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What Is SharePoint's Vision for the Future?

Microsoft held its Future of SharePoint event in San Francisco and announced a new cloud-first, mobile-first vision and roadmap for its SharePoint solution, as well as innovations that empower people, teams and organizations to intelligently discover, share and collaborate on content from anywhere and any device.


The company also announced general availability of SharePoint Server 2016, which includes new hybrid capabilities that enable on-premises customers to tap into the innovation via Office 365.

 

Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President of Onedrive and Sharepoint Teams, shared the roadmap across four areas of innovation:

  • Simple and powerful file sharing and collaboration on any device.

  • The mobile and intelligent intranet, with modern team sites, publishing and business applications on your desktop and in your pocket.

  • An open and connected platform that evolves SharePoint extensibility to embrace modern web development.

  • Investments in security, privacy and compliance across Office 365.


Before diving into the details of the innovations and their impacts, for those not familiar with SharePoint, the solution is Microsoft’s flexible web application platform which companies use to share data, communicate, and manage workflows. SharePoint is designed to work alongside the rest of Microsoft’s Office programs. However, since being launched 15 years ago, a great number of new entrants have also been struggling to reinvent productivity. Finally, Microsoft is moving SharePoint towards a “cloud-first, mobile-first” roadmap to make the platform more relevant and useful for modern web users. 

Here's what's on Microsoft's SharePoint roadmap for this calendar quarter:

  • Access to SharePoint Online document libraries from the OneDrive mobile app.

  • Intelligent discovery in OneDrive of documents from both OneDrive and SharePoint.

  • Copy from OneDrive to SharePoint.

  • OneDrive Universal Windows Platform (UWP) application.

  • Modern document library experience (currently rolling out to First Release tenants).

  • SharePoint mobile app for iOS.

  • New SharePoint home page in Office 365.

  • Modern lists experience.

  • Site activity and insights on the Site Contents page.


Here's what's coming before the end of the calendar year 2016:

  • Document analytics surfaced in OneDrive to provide insight into document usage, reach, and impact.

  • Synchronization of SharePoint Online document libraries with the new OneDrive sync client.

  • Synchronization of shared folders with the new OneDrive sync client.

  • ​Mobile access to SharePoint document libraries in on-premises farms.

  • ​SharePoint mobile app for Windows and Android.

  • Integration of SharePoint sites and Office 365 Groups.

  • Simple, fast site creation.

  • Modern pages experience.

  • Team and organizational news and announcements.

  • PowerApps and Microsoft Flow integration with SharePoint.

The new cloud-first, mobile-first vision includes new iOS, Android, and Windows Phone apps for SharePoint as well as redesigned SharePoint homepage, modern team sites, integration with PowerApps and the newly announced Microsoft Flow

Through these apps and site redesigns, SharePoint and OneDrive will be a more powerful platform for sharing and collaborating with coworkers from any device. The updates will also include investments in privacy and security to make SharePoint a trustworthy intranet.

SharePoint Mobile App


Microsoft finally ended years of waiting by announcing that a SharePoint app is coming soon for iPhone, followed by apps for Windows 10 and Android. While it's used by 190 million-license businesses, it hasn't fully adapted to the mobile era. With the launch of this app, SharePoint's users will finally join the rest of Microsoft Office suite in the so-called "cloud first, mobile first" vision laid out by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Teper touched on that issue, noting that the SharePoint team was more concerned with reliability and stability than advancing the product into the modern era of the smartphone.




New capabilities users can take advantage of:

  • Users can keep up with site activity, navigate using quick launch or see recent files.

  • Users can connect to sites and portals programmed for everyone in the company.

  • Users access to the people they work with and visibility into what they are working on.

  • Search is available throughout with clean results filtered by sites, files, and people.

  • Multiple accounts will be supported.

  • These new SharePoint apps incorporate the Office Graph to better connect users with their existing contacts and services.

  • Both PowerApps and Flow are planned to be built right into SharePoint Online Document Libraries and Lists, which will help automate business processes quickly and easily on the go.

  • The Sites tab is now re-branded and powered by the Office Graph, so a page shows users the sites that they need the most with the most recent activities associated with those sites in order to help users decide whether they need to go visit the sites.

Intelligent Intranet


Microsoft must have been thinking of what has made their personal productivity tools successful, and how to deliver some of those same experiences to their enterprise platforms as the updates and new apps will focus on making sharing from any device not just easier but also more intelligent. This will be achieved by new ways to communicate, integration with Office 365 Groups and integration with PowerApps and Microsoft Flow to help automate and organize workflows. In this regard, Microsoft announced the Discover view in the browser and OneDrive Android app. The Discover view utilizes the Office Graph to surface suggested and trending files from Office 365 and recommends content for users based on the work they are doing and the people with whom they engage. When users share and collaborate their files on OneDrive for Business and SharePoint, other content will be suggested to them, which means it will end the continuous search for useful content and expertise or other words, as Jeff Teper stated: “You don't go hunting for documents. Documents go hunting for you.”

