I don’t think anyone will deny that the last year has been an interesting one for those of us working in the SharePoint space. Personally, I felt like we had to look at new things in Office 365, and try to figure out how we could replace some of our previous workloads in SharePoint.
The impression was that no new improvements were being made in SharePoint, while new portals and “experiences” were being built, leveraging some of the existing technology. Perhaps what we were missing was someone guiding us, and the product, in a common direction.
After a week at the MVP Summit with the Microsoft Product Team, that works on SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, as well as the ESPC 2015 keynote presentation to the world, I can tell you SharePoint is back! And I'm very excited!
Jeff Teper Back in Charge of SharePoint and OneDrive for Business
In all honesty, I’ve always done my work and never really paid attention to the names at Microsoft working on these projects. I knew I had customers, SharePoint was a fit for them, and I'd make it work based on what was possible in SharePoint.
Jeff Teper is the Corporate Vice President at Microsoft for SharePoint and OneDrive. He led the SharePoint product from nothing into what it is today, but left the team, a year or two ago, to focus on other things.
Now, it wouldn’t be fair to say that it’s all Jeff Teper’s doing, because every team has been working very hard; but, since he’s been back, we can feel a change in the air. Sounds cheesy, I know, but there's a direction – the different teams at Microsoft are fired up, excited, and know where they're going so that it all fits together, in the end, for the customer. At least, more than I've seen in the past.
Most importantly, SharePoint is back on the menu, and we can feel it.
The Modern Workplace, and Some SharePoint Numbers
It’s been a while since we’ve seen some numbers on SharePoint, so it was nice to get that from Seth Patton, Senior Director of Product Management for Microsoft SharePoint and OneDrive.
Over 75,000 customers, with over 160 Million users, on SharePoint and OneDrive for Business, both On-Premises and Online with Office 365. That's incredible, and great news for us partners and vendors, but also for customers to know how important this product is for Microsoft.
The messaging was similar from Ignite's - there is a shift happening to a Modern Workplace, and Microsoft wants to help us in this transition.
It’s something that I've been trying to pass along, myself, with previous blogs, sessions, and even a keynote in London. Our business users are accustomed to technology in their day-to-day lives, and have come to expect it at work, as well.
They're letting us know that this is a reality we all face, that they're getting in front of it, and are giving us the tools to be ready for what's to come.
This led us to SharePoint and OneDrive for Business with Jeff Teper and Bill Baer.
Renewed Focus on SharePoint, and More on OneDrive for Business
For a while now, the global SharePoint team site, as well as how we work with documents within it, hasn’t really changed. Not to mention that SharePoint was being replaced by the word “Sites” quite a bit in Office 365 and some marketing materials.
However, it’s obvious that, today, SharePoint is back at the center of things with OneDrive for Business.
And it feels good to see it back, front and center.
First, Let's Talk OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business has had a rough start, unfortunately, due to previous sync issues. There's no denying that. There’s also been a lot of confusion on when to use what since Ignite, with Groups for Office 365, Team Sites and OneDrive for Business in the mix.
But in his keynote, Bill Baer said something that, I think, can help clear that up a little bit.
“To collaborate, you need an individual and an idea”
Wait what? That’s not collaborating, you might think. But I think it’s spot on with OneDrive for Business. We often begin by working on files, and they'll then evolve into something more with others. Kind of like your new My Documents folder, if you will. You’d work there and, eventually, bring a final version to your File Share, or perhaps a SharePoint Team Site. And this seems to be what they're looking to improve.
From what we saw, and what was mentioned, we can expect improved document lifecycle from OneDrive for Business “personal files” into Team files.
Here are some things that were mentioned on OneDrive for Business that we can expect before the end of the year:
- Rock Solid Selective Sync
- Improved Mobile Apps ("quick see" your files, and send them to someone right from your mobile device. Awesome!)
- Simplified Browsing and sharing (love the new UI for OneDrive for Business which has already made its way to Office 365 First Release)
- More IT Controls
Here's a quick video of Bill Baer showing us the new and improved web experience for OneDrive for Business and sharing with teams through Groups.
There were also mentions of bringing some of the Delve experiences back into OneDrive for Business, to help make it your go-to place for everything on your files. It sounds like they're working on reducing the number of apps and places you need to go to and get the job done.
SharePoint, SharePoint, and more SharePoint
There's a lot I can't share, unfortunately, due to NDA material, but I hope you can sense my excitement and renewed confidence in SharePoint through this post.
However, there were many hints in the keynote about the new focus brought back to SharePoint. Let’s see what was mentioned.
We know that SharePoint Server 2016 is coming out with a lot of improvements on the infrastructure and the core of SharePoint.
An enhanced User Experience by bringing the UI from SharePoint Online, and especially OneDrive for Business, to SharePoint 2016. New security and compliance features through a new site template, as well as an overall better hybrid experience.
Acknowledging that not everyone will go to the cloud in one big move, but rather in phases, over the next couple of years. That’s why the Hybrid story is getting a lot of investments with SharePoint 2016.
Jeff Teper then continued to giving us a glimpse into what's to come in the future for SharePoint.
It’s clear that he wants to bring SharePoint back to the front, as a “Modernized Content Collaboration Platform”. Something easy and simple for the users, but that provides everything that we need to work on files at the office.
He hinted at some of the investment areas for SharePoint in the future.
This was by far my favorite slide, and I’ll tell you why. We know that the most popular thing in SharePoint has been the Team Site, and seeing the word “Modernized” in front of it, as well as Jeff saying “We’ve got some clever ideas we’re working on in the lab”, sounds very interesting.
Can’t wait to see what comes out of this lab in the future for SharePoint.
My takeaway from this ESPC keynote:
SharePoint isn’t an afterthought anymore. Nor is it that thing that’s somewhere on the shelf. It’s back in the lab, getting the attention it deserves and, frankly, getting a makeover. But not just a UI makeover, it’s all teams working together in one common direction.
It’s clear that OneDrive for Business and Team Collaboration with Groups or Team Sites are going to get a lot closer as well. Improving on the lifecycle of a document from an individual’s workplace in OneDrive to that of a team via the modern Team Sites.
If you were evaluating a migration to SharePoint 2013 or SharePoint 2016, I’d tell you to definitely make the jump to SharePoint 2016 directly, with the help of a third-party tool like Sharegate.
Other Things worth Mentioning
By paying close attention to what was said during the keynote, and presented in the slides and demos, we could also get a hint as to what is to come.
Bill Baer showed some very interesting Analytics improvements coming to Delve and Delve profiles. Using the Office Graph to give individuals better time management based on what’s going on in their Outlook Calendar.
But what was interesting about his demo is that we could also see a “Communications” tab in Delve. What could that be? Perhaps bringing conversations in Skype for Business and Group Conversations? Hard to tell and, frankly I have no idea, but looking forward to hearing more about this.
Jeff Teper also very quickly mentioned that Groups for Office 365, which has a hidden SharePoint Team Site behind it to surface a library, may eventually open more access to that Team Site.
Though a very quick mention, this is HUGE. Not only will it reduce the confusion on when to use what, but it'll allow those working through Groups in Office 365 to evolve into a more robust content management, as the lifecycle of their documents grows into something more important if I can call it that.
Again, I wish I could tell you more on what I saw for SharePoint and OneDrive for Business to come in the future. Hopefully you'll take my word for it and feel my renewed excitement for the product!