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I recently attended the Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando and as an Office 365 and SharePoint systems integrator, and there was an almost overwhelming amount of information to take in.  If you’re not familiar with Ignite, it’s a week-long conference focused on Microsoft’s enterprise products – Windows, Azure, Exchange, SQL, Office, SharePoint, Office 365, and the Microsoft cloud. The Microsoft product teams did a great job providing insight into current and future capabilities – here are the highlights I brought back to our sales and implementation teams:

General trends for SharePoint:

  • Microsoft continues to deliver on their “cloud first” strategy.  The majority of SharePoint related sessions and announcements were about SharePoint Online and integrated features that are on the Office 365 roadmap.
    • Microsoft released a new Office 365 SKU for “first line workers” – F1.  It’s meant to fill the gap between the Kiosk license and the E1 license for information workers.
    • Microsoft has released a public beta version of their 1st party SharePoint Online migration tool.  It won’t handle all of the migration scenarios that a 3rd party tool will, but it’s available for free to Office 365 users.
      Microsoft Ignite Recap - sharepoint comm sites
    • Despite the focus on the cloud Microsoft’s planning on releasing SharePoint Server 2019 for on-premise customers. No information was given on how it would differ from 2016 or what Office 365 features might be included, but they are planning their announcements for a SharePoint mini-conference in Vegas in May 2018.
  • Microsoft continues to remake the user experience within SharePoint via “modern” experiences.  It started with the release of modern lists and libraries last year and has continued with modern pages and modern sites (teams, Communication sites) this year with more to come early next year. They’ve been slowly replacing the user experience that was released with SharePoint Server 2013 with the “modern” experience.
  • Microsoft has released a new extensibility model with the “SharePoint Framework” to support integration and customization with modern experiences.

Microsoft has invested in many different functional areas within SharePoint recently:

  • Collaboration: They successfully launched Microsoft Teams earlier this year (a collection of shared resources like a security group, SharePoint document library, Planner, OneNote, Wiki, and chat client), announced that it will be replacing the Skype for Business client for chat and virtual meeting, and they’ll be releasing the ability to “teamify” legacy SharePoint sites in the near future.
  • Content management: Enhancements to the modern list and library experience will support easier upload and tagging of documents (they’re finally fixing the issue where documents “have no checked in version” when missing required metadata), faster filtering by metadata, conditional column formatting in list views, and retirement of the 5000 list view threshold limitation.  Learn more about the upcoming usability enhancements.
  • Intranets/portals: Microsoft just launched the new Communication Site template.  This is one of the new “modern experience” features and is gear towards creating SharePoint sites with a lot of web page and media content.  It includes new “portal friendly” web parts such as News, Quick Links, Events, and Image banner and hero displays. As the first version, it’s missing some of the features we had with the old Publishing infrastructure, like content approval, scheduled publishing, and customizable themes but they’re on the roadmap.  Microsoft announced a new Hub site feature is coming soon which will allow us to group multiple site collections under a virtual umbrella – learn more about SharePoint hub sites new in Office 365.
  • Security and compliance: Microsoft continues to invest in features that support secure sharing, encryption, data loss prevention, and content retention and deletion.
    • Next year they will be merging Office 365 security and compliance features with Azure Information Protection features and calling it “Microsoft Information Protection”. Currently, these two feature sets have different scopes but can overlap, especially in the Office client.
    • Microsoft is close to releasing event based retention in Office 365.  It will provide an interface where authorized users can manually log events that trigger retention schedules on content (i.e. Mary has left the company to start the retention clock on her HR records) and a framework for developers and 3rd party vendors to automatically log events through integrations.  Gimmal already has an SAP integration in beta. This plus more global compliance reporting features may make Microsoft more of a contender in records management. See more about the Advanced Data Governance capabilities.
  • Forms and workflow: InfoPath and SharePoint Designer have been officially replaced by PowerApps and Flow in SharePoint Online, although no hard end date has been announced for backwards compatibility.  Flow is fully integrated into the SharePoint modern list and library experience and PowerApps is mostly integrated (will be fully integrated by the end of the year). There’s no word yet on PowerApps and Flow support for SharePoint on-premises, where InfoPath / SharePoint Designer or 3rd Party are the only options.