If you would like to see the mobile and intelligent intranet in action, watch this Microsoft Mechanics video with Adam Harmetz, Principal Group Program Manager for the SharePoint Engineering Team: 


 

OneDrive 


As part of this push to get better mobile support, Microsoft said they will deliver the OneDrive Universal Windows Platform (UWP) app this quarter, while adding the ability to copy from OneDrive to SharePoint, discovery of documents from both OneDrive and SharePoint, and the ability to access SharePoint Online document libraries and Office 365 Group files from OneDrive.

This will be extended later in the year with new capabilities, including document analytics surfaced in OneDrive that will provide insight on document usage, and synchronization of SharePoint Online document libraries with a new OneDrive sync client.

Here are other some updates for OneDrive:

  • Automatically upload screenshots to the new Screenshots folder in OneDrive.

  • Get notifications when people share files with you.

  • Get notifications when people edit shared files.

  • Get quick access to a folder, and its contents, by pinning it to your Start menu.

  • Enjoy camera upload improvements.

New Team Sites Experiences


Many organizations suffer from massive productivity issues as users often do not know what version of a document they are working on and which of the many possible solutions hosts they need.  To fix that problem, the new Team Site Experience will be rolled out later this summer as part of the new release. It is visually engaging and designed to make it easy and quick for users to find the information they need with a much more intuitive user experience.

Every Team Site will enable users to quickly build out and publish professional, polished reports and pages. It will also provide easily consumable information to users. After all, the whole point is creating valuable content which people actually read rather than just knowing “it’s on the intranet.”  The new Page Experience won’t craft content for users of course, but it will provide them with a better authoring framework in order to tell a story and convey a message. If you need a quick guide to writing great content for SharePoint sites, here is some help. 

SharePoint Team Sites will also align with Office 365 groups. Every group will have a Team Site, which gives them the benefit of simple membership management and groups the benefits of metadata for information classification and compliance. It is important because aligning Groups with Team Sites combines the features of both capabilities in a single solution.

CMS-Connected Interviews Sharepoint Users


CMS-Connected participated as a Media Partner at the INTRA.NET RELOADED BOSTON 2016 event which took place on April 21-22, 2016, bringing together more than 150 stakeholders from leading American industries who play an active role in intranets, digital workplaces, and enterprise collaboration networks. We  recorded the April episode with a live audience at the event with our hosts welcoming a panel of well-known knowledgeable guests to the show including Rachel Butts & Jeff Willinger to discuss the building blocks of a successful employee journey.

In addition to the show we also interviewed many executives from giant enterprises who attended the event, including Coca-Cola Enterprises, Government of Canada, Sanofi Pasteur, and Rightpoint who delivered various pieces of insightful conversations about how SharePoint plays a vital role in their organizations.

This year we had a chance to catch up with one of our previous guests on the last years CMS-Connected Show Celine Schillinger, Head, Quality Innovation & Engagement at Sanofi Pasteur. Schillinger provided us her inside scoop on which SharePoint tools work the best for their organization and why: 



We also had an insightful conversation with Jeff Willinger, Director of Collaboration, Social Business and Intranets at Rightpoint, who was one of the special guests on the CMS-Connected show aired at the Intranet Reloaded Boston event. In their organization, SharePoint is utilized as their Intranet platform, taking advantage of the social tools of Yammer and Salesforce Chatter, depending on the purpose. Willinger’s interesting analogy about the Intranet adoption is definitely worth a watch: 
 

Thought Leaders Share their Points 


Chris Johnson, CTO and Co-Founder at Hyperfish, stated: "Many think SharePoint’s game is over. There is a multitude of smaller more nimble productivity apps out there that do a lot of what SharePoint introduced to businesses back in 2001.  But the one thing many forget is Microsoft’s ability to execute end to end when the stars align just right.  Building the features is just the first star to align.  Company vision is another, Marketing is another, Sales is another.  When all these align at Microsoft it is an unstoppable force of nature.  None of SharePoint’s competitors can touch it when these things all come together end to end.  But it hinges on it being a core imperative at the company to make it happen."  


Michael Sampson, Collaboration Strategist, gave his perspective: “I liked what I heard today, but overall I’d say the event would have been better called “the catchup of SharePoint” rather than “the future of SharePoint” (clearly I’d never get a job in marketing). It’s nice to know SharePoint has a future, and it was good to see what’s coming, but a lot of what was profiled addressed long-standing issues with SharePoint, rather than announcing revolutionary innovations to drive the offering forward as one component of the much greater picture that is Office 365.”



