What we learned about the modern experience, data security, team collaboration and Azure cost management.
During his keynote speech this year at Ignite, Satya made it clear: companies need to adopt the latest technologies and focus on developing solutions that make them unique in the eye of their customers. Those who will choose to waste time and energy building tools that are already available as a commodity from another vendor will inevitably die.
From this perspective, we believe that a customer-driven mentality is one of the keys to survival—not just for product teams, but for IT as well. For IT teams, being customer-driven means being able to understand the job their users need to accomplish and provide them with the right tools to do so.
Work done by Microsoft teams this year also reflects this shift in the company’s vision. The majority of the brand’s announcements for Microsoft 365, and more specifically Office 365, revolved around ways to make users’ lives easier—and they were more than welcome!
Based on the questions we get most often from our users, we decided to put together a recap of Ignite 2018 highlights based on what matters to you, now. It goes like this:
Read the first section if you’re in the middle of building a new intranet, training center, or any other resource with SharePoint sites.
Jump to section Content & Tenant Security if you’re worried your content might not be 100% secure or you’re struggling with compliance and security.
Go to section Adoption and Collaboration if your main pain point is to increase the adoption of collaboration tools.
Wondering what’s new for Azure cost management? Head straight to the last section.
This is by no means an exhaustive recap—there were more than 700 sessions to attend at Ignite this year. If we missed any that you think would be worth mentioning, be sure to add them in the comment section so all readers can benefit!
Modernizing Your SharePoint Sites
The whole point of modernizing your intranet is to provide users with the info they need to stay productive and engaged. New tools and features are now (or soon will be) available to help your organization fully embrace the modern experience. To get up to speed on all the cool announcements for SharePoint admins in Office 365, be sure to check out session BRK3097 - What’s new for Sharepoint administrators in Office 365.
Based on some of our Sales and Support team’s most frequently asked questions, here’s an overview of the key announcements made at this year’s Ignite about SharePoint hub sites and communication sites:
SharePoint Hub Sites
Improvements have been made to hub sites since their release last year to make them easier to deploy. If you’re new to hub sites or unfamiliar with their deployment and best practices, take a little over an hour to watch session BRK3360 - Learn about SharePoint Hub Sites & Other Best Practices for an Intranet Information Architectures in Office 365.
In a nutshell, Microsoft is all about ‘groupify’ (attaching your team sites to Office 365 Groups) and ‘hubify’ (hub sites are replacing subsites).
If you already have a good understanding of hub sites and are in the process of integrating them into your intranet infrastructure, take less than 50 minutes to watch Susan Hanley’s session BRK1089 - Building a modern intranet with SharePoint and Office 365. Don’t have time to watch the full session? Read Hanley’s article 6 tips for planning SharePoint hub sites for the key takeaways.
One upcoming feature admins are sure to be happy about is the ability to create and manage hubs from the Admin Center. This addition, which should be rolled out by the end of this year, is more than welcome given that users will be able to create sites from the hub. It isn’t hard to picture the potential mess that might cause.
Hub sites are starting to support more and more business cases. Microsoft increased the maximum number of hubs to 100 and plans to raise that limit again during the first half of 2019.
Take a look at the full roadmap for hub sites below:
SharePoint Communication Sites
We were happy to see that new and updated resources are now available (including ones designed for people with zero coding experience, like me!) to help create and design your intranet. Here’s some further reading on the topic:
Build your modern intranet on SharePoint in Office 365 (new Microsoft resource page)
We also recommend watching session BRK2286 - How to build a beautiful and reusable training center with Communication Sites.
Having a beautiful intranet is great, but you need to think about the people who are actually using it. The ability to track user activity has always been somewhat limited and unintuitive. While this is still largely the case, it’s worth mentioning that a nice table view has been added to make it easier to understand your site usage. This should help you make sure you’re posting news at a time where its impact will be maximized.
