With SharePoint and Office 365 continuing to grow rapidly, Microsoft is focused on adding new features and functionality to these platforms, aiming to keep improving what it calls “the most complete and secure productivity and collaboration suite.”
Last week, Jeff Teper, Corporate VP of Office, SharePoint and OneDrive at Microsoft, led an online “Virtual Summit” to announce new features for SharePoint and Office 365 and to set the direction for these platforms for the coming year.
With the expanding capabilities of Office 365, SharePoint, and OneDrive , it is clear that Microsoft is directing substantial resources to further the adoption and appeal of its collaboration suite. As Teper said recently, we are entering the “second year of SharePoint’s resurgence”.
Most important, from Crow Canyon’s view, is that Microsoft sees SharePoint and Office 365 as business application platforms that can empower users, streamline workflows, and transform business processes. This is what Crow Canyon has been saying for years – not only saying, but putting into practice by developing business applications and custom projects that have improved efficiency and productivity at organizations around the world.
Teper also did a shout out to the many SharePoint user groups and organizations that put on SharePoint Saturdays and other events. He said his team is encouraged and buoyed by the support from the community. Crow Canyon sponsors many of these events and is glad to help foster the SharePoint and Office 365 community.
The Virtual Summit covered a lot of ground, and can be viewed here along with technical sessions. Here are a few of the highlights:
OneDrive is taking a more substantial role in Office 365. Microsoft wants to turn it in the “universal way to access all your files”. New features include:
- Files On-Demand – see and sync all your files (coming to Windows 10 this summer); open, access and share files right from desktop
- Share seamlessly from File Explorer and Mac Finder
- Expanded administration controls for sharing
Microsoft is looking at Groups as not just security or distribution entities, but as people who work together and collaborate on projects and company initiatives. With this in mind, every Group in Office 365 gets SharePoint and OneDrive. The Groups can also use Microsoft Teams as a chat-based workspace and Yammer to further communication.
The idea is that the Group’s work should flow easily across all the Office 365 modules, whether SharePoint, email, chat, or social, and from desktop to laptop to mobile device.
Microsoft introduced SharePoint Communication Sites, aka “Comm Sites”. These are Sites that can be easily created in Office 365 to foster group and team communication. They include a rich set of web parts, with mobile responsive design and interactivity built-in. Managers or other workers can quickly put together a Site – essentially one or more web pages – that include informational units, such as text, images, Yammer feeds, SharePoint lists and libraries, etc.
These differ from the current Team Sites in that Comm Sites are meant to be dynamic for sharing information with a group or across the organization. They are meant for broader communication to a wider audience than Team Sites, which are geared to facilitating the work a group is doing together.
FLOW & POWERAPPS
Teper defined Microsoft Flow as a “lightweight orchestration technology.” Working from within SharePoint, it allows business users to set up workflows and processes in-context (whereas SharePoint Designer required opening a separate program to configure workflows). Microsoft is adding more out-of-the-box features to Flow, including approvals and feedback workflows, as well as the ability to trigger flows from SharePoint lists and libraries.
Microsoft’s PowerApps was also featured in the Summit. PowerApps started out as a way to create mobile applications, but is now being extended to build custom web forms on SharePoint lists. Many people asked, during the Q&A part of the Summit, if this was the long-sought “InfoPath Replacement.” The word from Microsoft was, basically, “no, not yet,” but that future development efforts could move it more in that direction.
SPFx AND OTHER NEWS FOR DEVELOPERS
Microsoft continues to develop the SharePoint Framework, (SPFx), an open-source model of programming that will allow a wider range of developers to code for SharePoint and Office 365.
Teper said Microsoft is “expanding the developer party beyond .NET to whatever tools and language you use” with the goal “to reduce the friction and cost of extending SharePoint”.
Last year, Microsoft introduced the SharePoint Framework for extending the UI with new web parts and client-side runtime so that SharePoint runs “dramatically” faster. Microsoft also released Flow and PowerApps to allow power users to develop business processes.
Teper talked about programmers being able to use a “single end point”, the Microsoft Graph API, rather than the various Office 365 API’s (SharePoint, Exchange, Active Directory). This allows developers, using a variety of programming languages, to interact with SharePoint and other Office 365 modules without having to learn and code for each module’s API.
These and other changes in the programming model should spur third-party development of an interesting set of apps and applications that further drive innovation and enhancement in the Office 365 realm.
Microsoft’s goal, as is Crow Canyon’s, is to further productivity and efficiency in organizations around the world so that everyone can achieve more. Simply put, “success” in this view is helping everyone to do their work better and more easily.
With the announcements in the Virtual Summit, we can see that Microsoft is moving rapidly in this direction and Office 365 is emerging as the premier business collaboration platform to realize these goals.
Crow Canyon looks forward to working with your organization to further your goals!