First article from a series on [ #Office365 #SharePoint ] The new landscape:
Following the #FutureOfSharePoint announcements on May 4th, we have seen a lot of new enhancements arriving in our tenants during the end of the Spring and Summer time. Jeff Teper said to us in May that Summer will be dedicated to shipping new products and he told the truth!
All of these new apps, and features are shaping a totally new landscape for SharePoint Online (aka the evergreen SharePoint version we have in Office 365) and all of its companions: OneDrive, Delve, Planner, PowerApps, Power BI, Flow, …. That is to say for Office 365 as a whole. It’s time to describe this new landscape and compare it with previous options.
These great series of new options and directions also raise a lot of new questions that we will try to summarize in the following posts, in order to be able to be ready for MS Ignite at the end of September!
So here are the great trends around the “new” Office 365 and SharePoint:
The first striking thing around all these new announcements, features and tools is that there is a renewed stratification between end-users, power users and technical users (aka developers and IT Pros). That’s the reason why I will provide more details on these three targets in separate posts. At this stage, we should understand that we now have (again) a set of tools targeted to each type of users.
End-users will find standards tools, like Webmail, Delve or OneDrive with almost no parametrization. Most of them will soon or late join the Office 365 groups umbrella, because most of them can or will be used with groups collaboration in mind. A second set of tools is designated to provide power users more capabilities at the cost of a greater parametrization but with no code. The emblematic one is this category is Power BI which is a tremendous success, but I would also put in this category PowerApps (of course), Flow (shouldn’t have it been name Power Flow?) and even Sway (because it clearly empowers sites creators). And at the end of this spectrum, we have also renewed capabilities for developers to provide innovative solutions around or inside Office 365. The new way to develop around Office 365 is very open and the clear common denominator is Office Graph. IT Pros have also their own tolls to manage all of this.
Here is a schema freely inspired by https://businessplatform.microsoft.com depicting this new (renewed) perspective.
This is in fact a return to a situation that made SharePoint a very successful platform. During the last one or two years, a lot of our usual tools gradually lost indeed their relevance to solve the challenges of the evolving service. For example, some of them like Infopath were deprecated with no clear successor. Others like Workflows lose focus from Microsoft which make them less and less relevant. This is no longer the case with the emergence of a great set of “power” apps, especially Power BI, PowerApps and Flow (should have been Power Flow J) but also Sway which are dedicated to fully empower the power users to give him/her great ways to personalize the service without the need to be a developer.
Don’t be abused by the meaning of this array! In any way it does mean that, for example, Flow REPLACE Workflows. It’s rather a new way to solve similar problems, but in the new Cloud and Mobile intensive world we are now immersed in.
Microsoft is usually very careful to keep ascendant compatibility and so it’s very unusual that old tools are quickly deprecated. So old tools usually remain accessible and available for a long time: for example, Infopath will continue to be supported through 2023. But clearly this is not the tool that you should recommend for any new project. So a new, better tool like PowerApps is a much better tool to use.
So be prepared to live in a world where you will have “classic” and “new” experience options available.
It’s also especially interesting to note that with all the new tools we now have a coherence of features and tooling throughout the whole stack.
This is an old trend now, at least two or three years old, but we see more than ever before its achievement: Office 365 is going on 3 feet, and almost every feature is accessible:
- In the browser
- On the Windows (and especially Windows 10) platform
- On mobile platforms (now iOS and Android)
As always reality is a little bit more complex than these three topics. Windows platform is indeed now proposing two types of applications: “classic” ones and Windows 10 apps. Mobile platforms as we know is divided in 3 major platforms: iOS, Android and Windows Phone. And even on iOS the whole application set is not the same for iPhone and iPad. Here is a summary table of the available apps:
4. SharePoint is back!
Another point is that SharePoint is now a first class citizen in Office 365. That’s almost nothing for any end-users, just an icon that changed in the waffle, from sites to SharePoint
But for any professionals that I have met, it means a lot!
It means a renewed focus of Microsoft on a key part of the Office 365 toolset. In a few words, it means “SharePoint is back”. This is in a lot of ways true but it should be clearly understood that for Microsoft, undoubtedly, the “Future of SharePoint” is in the Cloud in general, and especially in Office 365 . On premises version will remain as long as customers want it but the new features like Groups, Office Graph, some if not all of the Power tools will remain available only in the Cloud.