Microsoft Future Decoded Conference

Image of Microsoft Future Decoded Conference, Keynote 1, Mike Wignall speaking

We went to Microsoft’s Future Decoded Conference in London this week, bringing latest insights from Microsoft and other partners about what the future holds for business and technology. This year, they introduced Future Decoded Live allowing you to get the audios and slides from all the sessions – read on to find out more.

The big pro to going to any conference is the ability to learn and share from others. The Expo area was an excellent way to do this, a huge number of vendors covering security, latest hardware, training, industry specific innovations and integrations.

Even if you have nothing specific to find out, you can practice networking, say “hi”, pick up information, swag or even AI choice of juice! You will get a buzz just being surrounded by passionate people. If you get overwhelmed try wearing headphones to cut the noise or buddy up with someone that can lead you around, don’t miss out.

However, the main reason for going is to listen to industry leaders about their vision for the future. This helps you to align your business with new trends, giving you a sense of where to focus your growth. There were over 300 speakers, these are a few favourites that we heard from:

  • Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chief Executive Officer,
  • Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Microsoft Chief Accessibility Officer,
  • Rt Hon Esther McVey MP, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions,
  • Cindy Rose, Microsoft UK Chief Executive Officer,
  • Michael Wignall, Microsoft UK Chief Technology Officer,
  • June Angelides, Mums in Technology and Chair Future Skills Programme,
  • Ian Fordham, Microsoft UK Chief Learning & Skills Officer,
  • Kelvin Papp, Transparity Technical Solutions Architect,
  • Sir Michael Caine CBE, Actor, (non-tech but what an honour to hear of his life experiences and learning lessons)
  • Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE, Scientist and Broadcaster (non-tech but what an inspirational lady and story of triumph over adversity)

The conference brought such emotive themes for the 2 days:

  • the use of AI exploding into the industry – not the “lets make a killer robot that will take over the world AI”, but lets teach technology to help us better analyse and understand the meaning of the data.
  • Building digital skills was another area of focus. There is a lack of skills for the areas that Microsoft are looking to move towards. For example, do you know how to use AI in your industry? So there was a lot of talk about how to address this, as well as, how to increase the opportunities for disabled people and women to enter into this arena.
  • The other area that I was personally surprised to hear about, was the ethical use of AI. Ensuring that we build products, not just to see what we can do with AI but what we should use AI for.


The one big take away

For me, this was definitely around accessibility – the stats here are staggering and something no one can afford to ignore!

  • 1 in 7 people have a self-declared disability – that 1 Billion people in the UK
  • 73% of people with dyslexia do not declare this to their employer
  • 70% of disabilities are invisible – I have heard so many times people say “we don’t need to worry about accessibility, I can’t see anyone with a disability in this meeting.” – you might not know about it, but it is there!
  • only 20% of disabilities are ones people are born with – the rest are developed or temporary (broken arm, an ageing workforce, situational)

Slide of disability in the modern world statistics that are mentioned in this post

Think about your staff, your clients, your suppliers, the public perception of you – can you afford to not consider accessibility?

Keep in mind here that the World Health Organization defines disability as “a mismatch in interaction between the features of a person’s body and the features of the environment in which they live.” Disabilities can range from situational disabilities, like limited mobility while holding a baby or bright sunlight on a phone, to other physical, auditory, visual, or age-related impairments.

I learnt some really practical and easy ways to improve our working practices and systems. Microsoft Office 365 has so many features built into it that can automatically help… please take a look at our “Practical ways to improve Accessibility in Microsoft Office documents” post to find out about these tools.

Conference action points for you

Whilst you always benefit more from actually being at these conferences and getting the real vibe and passion of the message, if you have missed this event please take a look at the Future Decoded website as all the audios and presentations. The sessions that were live streamed on the day are already up there, a couple more days for the rest.

Also, don’t forget that there are other smaller user groups and conferences run frequently in specific areas that you might be interested in – so get googling to find one. A few that we are looking at coming up are:


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