possible of us take it to the next level by actually speaking out, telling our stories about breaking production and so to humanize tech. Asking the stupid questions others might have for them.

I’m happy I don’t need to know everything, nobody does. We all just need to put our best leg forward and contribute what we can. Cause everyone has something unique to bring to the table.

humanize tech

Conclusion

And this was just a sample of all that I learned. Closing this down I can honestly say ESPC22 was a thrilling experience. Meeting people in person again, learning new things and in general being inspired to keep sharing and caring! I’m looking forward to the next one!

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Warm regards,
Martin

Microsoft MVP | Microsoft 365 Architect

Microsoft MVP horizontal