The Future of SharePoint – key takeaways from Microsoft's major virtual launch

A look at the key announcements following Microsoft's unveiling of the new vision and roadmap for SharePoint at a major virtual launch event this week.

Microsoft held a major event on May 4th where they announced their future plans for SharePoint. Here's a summary of the key announcements and our own thoughts on them.

SharePoint has gone back to its roots

SharePoint has grown into a multi-headed beast over the years. This has probably been its greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. It has tried to do web content management, enterprise content management, collaboration, business process automation and business intelligence all on one platform.

This latest announcement focuses back to what made SharePoint great in the first place – a great tool for collaboration, communication and basic business processes. To that end, a big focus of the event was on the modern intranet which is mobile friendly and intelligent.

Watch a detailed demonstration here:

SharePoint is becoming mobile friendly with a great new look and an app to boot

Microsoft demonstrated the new look and feel which will be used for new SharePoint sites (you can see this in the video above). This includes document libraries, lists and a whole new page editing and creation process which reminds us of the experience you get when building Sway presentations.

Crucially though, this experience is responsive, meaning it will work just as well on a small screen as it does on a desktop. In the past, if you wanted SharePoint to be responsive, you had to accept that it would require a lot of customisation and that users on smaller devices would be much more limited – but that’s no longer the case.

The mobile app which is being released for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile provides a native app experience when exploring SharePoint.

Check out this video from Microsoft demonstrating it:

The Ribbon is dead (in SharePoint)

Worthy of a separate mention, a key implication of the new look is the removal of the ribbon. Let’s be honest – the ribbon was controversial when it was introduced into Office 2007 and since it was added to SharePoint 2010 it has been providing a confusing and overwhelming experience for users ever since. It’s also hamstrung Microsoft’s attempts to make SharePoint a responsive design. It comes as no surprise to see it go – and I doubt most will miss it.

Personalised content will be baked in

Another key part of the intranet experience will be personalised content based on the Office Graph. Whether you are in a team site, the SharePoint app or the new SharePoint home page, content will be surfaced to you based on what the Office Graph thinks is relevant – this is based on who you interact with and what you work on throughout Office 365. This makes it far easier to keep on top of new content and to get a feel for what your colleagues are working on.

PowerApps and Flow will be key for business processes

Microsoft released a couple of new products to public preview in the past week – PowerApps and Flow.

PowerApps allows people to quickly build mobile apps with no code. These apps can be used to populate information in SharePoint lists or other sources. It then integrates with Flow to make decisions, notify people via a variety of mechanisms and route information to other systems such as a CRM system.

It really looks like these might become a replacement for the SharePoint Designer workflows which many organisations have heavily used in the past.

A brief demo of this can be seen here:

The SharePoint framework is finally the development option we’ve been waiting for

With each new version of SharePoint since 2010, we’ve seen a new development option for the cloud and it feels like this time we might have finally got the option we need. Microsoft announced a new, JavaScript based, development framework for SharePoint which allows your customisations to truly sit within SharePoint in the same way web parts would. SharePoint will also start to support web hooks so you can be notified about events which happen in lists and libraries. The Office 365 app model and APIs still exist for more heavy duty applications as well.

Security and Governance is at the forefront of Microsoft’s development activities

Often one of the remaining barriers to ‘moving to the cloud’ is the perception around security of data and information governance. Microsoft have announced a range of new features around this including:

  • Bring your own encryption key – which allows you to provide the key with which your data is encrypted in Office 365.
  • Customer Lockbox – this ensures Microsoft will only have access to your data if you grant it to aid resolving a support call. You would be able to audit the Microsoft contact’s activities during their access period.
  • SharePoint site information classification – this captures the information classification of a site when it is created and compliance policies can be applied based on this to ensure your most sensitive data is appropriately protected.

Here's another video demonstrating some of these key new features:

SharePoint 2016 will get new features next year

Many of the features discussed above are rolling out to Office 365 in 2016. Microsoft have also announced that many of the features which can be rolled out to on-premises SharePoint will be provided as feature packs starting from 2017. This means we won’t have to wait for the next release of SharePoint on-premises to start leveraging some of these new features. There is one catch though – to be eligible to receive the feature packs, you must purchase software assurance when licensing your on-premises servers and users.

If you’d like to chat about SharePoint or any of the new announcements, drop me a line or give me a call.

T: 0345 094 094 5

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