Tobias Zimmergren, Product Owner, Cloud Offerings at Rencore GmbH, told: “That's not me riding the wave of awesome. That's an honest appreciation of what they're cooking at Microsoft. Since I've been privileged to get some preview insights into these new team sites through our involvement in the Dev Kitchen recently, I can genuinely say I'm impressed with the direction things are heading. The new SharePoint Framework will play an important part of building solutions on top of SharePoint moving forward, which will be covered in a separate post, and the fact that Microsoft is embracing the existing ecosystem of open source development tools and patterns makes me a very happy developer. Since the new Modern Team Sites are built on top of the new SharePoint Framework, you'd be glad to invest time into learning more about what it has to offer. You can build SharePoint Framework solutions both for your classic and modern sites, but classic solutions only work on the classic sites.”


Mark Rackley, Partner and CTO at PAITgroup, expressed: “I think the big takeaway for me is that SharePoint is back... with a vengeance. There were whispers, okay not whispers, but people shouting from the rooftop that SharePoint was dead! On-Premises was dead! We’re all clip_image004doomed! Time to find another technology to pin all our hopes and dreams on. I mean just look! The link to SharePoint in Office 365 was called “Sites”. Obviously, Microsoft was trying to kill SharePoint. However, it’s absolutely clear now that Microsoft is dedicated to SharePoint. They’ve changed that “Sites” link to “SharePoint”, they already announced there will be ANOTHER release of SharePoint, and Jeff Teper proudly proclaimed “SharePoint is the core of Office 365”. This is really great news for companies that have invested so much time and talent into SharePoint and it’s nice to know that Microsoft has embraced SharePoint again.”


Christopher Hertz, Co-founder and President of New Signature said: "We picked SharePoint as one of our core focus areas this year because fundamentally I believe the announcements that Microsoft is making around SharePoint were going to be a game-changer for customers who either have been using SharePoint for some time or have not really understood how to maximize the value of SharePoint or who didn't understand how to bridge SharePoint from on-premises to cloud," Hertz said. "I think Microsoft has gotten now to the point where they are presenting a story that anyone can understand," he said. "It's a business process solution. It's really this idea that SharePoint is how you run your business."


John Jacobs, Chief Information Officer at JE Dunn Construction, also shared their innovative use of SharePoint and discussed their plans to move to SharePoint 2016 at Microsoft's Future of SharePoint event: 
 

Was Yammer Left Out? 


Yammer, the enterprise social networking platform which Microsoft acquired four years ago, was hardly mentioned during the two-hour event.  This made users very surprised there wasn't at least somewhat more emphasis on Yammer. 

"I heard them mention it once," said Julie Walleshauser, a solutions engineer at Metalogix. "It seems like more social features are being put into SharePoint but more through Office 365 and the Graph API."

Ruven Gotz, MVP and Director of Digital Workplace and Inovation at Avanade, said his company is a user of Yammer and many of their consultancy's clients use it. Gotz was also hoping to hear more about the plans for Yammer but said not to read too much into it. "Groups is definitely the future," Gotz said. "The question is whether and how Yammer integrates into groups. That's an important aspect."

Pat Esposito, Consultant with Blue Dog Technology, was also disappointed more wasn't said about how Yammer fits into the future of SharePoint and Office 365. Many of his clients use Yammer, he said, but he doesn't believe just because it was left out of this week's discussion that Microsoft won't live up to its plan of integrating it with Office 365. "They still have a lot of work to do but I don't think that means it's going away," Esposito said. "I think they still have two years of work to do before it's fully integrated. If you need a site to go to or a group, where all you want to do is have a threaded conversation, Yammer is the place to start. But I have a feeling we may see the brand diminished. It's hard to tell because they're not being clear about it."
 

A spokeswoman from Microsoft said in an e-mail that Yammer remains on the Office 365 roadmap, and pointed to last week's feature upgrade, which adds support for external groups. "Yammer continues to play a key role in Office 365. Earlier this year, we announced the completion of our foundational work to bring Yammer fully into Office 365. And later this year, we'll complete the integration of Yammer with the Office 365 Groups service." 


The intranet is the nerve center of many organizations, Microsoft said, and claimed that SharePoint is now making corporate intranets more accessible on the go, more intelligent, and more personalized. There is no doubt SharePoint is becoming a more open and connected platform, which can manage simple file sharing and collaboration on any device. If Microsoft can make it super easy to use SharePoint, users will not only achieve their compliance objectives, but they will be able to get work done faster by connecting and collaborating with their co-workers. 


 

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.