We’re not starting with SharePoint, the reason being that most of our customers have been all over Teams for one reason or another, sometimes good and sometimes bad! I’m sure that you know what Microsoft Teams is about by now; Slack challenger, Skype for Business replacement etc. Eighteen months ago, we started a Microsoft Teams POC with a client to see if we could extend it beyond Team communication and collaboration, covering enterprise search and insights. The vision was sound, but we found that Teams had potential but was severely held back.
Fast forward 12 months, and the news is much, much better.
For us, Teams becomes a massive opportunity for a business to get their real-time communications flowing.
Back on to the main product that sparked our conversation. I am sure that the SharePoint product team would argue the point, but for the last couple of years, it does seem that SharePoint has taken a back seat. Lots of other Office 365 things are using SharePoint for their own needs such as Teams, but the base product has undergone significant UI and functionality improvements:
Modern Experience, yep that’s what it’s known as!
SharePoint Online and now SharePoint 2019, has had a SharePoint v2 UI sitting alongside the classic look and feel since mid-2017. Unfortunately, Modern experience was significantly lacking the support of tried and trusted web parts and extensibility, so most developments continued using existing paths, until now. The modern experience is now at a mature enough point to be considered for most SharePoint based solutions. In the last 12 months, there have been significant improvements including:
The Graph makes it seem smarter SharePoint is reading my mind
Wherever you go in SharePoint, whatever you may be interacting with (People, sites, content), those signals are recorded in the O365 Graph (and have been for a few years now). Over the last year SharePoint is making more use of the Graph in smarter ways to serve up content and people automatically. Algorithms and analytics have been strengthened to include inferences, the rate of interactions and trending; it’s not just showing you the things you last modified or visited anymore. The Graph APIs are also a lot better, so you can now use this rich data in your custom applications.
SharePoint Features using the Graph
It’s no good having the Graph if you’re not using it! There are now new SharePoint features that help you achieve that personalised experience, all making use of the Graph. Features showing recommendations, suggestions, frequently accessed sites and documents are present on most out of the box Modern pages and site templates. The Newsfeed feature has lots of potential. It may not be 100% fit for a traditional comms team, but this may change with topic aware context that is due soon. You will notice contextual search suggestions simply by hovering on the Search box, for example, recommendations that show stuff close to you, but also allows you to discover through inference.
SPFx, the SharePoint framework
This could so easily have been at the top of our list. For too long developing on SharePoint (especially when delivering a clean, modern UI) meant going way beyond out of the box and into the world of frameworks. Regular Dev talk in Teams was around the merits of React over Angular, Sass vs Less. Every 6 months there was something better and easier. Keeping your dev standards simple, wasn’t errrr… not simple. SPFx has matured significantly over the last 12 months (Microsoft have built the Modern experience using it) and now is THE standard. For us, any new SharePoint development should be making use of it.
Some other good news
Maybe this was beyond the last year, but one significant improvement that wasn’t really announced (as far as I can tell) has been the adjustment of Lists and libraries view thresholds. You can now query for all records in a list or library without hitting the 5000-item list view threshold. There are limitations though, i.e. Your view cannot use a filter and you still only can have 12 lookup columns. However, if you just want a bulk dump of data into Excel, for example, you’re in a much better position.
Over the past 12 months, Microsoft has continued to improve search across Office 365. Historically Search has promised so much, but never fulfilled, for example from an application development perspective, search offered a great “discovery/query” mechanism, due to its reach across sites and services, but go back 24-18 months and we at Ntegra would have been hesitant to recommend search for any near real-time-based applications/processes, purely due to the level of service on offer with frequent crawling lag, missing results and other issues leading to a poor application experience. However, over the last 12 months, both the service and functionality has improved. Crawled content is now enriched with
Well as you can see it’s been an extremely busy time for people in the Office 365 space, a lot to learn and even more to keep an eye on. Hopefully, you got a good idea on how much the Office 365 space has changed recently, and what you should be watching out for soon.
If you want to read more Microsoft provides a lot of detail about their O365 roadmap on the “Microsoft 365 Roadmap” site (https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/roadmap) and that individual product teams blog and tweet frequently about feature updates. These are all invaluable resources, but in our opinion, nothing beats working closely with a client, sharing real-world experience of what Office 365 can deliver.
Thanks for reading!