In what it hopes will become an annual tradition for C-level executives and business leaders from all types of industries from around the world, Microsoft kicked off a new conference in 2016 called Envision. Unlike the more technical Build and Insight conferences, each year Microsoft Envision will concentrate on the big picture trends in technology and how those trends affect business practices.

The common thread running throughout the 2016 conference, from keynote to breakout sessions, was the concept of the digital transformation of business. To sum up, the idea is that because of big data, the Internet of Things, analytics, and other technologies, the way we conduct business has, and will continue to, change dramatically. The Envision conference looks to shed some light on what and how these transformations are manifesting themselves.

Note: All Envision 2016 sessions are available on YouTube.

Cloud, security, and governance

One of my favorite breakout sessions discussing how the art of the business transaction is changing is titled The Shift to the Cloud: The Opportunities and Challenges Ahead. The session was hosted by Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft. He does a good job of describing some of the ways cloud computing is changing how everyday business transactions occur.

I was particularly interested in his description of the book The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab. The ideas expressed in that book seem to mesh nicely with the concepts described by Satya Nadella in his keynote speech for the conference.

According to the session, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is taking place in three areas:

  • Physical: Autonomous vehicles, robotics, 3D printing, new materials
  • Biological: Genetic diagnostics, treatment, engineering
  • Digital: IoT, Blockchain, disruptive business models

The business world is changing fast and as an IT professional you are expected to keep up.

SEE: 10 ways IoT is making successful inroads into business

Continuous learning

I know many of these sponsored conferences have a reputation for being too vendor-centric, but I get a different vibe from Microsoft Envision. The high-level concepts expressed in the sessions I have viewed so far on YouTube transcend products. I am learning more than I thought I would and I am starting to see what the Internet of Things can be and what it can do.

For example, I have been, and still am to a certain degree, skeptical of speech recognition technologies like Cortana. But seeing how Cortana can be used to interact with other applications as your agent reveals possibilities I had not considered. Everything changes if your bots act as your agents and can talk to someone else’s bots acting as their agents, exchanging information securely and then completing a transaction on your behalf.

Of course, that also requires a significant amount of trust be placed in our cloud-based technology. This is why it is so important that everyone involved, from users to developers to executives, knows and understand how these new technologies work and what complications can occur. For a technology professional, taking a few hours to learn and think about technological innovation is practically a requirement in today’s business environment.

SEE: Microsoft Build: 5 big moves you need to know

The cloud, big data, the Internet of Things, analytics are all broad concepts that exist beyond and outside of Microsoft. They are the concepts governing how business is, and will be, conducted. They are now part of the new fabric of how things work, and you’d better get on board or get left behind. The Envision session videos are a good place to start.

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Your thoughts

The art of the business transaction is changing fast. Is your enterprise falling behind the curve? Share your experiences and opinions with fellow TechRepublic members.