How To: Move Small Business Server to Microsoft Azure

Remember 2010? In technology terms, 2010 was a century ago. Yet, plenty of small businesses around the world still run applications and servers from that era today. Microsoft’s Small Business Server 2011 is just one example. 2010 also marks an important milestone in the development of the modern “cloud” we use today as it’s the year Microsoft launched Windows Azure and Office 365.

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Surviving Digital Transformation

I’ve been talking about Digital Transformation for a while now, and recently I had an epiphany:

There’s nothing new about the idea of transformation. Businesses have been evolving and responding to change since they first appeared. That we refer to the current period of evolution and disruption as “digital” points only to the fact that Information Technology (for example, machine learning, the Internet of Things, big data, etc.) is the enabler and accelerator for business changes instead of steam power, electricity, the combustion engine or even the printing press. Some think of this as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Yet, the question of how to navigate and survive this period of transformation still looms large in the minds of business leaders, technologists and digital transformation peddlers alike. Certainly, there’s no quick answer.

Change of mindset

Your customers are transforming without YOU

Instead of seeing transformation obstacles and inhibitors and trying to find ways around them, I prefer to view this as a period of huge opportunity. The chance for everyone to innovate, differentiate and survive into the future by creating and adding more value to customers and employees.

Of course, not everyone can survive and it’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the biggest, most successful, businesses around today will not be here in a decade thanks to their inability to innovate or differentiate from the smaller, more agile competition. Small businesses now have global reach and are unencumbered by the weight of a large corporate structure holding them back from trying new things, from surviving.

No matter how you decide to view this period if you do nothing then keep in mind: your customers are transforming without YOU.

The democratisation of tools

There’s a close link between digital transformation and cloud, and many could be forgiven for thinking that they’re one and the same. A clear and well-defined cloud strategy is crucial to any digital transformation plan, but it’s about more than simply shifting traditional IT into someone else’s data centre and saving money.

In the last 18 months, many technologies that were previously out of the reach of many businesses due to cost or lack of skills have not only become available but they’re cheap, easy to use and often overlooked. By taking technology such as machine learning and creating simple but powerful “off the shelf” services such as the Cognitive Services APIs that Microsoft offers, even the least technical person in a company can start to build powerful applications that can make a real difference to a business. It’s these newer platform services, connected to the existing data that businesses are sitting on, that can help a business evolve to thrive in a mobile first, cloud first world.

Betting on tomorrow’s world

We all need to start somewhere. Building bots and developing complex machine learning algorithms to enhance your services takes time. For many small businesses, the barrier for entry may seem too high – but it won’t for long. Whilst you may not have the completeness of vision to know exactly what you need to do today, there are some quick projects you can undertake that will fuel your ambitions:

Digital transformation doesn’t have to be expensive, difficult or scary. After having a go at trying some new ideas, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about how you’re approaching things.

How To: Build a Q&A chat bot with zero code in less than an hour!

It’s just gone 5:00am where I am in Seattle, WA. I fly home later tonight after soaking up a week with thousands of other members of Microsoft’s technical community at an internal event called TechReady. Needless to say, the content shared is highly confidential but is motivating, inspirational and truly awesome. It’s as a result of this shot of technical excitement that I decided to build a Q&A chat bot. What’s even better? I did it in less than an hour with zero code and so can you! Read on to find out how…

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Productivity Future Visions

At the end of my digital transformation presentation, I usually play a short version of the Microsoft Productivity Future Vision video as a glimpse into some of the technology scenarios we might see in the future. I often recommend people go back and watch previous versions to see just how many experiences are now possible with Microsoft technology. This post pulls together some of those visions of the future spanning 18 years of future-gazing.

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How To: Use Microsoft Power BI to supercharge your Xero company data

In this post, we’ll explore how you can use Microsoft Power BI to supercharge your Xero company data, helping you to keep your business in good shape if you’re a business owner, and how to maximise the value of the relationship with your clients if you’re a Xero partner.

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Jensen Harris Tells The Story of Windows 8 at UX Week 2012

It might not surprise you to know that in my line of work I meet a lot of customers who are ready to give me their opinion about Microsoft, its products like Windows 8 and Office 365, and vision. It isn’t always positive, but negative feedback is just as important.

I’m really privileged in being able to work with so many talented and passionate people. I listen to the way they talk about what they do and I wish that I could condense that passion and sincerity down into a 2 minute conversation that I could have with people I meet.

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