When it comes to establishing a strong collaboration among a geographically dispersed workforce, the stakes are extremely high. Among the many collaboration tools available in the market, Microsoft Office 365, with a 100 million-plus monthly active user-base, is now the leading choice for establishing a completely secure communication and collaboration solution. And, that’s what the SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017 highlighted.
The increasing demand for SharePoint
Many Office365 users do not rely on the suite alone, and leverage SharePoint for additional features and functionality, for sharing and managing content and knowledge, and to enable a more connected workplace. Recent figures say that over 250,000+ enterprises, including about 85% of Fortune 500 companies, use SharePoint as part of Office 365. The growth of Sharepoint-Office365 stack for collaboration has been exponential in the previous year, with the user base growing 90%, content stored growing by 300%, and more than 10 million new SharePoint sites opened by users.
More than 60% of these SharePoint sites are online, indicating the value customers seek by using SharePoint in Office 365. With businesses increasingly seeking the benefits of splitting workloads between cloud and on-premises solutions, hybrid SharePoint deployments have become the go-to solution for businesses. SharePoint reciprocates well, by promising a constant stream of innovations and new features.
The recent SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017, which took place on May 16, under the leadership of Microsoft’s Seth Patton, General Manager for SharePoint and OneDrive, sets the tone for the innovations and improvements in coming months. The Summit unveiled the latest innovations for SharePoint and OneDrive, mainly aimed at powerful integrations across Office 365, Windows and Azure platforms.
Here are the top innovations across SharePoint and OneDrive announced at the May 2017 SharePoint Virtual Summit.
1.Sharing files becomes easier with OneDrive Files On-Demand
OneDrive Files On-Demand offers an effective sync and share solution for collaboration within and outside of the enterprise, in a secure manner.
SharePoint enables deep integration with Office365, to facilitate rich, real-time co-authoring and seamless file-sharing. OneDrive Files On-Demand enables accessing all Office 365 files, including individual work files, files shared by others to the user, and files used by work teams, through any device, from smartphone to PC, and from laptop to tablet, be it Windows, Android or iOS powered. The sharing process is simplified, with users able to generate a link and send it to anyone within or outside the enterprise, who needs to access the file. The sharing experience works the same across Windows 7, Windows 10, and online. A simple control interface allows users to access and tweak with the sharing permissions granted, setting time limits on how long a link provides access to different users, and other rights.
2. Informing and engaging employees become easier with SharePoint Communication Sites
While there are many solutions for team members to collaborate, the options to collaborate across the entire enterprise is still largely limited, and plenty of “ad-hoc”ism is at play in most enterprises.
SharePoint is rolling out a new communication site, which has the potential to herald the next generation of intranet, and would further the cause of engaging the rank-of-file employees of the enterprise, rather than only the team members of a specific group. This new communication site leverage SharePoint Office 365 to effectively take small group conversations across the enterprise. The information published on such communication sites are easily transmitted to SharePoint Home in Office 365 and to SharePoint mobile, to all users who have access to the site.
Setting up such communication sites promises to be easy. It may further be topped up with beautiful and intuitive UX, complete with new multi-column sections, drag-and-drop authoring tools, image galleries, interactive Bing maps, videos from a Microsoft Stream channel, a new events web part, and more. Adding the Yammer web part adds a conversational layer to the internet, fostering conversation and making the task of soliciting feedback all the more easier.
3. PowerApps enable creating Custom Forms
The new Microsoft PowerApps enables creating custom forms easily, inside SharePoint lists and libraries, without the need to use code. These forms surface in the right context of a SharePoint list or library, and offer an effective alternative to the default SharePoint forms. Users may apply such custom form to create, view and interact with data in a much better way. Custom forms make team and organizational processes and collaboration better, giving users better control over the process.
4. Better and more personalized Search Capabilities
A new personalized search leverages Microsoft Graph, complete with its machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, to surface highly relevant search results in double quick time.
The scope of search gets deeper as well. On entering a search term into the search box, users would get to see not just the direct result of the search query, but also related content news and sites, and a list of recently accessed files. The search also displays people cards, or people in the enterprise whose skills, interests and projects are related to the query. The information about people is derived from their Office365 profile, and includes a glance about the person, the content they work on, and a drill down option to access richly detailed information.
5. Create Automated Workflows
SharePoint enables the team and enterprise managers to streamline tasks, automate workflows and integrate processes seamlessly into the work schedule, using any device and from any location.
The integration between Microsoft Workflow and SharePoint is set to get tighter, with the ability to create automated workflows between apps and services. SharePoint’s new built-in approval flow allows you to email any document for approval, with a custom message displayed. The recipient can approve the request directly through email, so that approval and feedback could happen without leaving the inbox.
6.Better Team Sites Connections
In the past few months, Microsoft is trying to connect SharePoint Team Sites with Office 365 Groups and services. Microsoft is now building on it, and taking it to a logical conclusion, by connecting existing sites with Office 365 Groups. Users can add SharePoint pages as tabs in Microsoft Team Sites. This functions as an extension of the current ability to add tabs in documents.
The other takeaway from the summit is Microsoft’s commitment to release a new Feature Pack for SharePoint 2016 on-premises edition later this year. We are yet to know the details.
Microsoft promised regular updates when it released the SharePoint 2016 online edition, and the slew of innovations announced at SharePoint Virtual Summit 2017 shows Microsoft not just fulfilling its promise, but also its intention to make SharePoint the market leader and go-to solution in its class. Through SharePoint innovations, Microsoft seeks to reinvent content collaboration, usher in a new generation of mobile intranets, and accelerate digital transformation. The upcoming Ignite conference in September 2017 is set to usher in several new innovations towards this end.
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