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My Experience at #MSIgnite: Highlights from a First Timer

Microsoft’s Ignite 2017 conference in Orlando Florida was not only a fun and amazing experience, but also an incredibly worthwhile business investment for our team. We had a blast made new friends, met new and existing customers, and certainly got our name out. This was largely due to our friend Barry, the GroupHub bear (yes, I wore the bear suit!), and to the Ducati giveaway, but also to a major effort by many hardworking people on our team that put in months of preparation and effort and tirelessly worked all week long to ensure that our booth presented a professional image, and that we got everything that we could out of the Ignite experience.

Before I continue, I want to thank our team and everyone who worked so hard to give us a great event, and same goes to everyone who worked at Microsoft to provide such a seamless experience, especially considering that there were approximately 26,000 attendees (it was HUGE!!) Between all the sessions, customer interaction, and overall experience, I was blown away by the entire conference.

My First Time at Ignite: Why I Was There

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I was fortunate and blessed enough to be chosen by management to present our products and answer questions on behalf of our Solution Engineering team. I’ve written several blog posts for AvePoint, and am passionate about our industry. I’m also the VP of the Richmond SharePoint User Group in Richmond Virginia, and love being part of the Microsoft and SharePoint and Office 365 Community. So many people always want to come to Ignite, but AvePoint can’t afford to have an 1,800 person booth staff, so to be chosen is and honor and privilege that I do not take lightly.

Why Ignite was so great for our team (from my vantage point as a Solutions Engineer)

  1. Getting to meet and understand the pain points of so many current and potential customers and having the opportunity to be the face of AvePoint.

I met so many great people who have used or are currently using our products and had conversations about their experiences and how they used our solutions. I also got to answer questions and explain what we do to many new people who were facing pain points in managing Office 365 and SharePoint.

This included demoing our recently released Cloud Backup solution with Unlimited Backup and Restore and support for everything in Office 365 in addition to Project online, and demoing our GroupHub Solution for Office 365 Groups management and governance.

Several folks we spoke to were about to embark on major projects, from governance plan implementations to finding a cloud backup and restore solution, to the SharePoint and File Share migration and content restructuring projects that we see so often.

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I relished the opportunity to understand them more as people, and more fully comprehend the challenges they face every day.

As a team, we explained on a much more personal level the extent to which we can reduce the burden of SharePoint and Office 365 management, and provide increased capabilities that help increase security, enhance governance and, at the same time, increase user adoption.

I had so much fun not just proving the increased ROI they can get from SharePoint and Office 365 by investing in our solutions, but doing so face-to-face in a personal way so that they can understand just how passionate we are about our mission to reduce the burden of IT through increased value.

photo 3Getting face time with the executive team who took the time to be on the floor, interact with customers and personally represent us.

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At AvePoint, our co-CEO, TJ (Tyani Jiang) was on the floor with us during the conference, meeting the customers, having conversations, interacting with all of us, and observing what was going on around our booth. In addition, the “my boss’ boss and my boss’ boss’ boss” level of management we also on the floor.

Now, it sounds like this could have been (at some of my previous jobs) a nerve racking week of judgement and intimidation, but in fact, it proved to be a truly fun and pleasant time where we were supported and encouraged in a very positive manner.

Our management team was heavily engaged, explaining concepts and solutions to our visitors on the floor, having conversations with us and generally just being themselves while enjoying the experience.

This, along with having the good fortune of eavesdropping on the inside scoop of what we are working on in the future, gave me the impression that upper management here truly listens to and cares about the employees and customers of AvePoint, and that supporting and encouraging everyone here is a priority.

I loved watching everyone do the work of regular customer interactions with enthusiasm and enjoying just hanging out with sales and solution engineering.

  1. We met some amazing synergetic (sorry for the buzzword!) people and learned what was new from some others with whom we’ve already worked. 

Our team took the time to walk around, see what’s new, and especially kept an eye out for any companies we may be able to work alongside to help make our customer experience smoother at every level.

Indeed, we found and established a handshake relationship with many brilliant people at organizations with whom we hadn’t previously spoken. The Microsoft partner world is so diverse, I’m understanding there is more opportunity to partner with others than threat from competition.

We are very much looking forward to working alongside other companies to provide smoother engagements and better experiences for our customers in every area of their IT and SharePoint and Office 365 platform management.

  1. We learned about the many new APIs and features coming from Microsoft, got a better idea of what’s coming, and understood the future of Microsoft’s course and its goals.

Everyone knows that this is a rapidly changing industry, and we communicate as much as we can with Microsoft to be ready with solutions when new relevant APIs are released.

Having access to the dev. pipeline with Microsoft, AvePoint usually has insights as to what is going to happen and when, but it is always reassuring to see new APIs released across the various platforms Microsoft provides, and get new insights as to where they are heading as an organization.

As an engineer, I appreciate understanding what integrations for our industry across the Microsoft platforms will be possible in the immediate future. This eases the solution engineer task of finding new out-of-the-box ways that cross-platform functionalities can assist AvePoint’s enhancement of native Microsoft capabilities through various integrations.

It’s also comforting to see that our executive team at AvePoint is right on track with this vision, and ready to provide new solutions to help our customers meet demands — sometimes even before customers know they do or will exist.

I loved the opportunity to genuinely express how much we truly believe in our mission to ease the burden of everyone in IT.

Hunter W.
Hunter W.
​Hunter Willis has been in web development, SEO and Social Media marketing for over a decade, and entered the SharePoint space in 2016. Throughout his career he has developed internal collaboration sites, provided technical and strategic advice, and managed solutions for small to large organizations. In addition, Hunter has served as a strategy consultant for many companies and non-profits in the Richmond area.


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