If you’re currently working on transitioning to the modern experience, note that the communication site experience will be enabled at the root of a tenant by the end of 2018. Other upcoming features to help power users and admins create valuable intranets include:
Page design to reuse and standardize content (set to launch by the end of 2018)
Audience targeting in News and highlighted content (set to launch by the end of 2018)
New tenants get communication site provisioned at the root (set to launch during the first half of 2019)
More sessions to watch if you are currently rethinking your Intranet:
Content & Tenant Security
Our team has frequent conversations with consultants and admins worldwide, and one concern we hear over and over is the fear of data being compromised by employees accessing things they shouldn’t. External sharing and oversharing are causing those insecurities, and, let’s face it, it’s true that users typically either lack training or aren’t overly concerned about security issues (or both).
We thought that this slide from session BRK3100 - What’s new in external sharing and collaboration with OneDrive and SharePoint (not yet online) does a great job explaining the ins and outs of sharing across OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams:
From a content perspective, you can now use Information protection labels to tag your SharePoint sites according to their level of sensitivity and monitor their activity through analytics.
One announcement that really got us excited as a marketing team without IT pro skills is the ability for site admins to restore files for SharePoint and Teams. We had an episode lately where one of our team members mistakenly deleted a whole folder instead of a file… Suffice to say that this new restore function would have saved the day!
Improvements have also been made to the Admin Center. It (finally!) acts as a central location from which to manage all sites, whether they’re team sites connected to a group, communication sites, or hub sites.
Learn more about security, compliance and administration for SharePoint and OneDrive in this blog post by Bill Baer. Navjot Virk also demoed a couple new functionalities during Jeff Teper’s Ignite session about content collaboration in the modern workplace. Start watching at 37:00 here.
Other sessions of note:
To assist and train your end-users on sharing and collaboration functionalities:
Tools and best practices to make life easier for tenant admins:
User Adoption and Collaboration in Office 365
If you’re reading this section, there’s one thing you need to remember: it’s all about Microsoft Teams! Teams is the fastest-growing business app in Microsoft history, so we’re willing to bet that a lot of effort is being made to facilitate its adoption.
Speaking of smoother user experiences, Microsoft is gradually integrating OneDrive, SharePoint, Yammer and Teams together to reduce the friction of having to constantly switch contexts from one app to another. An interesting practical application of this integration is that you can now add lists to Teams and (finally!) easily format a view. The ability to create a team from SharePoint and the arrival of common sharing settings in Teams are other good examples of how this can streamline routine tasks.
To learn more, watch session BRK2102 - Better teamwork, together: SharePoint and OneDrive integration with Microsoft Teams.
Apple users will be glad to hear that accessing their files should finally no longer be a hurdle thanks to the launch of Files On-Demand for Mac.
See the full SharePoint teamwork roadmap below:
We can’t talk about adoption without mentioning self-serve. Users must be able to create their Office 365 Groups and start working on their new project quickly and easily. From an admin’s standpoint, this might seem a little scary; some of you likely disabled this functionality a while ago out of fear that groups will spread out and you’ll lose control. It's a valid concern, but on the other hand, shadow IT is a bigger problem. So what are the best practices when it comes to enabling self-serve for your users? Find out by watching session BRK3274 - Real-world best practices for managing Office 365 groups.
Want more Ignite takes on collaboration and Teams? We recommend these sessions:
Azure Cost Management
A lot of the information that was previously only accessible via the Enterprise portal is now available in the Azure portal directly. Watch session BRK2476 - Make the most of Azure by optimizing your cloud spend through Azure Cost Management and Reserved Instances for more details.
The new Azure Cost Management feature will let you take a deep dive into your data to get fine-grained details on specific resources and their costs, all while keeping an eye on defined budgets. It also marks the introduction of Management Groups, which will allow you to group multiple subscriptions together to generate an overview of costs across multiple subscriptions that are part of the same cost center for your company.
One more session to check out if you're just starting to wrap your head around the Azure portal and want to learn more about managing your costs efficiently:
Looking back at our experience at Ignite 2018, we really like how Microsoft has shifted from simply adding features as they were requested (or a couple years later) to providing their userbase with efficient, well thought out solutions to get their jobs done. OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, Yammer—all these tools are finally coming together to let users truly collaborate without having to switch contexts ad nauseum. Better mobile integration and Files On-Demand for Mac also illustrate Microsoft’s renewed efforts to make life easier for all their users.
Now, how to share all this good news with your team? Post it on your shiny modern SharePoint communication site, of course!