I just got back from a session hosted at Microsoft’s offices in Paddington and attended by a bunch of SharePoint consultancies. The session was hosted by Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President of SharePoint and OneDrive and Dan Holme, Director of Product Marketing – essentially, the team responsible for the new direction and vision of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business.
This event was the London follow-up of the Future of SharePoint webinar held on the 4th May. In a nutshell and in case you missed it, the 4th May webinar revealed a host of exciting changes to SharePoint:
– Simple and powerful file sharing and integration with the various OneDrive apps
– Mobile and intelligent intranet, especially via the new SharePoint app available on Windows, iOS and Android.
– Open and connected platform, enabling developers to extend and hook deep into SharePoint without needing to be a DotNet expert
– Security, privacy and compliance enhancements
You can get a more detailed run down of the new SharePoint 2016 features and some interesting videos on the MS Office blogs.
Whilst there was some repetition of the key points from the 4th May, we learned a few new things.
Jeff Teper underlined the importance of the Microsoft ‘Cloud first, mobile first’ strategy by saying that these days the starting point on any enhancement is, what’s it going to look like on a mobile phone? The team lived up to this and we spent quite some time demoing apps on an iPhone 6 (yes!) projected onto the wall.
They revealed that Delve – one of the most innovative tools on Office 365 – will increasingly focus on people. The file discovery experience will be ported over to OneDrive and SP. This makes sense as it’s not good or intuitive to ask users to jump from one tool for file discovery onto another for file browsing.
Office Graph will become even more important and we can expect lots of innovation here. We’ll see it extending beyond the Office 365 file universe with Bing and Cortana feeding into Graphs clever AI algorithms. Could this be the start of a serious threat to Google’s dominance in search? Perhaps Bing is positioning itself as a business search engine –what you’d use at work?
Apparently, Delve is increasingly seen by the product teams at MS as a place to test out new innovations in AI and Office Graph. If and when these catch on the product teams will look at ways to bring them into the mainstream 365 tools like SP and OneDrive.
There was a lot of discussion about groups and teamsites. Microsoft held up their hand here and said that they had messed up by going in two different directions when it came to team collaboration. They acknowledge that it had become confusing and customers were unsure about whether to opt for a teamsite or a group when wanting to collaborate. Thankfully, the vision for the future is much simpler. Think of it like this: a group is essentially a list of people. The site is where that group goes to get stuff done and to share. However, there won’t always be a group associated with each SP site. For example, if you have a site related to online training a group doesn’t really apply as everyone would need to access it.
The SharePoint team have been using the word ‘intranet’ a lot in their recent communications. This has never happened before and signals that Microsoft is moving into this space and offering an out-of-the-box intranet. And they are open about this. It is not going to be massively complex or feature rich but we’re told we can expect it to do the basics well. SharePoint consultancies like ourselves will add value by customising this around specific business needs and lines of business. And they’ve provided the tools for us to hook into SharePoint’s functionalities quickly and efficiently. For us this is in fact great news. It means we can focus on delivering ROI through automation and productivity tools that are tailored to specific business needs rather than re-inventing the wheel.
There was a bit of an elephant in the room and I was struck that no one spoke about Yammer. I went and spoke to Dan Holme at the end. Yammer is currently being re-egineered at the back end so that it integrates better with Office 365 and can actually be hosted in the various data centres around the world. Dan assured me that it’s definitely not being killed off and that MS is investing in it. Whilst there are some overlaps with groups, Yammer definitely has a place in organisations and a lot of MS customers are seriously invested in it. Once the back end work and some UI enhancements are made we can expect to see Yammer take more of a front seat when it comes to SharePoint and OneDrive integration. We can expect to see simple things like ‘share on Yammer’ buttons next to files. That will be cool but long overdue.
In summary I was impressed with what the team had to say. Jeff Teper is clearly passionate, knows his stuff and has an answer to almost every question thrown at him. If he doesn’t have a solid answer he thinks out loud in response. He’s also not scared to acknowledge mistakes which is refreshing. We can expect to see lots of innovation from the SharePoint and OneDrive team.