Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lean in to the changes NOW!

I came across this video from Brad Anderson’s lunch break. In it he speaks with tech journalist Paul Thurrott. Now I am a big fan of Paul’s dry wit but also the volume of content that he produces in the Microsoft space. However, what interested me most about this interview is what you’ll find at 3 minutes and 20 seconds in. Either fast forward the above clip or click this link to go straight to that location:

https://youtu.be/Uq8LnosaxVI?t=3m20s

The advice Paul gives the IT Pro crowd is effectively that the reality is this industry is all about change and you need to keep up.

This resonated with a lot of current thinking I’ve been doing around the changes products like Microsoft Teams bring to the game. You can read about how I think products like Microsoft Teams are fundamentally changing the way people work with IT here:

The modern way of collaboration using Microsoft Teams

What concerns me is that I see customers almost immediately ‘get’ Microsoft Teams, whereas IT Pros don’t. Microsoft Teams is simply a combination of existing services from Office 365 which I outlined here:

Understanding Office 365 Groups and Teams

I find that most IT Pros either don’t know what Microsoft Teams is or they dismiss it as being merely a Slack competitor. I can only surmise that this attitude is actually rooted in the fact that most don’t have the expertise or knowledge of the base Office 365 services that Microsoft Teams in built on, such as SharePoint.

As harsh as it sounds, I firmly believe that Microsoft Teams will become in the line in the sand for those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t in the IT Pro world. This effectively means that if you don’t at least know what products like Microsoft Teams are all about then your chances of staying relevant in the new world of IT are slim.

The concept of staying current is something I’ve talked a lot about here, including:

Skill up or fade away

Why IT today is like coffee

but the article I think that crystalises it best is:

The traits of a “modern” IT professional

One of the key points in that article is a need to develop a long term learning process. But how can that be done in a world where it is so challenging to keep up? Agreed. 100%. But you know what? That challenge is never going to get easier. That challenge is always going to require work. That challenge can only be solved by implementing a system to deal with it. Simply ignoring it or complaining about it and taking no action doesn’t make it magically disappear!

I have also spoken about the

Major trends

that many haven’t also yet acknowledged. Traditional IT Pros need to be especially cognisant of the changes automation and AI are going to bring not only to business in general but also to the IT field.

My advice for some great places to start learning the Microsoft Cloud stuff for free is YouTube and the Microsoft Virtual Academy. However, I’d also point you to the recorded sessions from Microsoft Ignite 2016 as well the sessions from Microsoft Build 2017. If you wanted something with a more Australian accent try the sessions from the recent Microsoft Australia Ignite conference. All of these are available for free.

Ok, yes, I hear you. That is a lot of content. Probably more content than anyone can get through in a single lifetime. Your are llokingat this with a close mind set. The fact that there is so much free content is great! The challenge is integrating that into your own learning path. That is something you alone are going to have to do. No one is going to do it for you for free unfortunately. Where do you start?

Instead of looking at the mountain of content (the destination) just look at one thing you’d like to learn (i.e. the steps). Focus on the first step. Then the second and so on. You need to take an approach that isn’t attempting to ‘boil the ocean’ here. I’ve spoken about this here:

Don’t run away, filter for value

A great method of learning that I’d advocate is to scratch your own itch by solving your own business needs with the technology. That is in fact how I initial got into Azure and I detailed that experience here:

I finally get Microsoft Azure

and here using Microsoft Flow:

Using Microsoft Flow for event confirmations

Most IT Pros have access to services like Azure and Office 365 by virtue of being Microsoft Partners. At worse, you can at least sign up for free trials. Try starting with learning about virtual machines in Azure or maybe Power BI, but don’t do it randomly. Have a system.

A great system I can recommend is to use something like OneNote to capture all your learnings. I’ve detailed here:

One of the ways I use OneNote

It doesn’t however HAVE to be OneNote, use whatever system works for you. But use a system!

Another way is to learn is to commit to a completing a certification exam. Microsoft here in Australia runs regular training courses that incorporate certifications:

Microsoft certification – The joy I get out of coming work each day

Value of certification and training to help get you there

Having a definitive end point to aim for, as well a defined limited learning scope, can be challenging but it does help you focus on the task at hand as well as giving some valuable credentials upon completion.

So in summary, as Paul says in the interview – “This industry is always about change. You cannot sit still”. Change is always challenging but if haven’t already, you don’t have a lot of time in my books, to make that change. I personally believe the knowledge gap is getting to a point where it is simply too great to overcome for many. Once that transpires, there won’t be much option, you’ll have missed the boat.

As an aside, I will also point to plenty of “stuff” I do to help educate people on the Microsoft Cloud. These offerings are available as both free and paid options. However, the two free options I have that I’ll call out for you here are:

Cloud Lecture Series

and

Free Office 365 demos

I’m also happy to help answer any questions you have or provide any advice I can (beware it will be candid and direct). However, please remember that I can’t give everything away for free, I still gotta pay the bills!