Highlights from the 2019 SharePoint Conference

I attended the 2019 SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas with two of my fellow Habs: Imran Thobani, digital workplace advisor, and Mark Bice, front-end solution architect.

At the conference, Microsoft announced their plans for what’s new and what’s next for their products. Of course, as a Microsoft Gold Partner, we keep up to date with everything Microsoft, so the only surprises were the things Microsoft wanted to announce at the conference.

This year, the buzz and excitement around product features was palpable amongst attendees. Microsoft’s messaging was largely around empowerment for their users with self-service being a major theme, which would decrease the burden on admin and increase the capabilities for users.

While many new and upcoming features and tools were presented and discussed, I wanted to share a few highlights from the conference and some of the changes and features that will have an impact on Office 365 customers and our clients.

Adoption

Adoption of all the things the Office suite has to offer has always been a focus for us and the work we do with our clients, so we were happy to see that it was a key theme of the conference and was discussed in most sessions. 

According to Imran, “Not only did this commonly come up during sessions, but was something almost every client or contact I talked to brought up as well.”

Companies are looking to work in a whole new way and seeing change happening faster than ever forcing them into increasingly agile mindsets when they are not ready.

Seeing this highlighted at the conference and the level of engagement of attendees was exciting. It’s promising to see that Microsoft is as focused on this as we are.

Governance

One of my takeaways from the sessions on security and content management services was that governance in Teams really means governance of O365 groups.

This message is so important because we often hear that organizations either

  1. don’t see the need for governance for Teams and ended up with all kinds of problems or
  2. recognize the potential power of Teams and need help structuring the governance.

Without addressing some governance, you can't control naming conventions, who is creating sites, how many sites and the types of sites, and you aren't applying sensitivity, retention, or content types for security and content management. This means you can't audit and report on usage as effectively, reserve important name spaces or provide training and guidance to site owners.

For large companies, users will begin creating sites because the option is available to them and then the admin people will realize they've got hundreds or thousands of users in their environment using a tool they haven't officially rolled out with no insight into what or how it's being used and no security controls at the site collection level. This is obviously a cause for concern, especially within IT.

In the past, you needed to manually set up each separate solution your team would need – a SharePoint site, a OneNote notebook, a shared calendar, etc. But now if you start a Group, Office 365 automatically sets up all these tools for you (this is what we call automated provisioning).

So, Groups is the glue between your distribution list in Active Directory and the apps and tools your team uses to do their day-to-day work.

This is important with regards to Teams because once you name a site, users will be reserving the name across all the different tools ((i.e. SP site, OneNote, calendar, etc.)

The Keynote

The Keynote was extremely well done. It highlighted all the important insights for the whole conference at a high level. It gave a great overview of everything that was going to be discussed in more detail in the other sessions.

I have encouraged my fellow Habs to watch the keynote to get an idea of what’s coming. Even just hearing what got the most feedback was a good learning. If you’re interested, you can watch the full keynote session.

The 10 keynote takeaways include:

  1. SharePoint Home sites – This is a built-in communication site in Office 365 that brings together news, events, content, conversations, and video, in a way that reflects your priorities and your brand.
  2. SharePoint start page - This is the personalized place that anyone can go to see what they are working on and to quickly access their files and favourite sites.  
  3. SharePoint site renaming allows you to change SharePoint site URLs right from within the SharePoint admin center.  
  4. OneDrive improvements for business processes include the ability to request files from others from within OneDrive, link straight to a specific PowerPoint slide, and @mention people in comments in Office files  
  5. Live events can be created and streamed from within the Yammer interface, using Stream.
  6. SharePoint search updates allow you to search from wherever you are  
  7. Interactive quizzes, polls and surveys in Stream videos - Now you can do things like add a survey to a recorded departmental meeting, quizzes for training videos, and even provide assessments for employees to fill in.
  8. OneDrive differential sync for all files in OneDrive and SharePoint will be coming later this year.
  9. Microsoft Teams and SharePoint integration improvements - Now you can work in SharePoint libraries within Teams, with the full library experience, including metadata columns and column formatting.
  10. Multi-geo capabilities - Now, with the new multi-geo capabilities for SharePoint and Office 365 groups, you can store your sites' data in one or more worldwide locations that you select.

What our clients said

We also had an opportunity to connect with several of our clients at the conference and to hear their takeaways from it. There were a lot of similarities in what our clients are looking for. Our clients were interested in:
  • Migration – everyone wants to make the move to the cloud if they aren’t there already
  • Culture – changing behaviors, working in new technology and embracing ongoing change
  • Enterprise content management (ECM), including navigation of content and IA
  • User experience and adoption

Reflecting back 

Overall, while I wasn’t surprised by most of what I heard, the conversations did make me look at things from a wider perspective. Sometimes, it’s difficult to keep the big picture in mind when you are so close to a project and proposed solution.

The conference provided me with the space I needed to re-approach some of the issues our clients face. 

If you’re interested in hearing more about the conference and any of the new and upcoming features and functionality, get in touch. I love talking about all things Microsoft and the digital workplace.

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