At the recent Microsoft Ignite event in Chicago, the keynote address on SharePoint revealed some interesting developments as Microsoft continues their mission of “reinventing productivity”. Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s focus is on moving from email workload to meeting demand for mobile productivity across devices and they had some big questions to answer in this keynote: would they abandon on-premise in favor of the cloud? What improvements will they make to content management in SharePoint? Here are the three main takeaways from the presentation:
Microsoft is trying to move SharePoint to the background, at least in Office365
Quick Take: Microsoft wants SharePoint to be the content repository, the search engine, AND the security and compliance provider, but with new intelligent user interfaces that interact with it.
Details: It looks like users will spend their time in new interfaces like Delve, Office Graph, and Next Gen portals that are built on SharePoint instead of SharePoint Team Sites, documents libraries, and task lists. Though no one knows for sure if this future will come to be, it seems clear that, at least to some extent, Microsoft and Google think it will.
If SharePoint can actually deliver on the intelligent user interface, then they make a compelling case that daily communication and collaboration might not only take place there, but would actually be enhanced. But will this be the case for transactional content creation and management? Not necessarily, though it is possible. Surfacing a search app or a link to a scanning interface in the Office Graph or in a Next Gen portal is something Content360° could easily do if the need arises.
Microsoft is still committed to providing SharePoint on-premise.
Quick Take: Microsoft seems very committed to on-premise: it’s their differentiator from competitors like Google. So it’s expected it to stick around for a while. In the meantime, organizations will need support to take advantage of the cloud without sacrificing security.
Details: That said, Microsoft is doing everything in their power to push as many people and as much content and data to the cloud as they can. They’re facilitating this by making it easier than ever to have hybrid environments and to transition on-premise content and data to the cloud.
During the address, Microsoft didn’t present a ton of details on these points other than to announce that the unified search feature will bring search results from the cloud and on-premise into one unified index and result set. This allows the user to refine results on the entire set. This feature got resounding applause from the audience.
Microsoft also emphasized that they can innovate much more quickly in the cloud, which suggests that on-premise enhancements will play second fiddle to the cloud. But that is to be expected in the mobile-first, cloud-first world we live in. The major concern moving forward will be to help customers take full advantage of the cloud’s benefits, even if they choose not to move to it. For instance, school districts simply will not consider moving their student records to the cloud because of the security risk it poses for the children. Clearly, we need to develop new methods to offer these clients the tools and ease of collaboration for selected records or transactions for limited time periods, while ensuring the utmost security of their content and data.
SharePoint will continue to focus on what it does best: Files, Content Management, Sites, and Portals
Quick Take: Microsoft continues to move away from the SharePoint interface with file storage in favour of greater freedom when building sites and portals. Content Management continues to need third party tools like Content360° to perform transactional content management.
Details: There continues to be a move away from the SharePoint interface as Microsoft provides more sync tools and apps for different devices that make the files portion more seamless with OneDrive for business. SharePoint continues to evolve into a background service that provides the repository and security.
Just like the shift from web parts to app parts that gives users greater freedom to develop apps in different tools, Microsoft is going to allow the development of sites and portals outside of Sharepoint Designer and Microsoft-centric tools. They specifically mentioned Dreamweaver as a possible tool for this type of development.
Of course, the topic that we were waiting to hear about most was content management. It is, after all, where we and our customers spend the vast majority of our time in SharePoint. There was very little news on this front in the Sharepoint keynote. There was no evidence to suggest that Microsoft will focus on enhancing SharePoint’s native abilities to scan, index, view, or annotate documents. In fact, they went so far as to say that scanning is relegated to third party applications.
Likewise, there was little to no indication of workflow enhancements for SharePoint 2016. Nor were there any sessions during the entire Ignite conference that specifically covered workflow, other than one third party session led by Nintex and K2. All in all, it looks as though Microsoft intends to provide native content management more for one-off scenarios like a team collaborating on a marketing plan or contract negotiation. But when it comes to transactional content management like Accounts Payable, they will simply provide a fantastic and stable framework that third party products like Content360°, Knowledgelake, K2, Nintex, and Psigen can turn into a true transactional enterprise CMS.
All in all, this year’s Ignite conference was just as much about what was said as what wasn’t. Users should expect to see SharePoint moved further into the background, and though the push to the cloud will be extensive, Microsoft will continue to offer SharePoint on-premise. Though the new developments in SharePoint will mean greater flexibility to build sites and apps, users will need to support SharePoint with third party products to support transactional content management.