SharePoint Today | Prepare For Tomorrow

During SharePoint Conference North America 2018, held in late May 2018, the Microsoft Office, SharePoint, OneDrive, Teams, and Yammer Teams presented the latest and greatest updates to the Office 365 ecosystem of products and solutions. In case you missed the SPCNA Keynote / SharePoint Virtual Summit 2018, I suggest you watch it. 

 

SharePoint, Your Communication and Collaboration Hub 

Over the years, we have watched SharePoint evolve and grow. At a milestone in the 2013 timeframe, SharePoint served well both in front of, and behind, the firewall, from team collaboration to public facing sites. As they say, you can’t be everything to everyone—it’s not realistic for one platform to efficiently build every possible type of website. Over the past few years with the push to the cloud, SharePoint left public facing sites behind and focused squarely on enterprise communication and collaboration. 
 

Author’s note: Public Facing SharePoint 

A quick word on public facing SharePoint sites, in particular, via SharePoint Online. I know, I know, “Never say never”, but in my opinion, SharePoint Online will never bring back public facing sites. At least, I hope they don’t. Too often I am asked when Microsoft will bring back public facing SharePoint to SPO, and when I say never, I’m met with a look of shock. Think about it though, public facing sites, currently spearheaded by the likes of WIX (wix.com), or platforms such as WordPress (wordpress.com) have very different needs than a collaboration platform. It is best to let each platform shine in their perspective field. 
Still want public facing SharePoint? Stick with on-prem and you’re set, but I would suggest that you expect Microsoft to focus their energy and talent on creating stellar collaboration and communication tools for intranets, extranets, and collaboration. 
 

Enterprise Communication and Collaboration 

It’s not just about SharePoint anymore. Office 365 brings together an impressive suite of tools—all working together to increase collaboration in the enterprise. Your new and updated SharePoint based solutions should look to utilize a wide range of tools. I say, “utilize” rather than “integrate”, because Microsoft has already solved most of the integration headaches for us. 
SharePoint will be your go to tool for storing, sharing, and collaborating on data and documents as well as building portals that will be consumed in the browser, on a mobile device, in Microsoft Teams, or via custom applications. Stream provides you one of the best video storage and integration options available. PowerApps gives you custom app development and utilization right in lists and libraries for creating sophisticated forms. Drive your workflows with Microsoft Flow. Communicate with your outer loop in Yammer. Store, share, and collaborate on your personal files with OneDrive. There are of course more tools in Office 365, and what I laid out is not a promise for the future, it is what we have available to us today! 
 

On-premises and SharePoint 2019 vs SharePoint Online 

SharePoint’s continued evolution includes on-premise improvements with the announcement of SharePoint 2019. SharePoint 2019 looks very promising for those that still require an on-prem tenant for SharePoint and will include more modern experiences currently only available in SharePoint Online. 
The catch? SharePoint 2019 is a snapshot of SharePoint Online sometime in the late 2017 or early 2018 timeframe. With SharePoint 2019 you will get the power of on-prem and full control, but you will lose the evergreen aspect of many new features that have recently been released or announced.  
 

SharePoint into the Future 

The gamechanger at SPCNA 2018 had to be the announcement of SharePoint Spaces. Coming to a SharePoint near you—virtual reality. I recently recorded a PixelTalk (link) where I presented my thoughts around SharePoint Spaces in particular. What I find as one of the most important aspects of the announcement is an insight into the future of SharePoint in general. The great talent at Microsoft behind SharePoint and Office 365 is not sitting on their hands. They’re looking into the near and far future, leading the industry, not simply playing catch up, nor follow the leader. Rather, they are and continue to focus on being the leader in enterprise communication and collaboration. 
 

Microsoft Teams – A pre-built interface to SharePoint 

Finally, we come to Microsoft Teams. Teams has taken the communication and collaboration space by storm over the last year. Teams has replaced most email and portal requirements here at PixelMill, and is now our preferred interface to SharePoint and many other tools. I have been asked if Teams will replace SharePoint and I’m quick to answer, absolutely not! SharePoint provides us the basis on which most of our communication and collaboration solutions will be built and live. Teams provides us another interface to SharePoint that brings together conversations and collaboration like never before. 
 

Curating Collaboration and Communication Solutions the Right Way  

 The Microsoft engineering teams have created collaboration and communication tools that look good and work great right out of the box. As great as these OOTB tools are, and I appreciate all Microsoft is bringing to the table, there is still a need to customize the toolset through governance, branding, design, and functionality to build the best solution for your organization. 
Governance is key to any solution you build, and even more so for communication and collaboration. Spend the time to do it right. What types of workloads does your organization require and how might Office 365 features help everyone in your organization do their jobs? Start with pilot groups and projects, that may work well. Just because a specific tool exists and is included in Office 365 does not mean you should use it. Are you already using Microsoft project, Jira, or some other task management tool? Then perhaps Planner isn’t right for you. That is OK. 
When you decide to use specific tools within your organization, you must provide guidance on how your team will use them. There is a school of thought that runs counter to this statement. Some believe it best to open a tool to anyone to use and let them use it how they best see fit. I find that works well for pilot groups or for your trailblazers, but for overall enterprise use, guidelines help everyone use the tools available to them in a more meaningful and consistent way. 
Define the needs of your organization, correlate those with the tools available in Office 365, and then meet and define those needs. 
 

Where do you start? 

Unsure where to start on your new or next SharePoint journey? There’s a lot to take in to catch up with all that Microsoft has been delivering. If you need help defining your communication and collaboration requirements or building a plan for success, our team of Office 365, SharePoint, and Azure experts want to help take your portals and solutions to the next level. Contact us to learn more.

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