Rebecca Jackson

Death of SharePoint? Nope. #FutureofSharePoint

I’m not always inclined to wake up at 2:30am for a live SharePoint announcement, but this one seemed big, and it was. The focus of the 2 hour presentation was a number of significant improvements to SharePoint on premise, SharePoint online and Office 365.

The headline items from Microsoft…

Office365 greater than the sum of it’s parts. It’s about the three Gs:

  • Groups
  • Graph
  • Governance

There are 4 SharePoint fundamentals:

  • Simple file sharing
  • Reinventing the intranet
  • Online collaboration platform
  • Security / governance

There was a lot of content squished in to the 2 hours. Here are my high level thoughts, followed by links to further information on the announcement.

SharePoint is not dead

There have been plenty of blog posts in recent years about the ‘Death of SharePoint’. It was pretty clear that the SharePoint team want to dispel that myth. Throughout the presentation it was exhaustively emphasised that SharePoint is very important to Microsoft. Some points of note:

  • The ‘Sites’ app in the Office 365 waffle menu will be renamed to ‘SharePoint’.
  • SharePoint  on premise will continue to be supported and in fact will begin to benefit from regular features packs starting in 2o17.
  • SharePoint as intranet is a clear focus.

Focus on user experience

For as long as SharePoint has been around one of the biggest detractors has been usability and user interface. It’s a problem which many organisations have tried to solve, and in recent years’ has spawned a number of intranet-in-a-box solutions. From the demo (SharePoint online) and screenshots shown, the UI in SharePoint pages is now light-years away from what you’d see in SharePoint 2013. It looks more like Medium with a clean and simple interface that won’t scare away non-technical users.

This brings up a few questions for me:

  • When do we get it?
  • How will the intranet-in-a-box providers respond or move with this change?

From the demonstration it seems that using SharePoint closer to out-of-the-box could become more common. However I would want to see more examples before making a call.

Mobile intranet

Microsoft has been investing heavily in their mobile apps recently and have a feature rich set of free apps including the Office Suite and some new supporting apps (check out Office Lens if you haven’t yet). They are terming it “intranet in your pocket” and the demo showed enhanced mobile capability and a new iOS app for SharePoint.

Governance and analytics

Further to ‘Sites’ being renamed ‘SharePoint’, and the whole thing looking a lot nicer it looks like Office365 groups and SharePoint team sites effectively become the same thing. The site provisioning process has been enhanced for greater administrative control.

Security was also emphasised with investment in data centres around the globe SharePoint is “the safest place to store your data” and is practically untouched by Microsoft staff.

With the effort that Microsoft have been putting into Delve and Office Graph it looks like finally there will be more baked in analytics functionality, something which has been lacking in SharePoint. More analytics on SharePoint files is nice, and not just for power users or admins, but putting analytics in the hands of every user so they can see the reach of their files.

Integrations

From an integration perspective PowerApps and Flow will be baked in. PowerApps appears to be the new InfoPath (interested to know what the techies think on that). Flow was recently announced and looks to be Microsoft’s answer to IFTTT allowing rules to be created that allow neat interaction between both Microsoft and non-Microsoft applications.

Yammer?

While Yammer was mentioned in passing a few times, there was no groundbreaking announcements about how Yammer, SharePoint and Office 365 will work together in the coming roadmap. No mention of Skype for that matter and how Microsoft plans to resolve some of the duplicity of functions and lack of seamless integration. Not surprised, just disappointed. The presentation was very SharePoint focussed but given the hype about other integration features like Flow, I was hoping for more in this space.

Wrapping up

The disappointment of a lack of Yammer news aside, I am pretty excited by the features announced today. There were a couple of case studies thrown in at the end, but I really want to see more of this in action, and of course play with it myself, before I could make a final call on these drastic and long awaited improvements. It’s left me with a lot to think about, and investigate in terms of my own projects. I am sure a lot of intranet and digital workplace professionals who work with SharePoint will be paying close attention to this.

I’ll share the video of the full announcement when it make available. In the meantime, here are a pile of related resources to sink your teeth in to.


Note: Feature image credit to @bniaulin via Twitter

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