Change the way you see SharePoint collaboration in 2015

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No I am not here to talk about whether or not SharePoint is dead. I’ve been following the changes to both SharePoint and Office 365 very closely since the SharePoint Conference last march. And my observations have led me to believe that they are rewriting Office collaboration from scratch. Let me explain

“In 3 years if you care about whether you’re using Exchange or Yammer then we’ve failed. You should just be communicating” – Jeff Teper (SPC14)

For the experienced in SharePoint out there, if I tell you to use this platform for collaboration because it’s quick and easy what would you say? I think I can see your grin through the Internet and all the way out here in Montreal. That’s right; over the years SharePoint has started to become known and somewhat tamed, most of us know what we’re getting into. Needless to say, SharePoint has become quite the popular platform at the office.

“If SharePoint were a standalone business, it would rank as one of the top 50 software firms in the world” – Jared Spataro (2011)

If that was in 2011 I can only imagine today.

SharePoint Collaboration is heavy and slow to move right now

If you want to use SharePoint for collaboration, for anything in fact, you better sit down and plan. It’s often been sold as “Easy to use, click click and you have a site for documents”, but today we know it’s a lot more complicated than that if you want to use it properly. Where should you create these Team Sites? Should it be a Site Collection or Sub Site? Should I create Columns or Site Columns? Heck should I do a Content Type for them? Meanwhile, the end user has been using Dropbox and completely bypassed IT.

The reason people want to use SharePoint in most situations is because it’s web based and comes with a promise of finding your content. Of course, it’s also a Microsoft platform, which means it’ll integrate with the other products in the Office Suite, Lync and many others today.

And as the big players battle for cloud control, I am talking Dropbox, Box, iCloud, OneDrive and any others in this battle of the Titans things are bound to change. People want it to be easy to use and simply, but still be secure. And where SharePoint will still be perfect for those large planned deployments, something new needs to come to help win this battle.

Taking the power of SharePoint to sell the services you need

What happens when you ask someone “What can SharePoint do?” I guarantee you the person in front of you displays an uneasy smile. The platform is vast and allows you to do almost anything: Intranet, Extranet, Collaboration, Websites or even custom applications.

When looking at Office 365 onboarding, it’s almost always about emails. Very few exploited their SharePoint Online as part of their subscription. How can we make a platform extremely popular in the enterprise, but that is too large and complex for everyone to quickly start working with it?

The new SharePoint wheel
(image from the article on SharePoint being carved for parts in May)

Well we can carve SharePoint for parts and sell them as products or services independently. This way we can compete in that battle of the Titans with something as popular as SharePoint. Don’t underestimate the community behind SharePoint either. They will be there to push it forward over its’ tipping point for Office 365. This is what I think is happening, though note that this is only my personal opinion. If I were on the team and working on the product, I’d want to leverage the maximum of what I have to sell to as many people as I could to make sure I keep them “sticky” as Office and Windows was in the past decade.

Unlearn what you know about SharePoint Collaboration and start saying OneDrive for Business

Something new has finally arrived for Office 365, Groups. And I am not talking about Security Groups or Distribution Lists nor am I talking SharePoint Groups. This is completely new and in my opinion will help Office 365 establish itself as a strong collaboration solution in the coming months.

Groups for Office 365 landing page – Microsoft

Detailed overview of Groups by Jennifer Mason

I have been waiting for this for quite some time, but wasn’t sure how it would look like or act. Now that it’s here, I looked at how it works and most importantly what it means for people using it.

Change the way you see SharePoint collaboration in 2015

Groups for Office 365 – My explanation:

It’s new and does not create any sort of “Groups” you are used to so use a blank slate to learn it. It creates these Groups in Azure AD, which is behind the scenes of Office 365. Azure AD is where all those Office 365 users exist when you create them. Regardless of where they are created, Groups for Office 365 bring things we used to do under one and simple name.

Create a Group, add members (which manages the security at the same time), have conversations, which at the moment are Exchange conversations but we know Yammer is going to merge into them as well. How? That has yet to be seen live.  What’s fun is you also get a real Outlook Calendar that belongs to the group itself so any new members will automatically have access to it. And finally, if you click on Files the group can share files as well.

Woah, let’s stop and think for a second. Members joined together under a group where they can have conversations, send and receive emails as the group, create events in a calendar and share files. I’ve seen this before; it was called a SharePoint Team Site for the last seven years.

I am not saying it’s here to replace it, but certainly is a lighter version of the full Team Site providing easier access and usability. I can stay in Outlook and have access to all of this, that’s exactly what I want. But where are the actual files?

For each group created, a hidden Site Collection (by what I can tell) is created in your tenant and for some reason does not conflict with existing Site Collections you may have under the same name or url. When you try to navigate to it, you will be redirected to your OneDrive for Business.

Before I continue, check out what is OneDrive for Business as well as the 60min video demystifying it. OneDrive for Business is not what you think and too many do the same common mistakes. OneDrive for Business is crucial in the future of Office 365. So make sure you understand exactly what it does and its’ limitations before you launch it, even as a pilot.

Putting the emphasis on the “Individual” OneDrive for Business is becoming the place I go to see what I have access to, it’s becoming my Collaboration Portal. I go there to access my personal document library, my profile and information and now I also go there to see the different files I am working on in my “Groups”. Even though Groups create a separate Site Collection and store the files in the Documents Library within them, the library becomes visible only through the members of the group’s My Site or “OneDrive for Business”.

Already I am seeing a lot of confusion from people trying to “Migrate to OneDrive for Business”, the word “SharePoint” is disappearing from our vocabulary. Now I am going to Office 365 and from there I will work in my groups and check my OneDrive for Business.

SharePoint lives on as the platform under the products/services and of course it’ll still be what we will use in the future for more complex needs where a Team Site will be required with workflows, metadata and other SharePoint features.

However, it’s clear to me that for many, SharePoint will be invisible and replaced by the brand OneDrive for Business.

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