By Zeshan Randhawa
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SharePoint Conference North America: SharePoint and Office 365's Evolution

July 05, 2018

With just over a month since the warm Vegas days of the SharePoint Conference, and I have spent the last little bit trying to sift through and absorb the vast amount of information that was presented.  I have been lucky enough to attend many of the previous SharePoint conferences and didn't know what to expect in this post-hiatus version. So let's just say I (and probably many of the other attendees) were not disappointed.

Microsoft showed up, and they showed up with a lot of good news.

There are plenty of great sources to go to for seeing all the announcements, but I thought I would lay out the top things, that got me excited, and why!

The world isn't flat, but modern SharePoint is

We have been hearing for a little while now that with the introduction of the modern experiences within Office 365 (Communication, Team and Hub Sites), subsites are to SharePoint what carbs are to a Hollywood actor, evil. This led the information architect in me to become worried. Having hundreds of flat sites floating out there, to be somehow discovered and used by end users would be a nightmare. But through the sessions I was reassured, the idea is to rid ourselves of physical subsites, and create site collections for each type of "workload"; however, the navigation hierarchy can all be logically created.

So in the real world, we would create our modern site collections for HR, Finance, Employee News Hub, etc…. And then through our intranet create a logical navigation that would provide a natural way for people to find the sites/workloads that they are looking for.

SharePoint is still at the core of the Office 365 story

An underlying tone throughout the conference was loud and clear, SharePoint is still at the core of the content management/services story in Office 365. With all these new features and tools becoming available in Office 365, there is a continued push by Microsoft to create a more unified end-user experience for storing and discovering content. This is exciting because this means a continuous focus by Microsoft to provide powerful features and integrations for the platform.

During the conference, I heard it described in a great way. The way we should be looking at tools like Microsoft Teams and Groups is simply as they are doors to get at content. Although the integration may lack in some areas today, the general idea is, different types of users can use different tools to get at their content, all depending on how they work. The fact that Microsoft believes this narrative is very exciting, this means they will continue to have a focus on filling the integration holes that exist today between these tools.

The need for an intranet product is becoming less and less

There was a time, a time when SharePoint frankly lacked usability and some of the more end user-centric features that made it more exciting to use. It was during that time that many of these intranet-in-a-box products emerged. These powerful intranet solutions provided great rich end-user experiences. Today the story is much different. With the ever-evolving Office 365 platform, the features that are available, and in the works are addressing many of the gaps that the intranet-in-a-box solutions filled in so elegantly.

This is a loaded topic in itself (definitely warranting a dedicated blog post), but for now it is important to understand that much more scrutiny should be applied when decided if an intranet product should be used for the next version of your intranet.

Microsoft Teams is your friend

Microsoft Teams is a powerful tool, and those that love it, find it hard to imagine a world without it. To date, many of the feature additions to the tool have focused on integrating SharePoint elements into Microsoft Teams, such as adding SharePoint pages as tabs and integrating lists and libraries as tabs. However, the interesting twist is that now Microsoft is looking at the reverse integration. This means integrating Microsoft Team elements into modern SharePoint pages!

This is exciting for those who like me, continue to hope for a more integrated Office 365 world. This means not penalizing certain users that do or do not want to use the plethora of tools available in Office 365. The SharePoint and Microsoft Teams friendship is only going to grow stronger, and the collaboration story that it will harbour is going to become an amazing experience for end users.

There is one common trend among all of the exciting things I've mentioned above. The end user is front and center in focus! There is an unrelenting push from Microsoft to continue to better the new digital workplace story. It isn't a fairy tale story yet, there are still many gaps, and much of the excitement is based on the change that Microsoft has promised, but one thing is for sure, there hasn't been a better time to be a user of SharePoint and Office 365!

Here at Softlanding, we host monthly Office 365 Customer Immersion Experience workshops able to host up to six people in our in-house lab. These workshops are free to attend and allow you and your staff to test-drive Office 365 and its various platforms including SharePoint, Power BI, Skype for Business, Windows 10 and Microsoft Teams. To learn more and register for our upcoming workshop, please visit: https://www.softlanding.ca/vancouver-office365-cie/ 

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