A New and Mature SharePoint: The 2017 Roadmap

A New and Mature SharePoint: The 2017 Roadmap

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With Office 365 hitting over 100 million active users per month, I always wondered what that meant for SharePoint.

As Jeff Teper announced at SharePoint Virtual Summit, we know that 60% of all SharePoint seats are online and that’s including 85% of Fortune 500 companies. Here at Sharegate, over 60% of all our migrations are towards Office 365.

It's nice to have numbers as proof, but to be honest, I don't think it's a surprise to anyone. Moving to the cloud has become an obvious choice for most.

Last year, Microsoft had us excited again for SharePoint and started to deliver this new “Modern” release throughout the year. Today, we’re seeing the same product mature, and become ready for us to use and to make the switch completely.

SharePoint 2017 roadmap:

  • New Site: SharePoint Communication Sites
  • OneDrive for Business Sync improvements
  • Every Team Site is an Office 365 Group
  • Integration of SharePoint and Microsoft Teams
  • PowerApps and Flow become more SharePoint-aware
  • SharePoint Improvements: Page Layouts and Web Parts
  • Delve Profiles even more valuable with People Search upgrades
  • Revamped SharePoint Admin Center

SharePoint Communication Sites

Originally announced as the new Publishing Sites last year at Ignite, it’s important to note the change. This is a new release, it’s not a replacement to Publishing but rather, a way for you to communicate information.

The Communication Sites come with different pre-built layouts allowing you to get started quickly and without too much effort. These new Layouts will also be available for SharePoint Modern Pages.

Office 365 SharePoint Communication site

Office 365 SharePoint Communication site design template

The layouts for your pages in Team Sites:

Office 365 SharePoint Pages Layouts for Team Sites

And unlike Team Sites, they do not create or associate themselves with Office 365 Groups. They are 100% standalone.

The focus is on efficiently communicating information using the various page layouts and web parts. It’s great for events, procedures, policies or anything that you used Wiki Pages for in the past.

Better yet, we finally get page comments built-in.

SharePoint Communication Sites with Built-in comments

Alongside this big announcement, we also see many improvements for SharePoint Sites overall, with new Web Parts enabling our users to do more. Check out this Calendar Web Part!

SharePoint Calendar web part

OneDrive for Business Anywhere Access to all Your Files

There was always a lot of confusion around this product, what is it exactly?

When I say OneDrive for Business, our first thought about it is the ability to Sync, or the personal site originally called My Sites. Now it’s something else entirely and it’s important to start with a clean slate.

“OneDrive for Business delivers anywhere access to all your files”

That’s the slogan, or mission if you will, that Microsoft associates with any talk of this product. Because it does more than give users a personal site for their documents, and it’s more than a sync engine to access files offline.

It allows you to find and interact with all your files, at work. This includes those in your SharePoint Team Sites and I expect a whole lot more in the future.

What’s new with OneDrive for Business

  • Files On-Demand
  • Share from File Explorer and Finder (Mac)
  • More admin controls around sharing

The most anticipated feature in this list is the File On-Demand feature that allows you to view all your files on your computer, but without them taking any space on your hard drive.

Imagine being able to view your Document Libraries that usually take up 200GB of space on your computer, but having them only take up 1GB of space.

Then, from your File Explorer, you can share these files using company links and more. I’m excited to see this, it shows that Microsoft is really trying to provide a better experience for us.

OneDrive for Business Sharing window

OneDrive for Business sharing on Mac

Although working with files directly from SharePoint is the preferred method, the reality is our users like to work from their File Explorer just as much.

Office 365 Groups at the Center of Everything, Even SharePoint

It’s a lot clearer now, Office 365 Groups is at the core of everything and is not much more than a new object in Active Directory, besides your usual Security Groups. The difference is when they’re created. They provision different products and associate themselves as the owners of each of those products.

But if all new Office 365 Groups create a SharePoint Site Collection, and vice versa, with new Site Collections created linked back to a new Group… What about all your existing Team Site Collections?

Be ready, soon your existing SharePoint Site Collections will be “Groupified”.

