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SharePoint is the Answer to Content Collaboration in the Modern Workspace

In the afternoon on day one of Microsoft Ignite 2018Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jeff Teper took to the stage, and with help of a few on his team, he presented his update on SharePoint, OneDrive, and more. He clearly stated that SharePoint is the answer to content collaboration in the modern workspace, and I cannot agree more.

There was a time a few years back where I and many the community thought that SharePoint had begun to stray and the path at the time was not clear. “Sites” referring to “SharePoint” in the Office 365 App Launcher exemplified those days. Since that time, SharePoint has once again became front and center, and proved itself as the best architecture for the following:

  • The root for content for OneDrive
  • Document collaboration hub for Office Apps
  • Delivering the shared content for Outlook and Microsoft Teams
  • Intranet sites with Yammer and Stream
  • Handling business processes with Power App and Flow

All of this driven by security, AI, and extensibility.

Extensibility updates

I am in the camp that claims SharePoint has seen its success because of the extensibility options available to take the role as the solid foundational core that allows layers of customization as project require. Historically, SharePoint offered development models that at the time might seemed well founded, while in today’s cloud first world are not possible, nor would I even recommended them if it somehow was possible.

A few years back Microsoft introduced a new development model for SharePoint, the SharePoint Framework (SPFx). Jeff let us in on some metrics, including the fact that over the last year, there has been 11x growth in the use of SPFx. Since SPFx went GA, we have seen 8 major updates, and we can expect a lot more! This all excites me to no end, as while SPFx has gaps, it has already proven it can handle enterprise level requirements in the cloud environment we now find ourselves.

We can expect much from SharePoint in the near future

Anyone interested in SharePoint should watch or re-watch this year’s Microsoft Ignite 2018 “SharePoint” keynote. Additional updates that interest me include:

  • News within communication sites is getting lots of new features including audience targeting, news marked as featured to percolate to the top of rollups, which will also be available in the SharePoint mobile app
  • and, page layouts! Yes, page layouts! This has been a feature many of us have been looking forward to since modern SharePoint was first announced. Page layouts along with already announced custom metadata gets us much closer to feature parity with classic publishing sites
  • A new Stream mobile app for iOS and Android available soon, including the ability for offline viewing. Videos stored on the phone are encrypted as well
  • Yammer webpart available early 2019 to bring rich conversations or feeds direct to pages
  • Webpart to webpart communication, allowing say live a preview of a document directly in context of page when loaded from a library webpart. This looks very valuable when we want to have much more dynamic data load on a page
  • Hub sites will have the ability for a new events webpart that can pull events from all sites joined to a hub
  • More control of branding including more header options, new webparts, and a feature many have asked for, mega menus! I am personally on the fence about mega menus although I readily admit many of my clients ask for them thus it will be good for a native experience

Flexible solutions for teamwork

Teams have been using SharePoint since the beginning to help teams communicate and collaborate. Using out of the box features available in SharePoint, driven by lists and libraries, powerful solutions may be “developed” without code.

Naomi Moneypenny demoed upcoming features included document library updates that allow for more metadata, an enhanced process for reordering columns, and easy column formatting without code. Common workflow scenarios will be delivered by Flow without the need for building them ourselves, and if we swing back to webpart to webpart communication mentioned previously, the pattern for dynamic data will provide us the ability to build mini applications within a page without code.

Administration

There will always be room for improvement when administering SharePoint, processes can always be made more simple, and new tools can always be provided to allow for more control, insights, and customizations. We should expect to see improved SharePoint management with updates to the new SharePoint Admin panel, which I hope to see move out of “preview” soon. We should expect better site management including an eased process for configuring external sharing and more.

A while back Microsoft announced a native SharePoint migration tool, originally focused on moving files into OneDrive and SharePoint. It looks as though Microsoft is doubling down with a much more powerful native migration tool that will help migrate much more into SharePoint includes pages. I am interested to see how this plays against tools from ShareGate, AvePoint, and others, although I am sure third party vendors will also provide a more rich experience.

Compliance is always a hassle and additional tools within SharePoint to manage requirements is always welcome. SharePoint will include more features for compliance such as privacy labels that allow sites to be tagged with a sensitivity label that can restrict a site instantly. This feature will also be available to end users when creating sites.

The progression of document collaboration in Office 365

When it comes down to it, it can be confusing to know when should a file be where, and how should we use it. The roadmap for documents is now much more clear because of the robust tools offered by Office 365.

When you begin working on a document, store it in OneDrive. In fact store most everything you have on your OneDrive if for no reason that simple security. Once you are ready to begin collaborating on the document, it is time to move that file to Microsoft Teams. And finally once you a ready to share a document with your organization, move it to SharePoint.

Coolest feature of the day

The SharePoint keynote of Ignite 2018 went well over the time allotted, and I can say with certainty that Jeff and his team had much more to share. Again, I highly recommend you watch the session, and in fact I suggest you watch it a few times if you truly want to prepare your organization for what is and will be possible.

The volume of outstanding updates we can expect over the next year or more cannot be understated. If I had to pick one new feature though that I want today that I didn’t truly know I needed? Copy and paste a file direct from the clipboard into OneDrive. I know this is a small feature, yet that is going to make little part of my day that much more painless.

What do you think? Does the continued evolution of SharePoint and OneDrive make sense to you or are major features or requirements still missing and blocking your projects?

Check out my other thoughts, insights, and review of major Ignite 2018 announcements.

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