South Coast Summit focused on artificial intelligence, data, robotic process automation, security and compliance, unified communications, and how best to use Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Teams applications and Microsoft Viva when it took place in the UK in October 2023.
During the event, IT professionals and technology end-users attended keynote speeches, 102 breakout and feature sessions, and networking opportunities with over 40 exhibitors. One highlight was a keynote speech by Dona Sarkar, director of technology on the Microsoft accessibility team, who discussed AI, Microsoft Copilot, Microsoft 365 and Azure.
Technology Record’s Paul Zmija attended the event and spoke with Nathan Sweeney, co-founder of South Coast Summit, to learn more about the history and purpose of the show, as well as how it will evolve in future.
What is the purpose of South Coast Summit and how has it evolved since its first edition?
We began planning the first edition of South Coast Summit during the Covid-19 pandemic because we wanted to set up an online group to bring people from across the technology industry together. We knew that if we could help just one attendee make one other contact and learn one new thing, we would have made a difference.
The demand for the event became very clear when we reached out to both sponsors and people in the Microsoft community, all of whom were interested. It started as a small idea and suddenly12 months later, we had 1,000 people attending the conference.
After the first edition in 2021, we started thinking about more ways to support the Microsoft community and to bring people together. If you look at what’s happened across businesses in recent years, IT teams are increasingly being relied upon to make decisions about future technology plans. As the decisions to invest in technology are coming from technical teams now, it’s important to bring them together to understand the best way to combat enterprise problems such as cybersecurity.
What are the key benefits for attending the event?
The real benefit of this event is that attendees hear from technology leaders and learn how they have delivered software or hardware to a customer or implemented it across their own workforce to improve business operations. We arrange sessions with people that have actively gone out and done the work. I believe Microsoft’s chairman and CEO Satya Nadella said a couple of years ago that the way forward in technology innovation is to develop a strong ecosystem of partners to support one another. It’s important to network together so that people can learn from each other.
We’re one community of people and we’re all here to help each other – even if you remove the badge of who you work for, you’re still a person who has a passion for technology. Personally, I want to say thank you to that community.
What type of Microsoft partner would be suitable to sponsor the show?
It’s not just about being a big player in the market; the technology industry is much more agile than in the past. Ten years ago, businesses used to have to invest a lot to buy hardware, for example, but times have changed and now they can spend less on infrastructure.
A lot of specialist areas are emerging, especially with the changes in technology such as generative AI, so expert managed services providers that are providing different perspectives on how to solve business problems would be great sponsors for South Coast Summit.
South Coast Summit has now become a biennial event. Can you tell us why?
We always said we would run the event for three years and decide whether to continue. We work with a lot of other event hosts in the industry, especially the team that runs the Scottish Summit on similar dates to us. Now, attendees will no longer need to choose between the two – the Scottish Summit will take place next year and we’ll host South Coast Summit in 2025. We’ll share the hosting responsibilities and make both events special.