What does that mean? Although it’s not yet clear as to how permissions will be translated into the new model, your existing Standalone Site Collections will be joined to a new Office 365 Group.

This will finally be closing the loop and officially transitioning from “Classic SharePoint” to “Modern SharePoint” where collaboration is always with more than just the one product.

Connect Groups resources to navigation and pages

Creating an Office 365 Group previously would simply connect a team and provide them with all the different products (calendar, email inbox, team site, etc. More on Office 365 Groups here) that would only be available from the Groups page. Now, you can take these resources, display them on your SharePoint Pages directly or through the navigation. An awesome addition if you ask me!

Office 365 Groups Navigation in SharePoint pages

The same goes for adding SharePoint Pages to your Microsoft Teams tabs.

SharePoint pages tab in Microsoft Teams

We’re definitely starting to see an improved User Experience as Office 365 is blurring the lines between Products. They’re focusing on simply delivering what end users need to get the job done.

New Team Site Templates made available by your admin along with themes:

SharePoint Team site new template

SharePoint Team site new template

PowerApps and Flow Integrating More Intelligently with SharePoint

As SharePoint focuses on being a better tool for collaboration and communication, it made sense to leverage other products for Forms and Workflows. But with InfoPath gone and SharePoint Designer no longer getting any updates to build workflows, what tools should we be turning to?

PowerApps finally integrates with SharePoint

I always loved the idea of PowerApps. We’re in 2017 after all, and mobile devices are ever more present in our lives. However, it often seemed that PowerApps had simply built a “connector” for SharePoint, but never really integrated with the platform.

Now, with a side panel integrated to our lists and libraries, I can finally say “Yes, it can start replacing those InfoPath solutions”.

SharePoint PowerApps side panel in SharePoint

Microsoft Flow for our SharePoint Workflows

One of our most common use cases for Workflows has been to get approval for an object in SharePoint. And of course, from there some would take it a step further and automate some of their business processes with it as well, making the most value out of their implementation.

Microsoft Flow always felt a little on the sidelines, not unlike PowerApps, with a simple “connector” for SharePoint.

Now we see a real integration, with a simple approval and feedback Flow baked in to SharePoint Lists and Libraries, along with some new triggers and sharing options.

Microsoft Flow SharePoint integration

Delve Embracing its Role as a People Profile in Your Organization

I think it’s time we forget about the old SharePoint Profile Pages and make the move to Delve.

Although the profile page isn’t something new, it certainly is maturing quickly.

  • People Cards will now be integrated everywhere when a user’s name appears
  • Profile Pages will contain Skills, Projects and more.
  • An interactive organizational chart

Now, the search experience helps you find people by properties like Skills or Projects they are working on.

Delve Skill Search

Modern SharePoint Admin Center with all Site Collections

“Where are the Site Collections created by Office 365 Groups!?” a question I have heard many times. Well, here is the answer!

Not only do you see all your Site Collections, but the overall experience of the SharePoint Admin Center has been greatly improved.

SharePoint Admin Center Home

With a flat and interactive view of everything you have, so you can get to what you need quickly and efficiently.

SharePoint Admin Center Site Management

You can even contact site owners based on these filters and have them act on something immediately. Whether to remind those that have external sharing on to check their shared files frequently, or to contact those that forgot to assign a Site Classification.

Modern or Mature, Bottom Line: SharePoint Is Ready

Now that we’re over the excitement of last year’s new features, we’re finally starting to see a vision for a connected and robust environment for collaboration and communication.

This year’s announcement is not so much a list of features, but rather a thought-out user experience. A connected and common vision for all things Productivity. Or, simply said, Office.

Keep an eye on your Message Center, things will start coming out for First Release customers very soon, with probably a lot more at Ignite.

SharePoint isn’t just cool again, it’s ready for primetime.

To find out more about Office 365 Groups and what you get when one is created, check out my other blogs on the subject.

Benjamin Niaulin
Benjamin Niaulin @bniaulin

Well known as the SharePoint Geek, Benjamin has been helping people all around the globe reach their goals by simplifying SharePoint solutions. You haven't met Benjamin yet? Look for him at SharePoint conferences and events!