Tuesday, May 30, 2017

8 New SharePoint Features and Enhancements from the 2017 SharePoint Virtual Summit

Jeremy Williams, Sr. Director, Modern Workplace
Technology / Platforms

Did you miss Microsoft’s SharePoint Virtual Summit on May 16th, or haven’t found the time to watch a two+ hour collection of videos about all the capabilities? No worries, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a breakdown of eight new SharePoint features and enhancements you need to know.

1. SharePoint Communications Sites


Microsoft unveiled a new modern template to help with communications-workload in SharePoint – basically the modern publishing template we’ve all been waiting for in Office 365. Sway based, and potentially group-backed, SharePoint Communication sites include some publishing template-concepts along with additional web parts on the homepage: Hero, Event’s highlight, People, Key Resources. This format appears to target a simple Intranet workload (be it a homepage of 2nd/3rd level landing sites) – the key here is that it’s a simple out-of-the-box SharePoint solution.


Capabilities shown during the demo: Minimal personalization, strong silo concepts, minimal amount of dynamic hero curation, and ‘new’ SharePoint search experience.


Other noted benefits: Mobile/Responsiveness, decent OOB web parts and page templates, as well as Sway in place.


Release Timeframes:

Coming soon: Communication sites, multi-column page layouts, people cards on SharePoint home, view News on SharePoint app for Windows 10 mobile.

Coming later this year: Future integration w/Teams, new site usage page, additional web parts and page capabilities, on-premises support and author news in SharePoint app for Android.


2. PowerApps and Flow:


I think the most interesting piece here was a public nod to PowerApps and Flow being successor technologies to InfoPath and SharePoint Workflow.  Additional features enhancements noted included: A simple approval flow, trigger and share flows in lists and libraries (not new info, at least for first-look tenants), and PowerApp embeds in lists and libraries (new and cool because this brings PowerApps closer to the direct successor of InfoPath).


Release Timeframes:

Coming soon: Use of Forms to embed in lists and libraries

Later this year: Simple doc approval, web part for PowerApps in Modern pages, intelligent large-list indexing


3. Core SharePoint:


Core SharePoint updates during this conference were few, but critical. You can now connect an existing site to a Group, reference group assets in navigation areas of the SharePoint site, and post group-assets as web parts on the Group site.

Release Timeframes:

Later this year: All items mentioned above


4. Extensibility:


To continue to improve on extensibility, Microsoft introduced SharePoint Framework extensions for sites and libraries, Graph and Webhooks across sites and lists, and SharePoint Framework to SharePoint Server 2016 Feature Pack 2.  Lots of goodness here for the developer-community, namely improved access to user information in Office 365, closer parity between O365 development and SP2016 FP2 development, and a different way of crafting reusable code elements.


Release Timeframes:

Release date for FP2 not disclosed


5. Yammer:


There were a lot of new and interesting Yammer updates including: better extraction of Yammer conversations natively in the modern site structures with features like new hashtag filtering, better group targeting and focus of embedded feeds. There were also a few small tweaks to the IOS app that will make the mobile Yammer experience run smoother.


Release Timeframes:

Coming Soon: Connectors in Yammer groups, dynamic group membership in Yammer, personalized search in Delve.

By end of year: Yammer integration with communication sites, new yammer iPad and desktop apps, personalized search in SharePoint home.


6. On-premises & Hybrid:


Microsoft put a stake in the ground and committed to continued ‘releases’ for the server-products, BYO encryption keys, and expanded conditional access policies per site. This should help to ease fears from on-premises Customers that they may be standing up a platform with an uncertain future (based on some past Microsoft statements). In other words, on-premises and hybrid will continue to be a robust and maintained architecture option by Microsoft.


7. Teams:


The Teams function is now being added in a SharePoint tab. While this update may seem small, this addition retools and eliminates the current ‘hacky’ location that Teams currently resides.


Release Timeframes:

All updates by end of year


8. OneDrive:


This is not new from a press-perspective, as we learned this at the Windows 10 event, but Microsoft also introduced a simplified form of screen sharing – Files-everywhere – bringing the sharing experience out of the browser and into the context of wherever the ‘share’ activity is taking place.  


Release Timeframes:

Coming soon: Sharing updates and base

By end of year: Windows 10 Fall Creators update for Files Anywhere

Overall, this was an exciting event! There was a nice mix of feature functionality across several key workloads, and Microsoft did a great job of keeping the vast online audience engaged and on the edge of their seats. I think the release items that are most exciting for users are: Communication Sites, more substantive Yammer updates, and continued maturation around PowerApps and Flow. These enhancements serve to provide even more utility from the Office 365 platform – from providing a quicker starting point in Communication Sites, some meaningful innovation in Yammer to improve its utility, and modern capabilities to start filling the voids and shortcomings of SP Workflow and InfoPath. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on these new capabilities.

Sources and other resources:

Microsoft’s recap of the Summit: https://blogs.office.com/2017/05/16/sharepoint-virtual-summit-showcases-growth-innovations-and-customer-success/

Collection of focused videos (from Microsoft Mechanics): https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXtHYVsvn_b-7onG7XS6HN7v9XlVEFvJL

Release Dates, Important Note: Release dates were provided by Microsoft during the SharePoint Summit presentation, release dates are subject to change more rapidly than we can update this posting – always check with Microsoft and their roadmap for authoritative release dates and information.