SharePoint Online: The future of productivity and collaboration is here

The future of productivity and collaboration is here

We’ve just returned from our biggest conference of the year, Microsoft Ignite. This is the event where the Microsoft product team shows off their progress, and often reveals the direction in which they’re heading with our favorite products.

These decisions often have an immense impact on organizations worldwide. We’ve meticulously observed every step, listened to every word, and checked out every slide presented, in order to gain insight on where things are headed for us and for many others like us.

There’s so much I could talk about, but here’s what I think stood out this year.

What’s next for SharePoint

SharePoint is about to skyrocket to the top of team productivity in the workplace. Here’s why:

It all started at the Future of SharePoint event a few months ago when a refreshing new vision for the platform was shared by the Microsoft team. Now it seems to be coming together quickly and nicely, as announced.

Though it’s still the same product, we can see that it’s becoming much more “structured” than it used to be. I expect we’ll be hearing less and less of “uhhhh…it’s a platform. You can build whatever you want”, as the renewed SharePoint comes together.

And that, is a very good thing.

Of course you can still build what you want, but this may mean using PowerApps, Flow, Power BI, or extending with the use of the new SharePoint Framework. The new SharePoint team site feels more packaged and “out-of-the-box”, ready to be consumed immediately by your organization.

That’s why its usage is about to go up.

Let’s look at how these pieces are coming together.

Office 365 Groups and top-level SharePoint team sites

Every time you create an Office 365 group, you’ll get a top-level SharePoint site to go with it. This means the members of the group have the full power of SharePoint, but can also easily navigate to other products under the same Office 365 group banner—all with a common navigation.

Group-associated SharePoint site

Clicking on the title will reveal what they call the Group Card, helping users navigate between their products.

SharePoint Team News

In many ways, this new feature can be considered as the new Announcements list that originally came by default with every team site. Members can create beautiful and responsive news pages, which will also be integrated into the SharePoint Mobile App.

It hasn’t been released yet, but you can see it in action on the official release blog.


What I really like is seeing the mobile app aggregate all my news for the sites I’m a member of.

SharePoint App News Aggregator

SharePoint Pages Using the New Canvas

Though not unexpected, it’s still pretty interesting to see that the page canvas we saw within Delve to create blogs has become the new default for SharePoint pages. Web Parts can still be added, but your page is now easier to create, and responsive by default.

Delve Page Canvas
Delve SharePoint Pages

All New Office 365 Group Files Tab

This feature is very exciting to me, because the way I see it, users in a team couldn’t care less where the file is stored when they’re looking for it. They just want it to be easy to locate and, often, it’s one of the more recent files.

The new Office 365 Group Files tab will allow users to see all files in one place. Whether they’re email attachments or files in SharePoint, it simply gathers the information in a single interface.

Big thanks to Christophe Fiessinger and Amit Gupta from Microsoft for letting me take a picture of their laptops.

Office 365 Groups File Tab

What’s important here is that you don’t necessarily always want or need the full blown SharePoint Site. So this simpler Files tab will still be there for those scenarios.

Integration With Delve as the New People Profiles

Delve seems to slowly be taking its spot as the new People Profiles. Even better, they introduced the People Cards which are not unlike the Group Cards mentioned above.

Anytime and anywhere, if you click on a user’s name, you’ll see it pop up and bring value.

People Profiles Card on Offie 365 Groups

New caching technology makes the cards extremely quick and valuable to use. You can access the details of the user and you can contact him using whatever products are available, like Skype for Business or Email, right from the card.

You can see an overview of the most recent documents from this Group or SharePoint Site, but by clicking on Show More Documents you can dive deeper and get more information.

People Profiles Card on Offie 365 Groups

Clicking on “More about” for that user will bring you to their Delve Profile.

Updated Delve Profiles and Editing

Delve People Profile

Jumping to someone’s profile will give you a more complete experience than the People Card mentioned above. A welcomed new addition is the Groups information that lets me know what this user belongs to in my organization.

They’ve also improved the editing experience for profile properties.

Edit Profile on Delve

OneDrive for Business Updates Sync

It’s finally time to say goodbye to groove.exe, the sync technology made a decade ago for another product and dragged along through the years, always with different names.

Groove, SharePoint Workspace, SkyDrive Pro and most recently OneDrive for Business.

A new, solid, Sync Engine has been written from scratch and today it reaches maturity.

  • Sync works with SharePoint Document Libraries
  • Sync folder “Shared with Me”
  • Document Previews for a number of new file types including Photoshop
  • Download multiple files as .zip

More can be found on the OneDrive Release Blog.

One thing I didn’t see in their blog post, but that was shown at the event, is “On-Demand Sync”.

On-Demand Sync for OneDrive

Notice that not all files have a green checkmark to tell me they’re Sync’ed offline- that’s because they aren’t. In their conference session, Microsoft showed us that this OneDrive for Business had 9GB of space used, but only 2MB stored on the disk despite giving the user a view of all 9GB worth of content.

We’re Ready for the Next Phase of SharePoint

It’s not always easy to transform a beloved product, but I’m very happy with where it’s headed. In the past, we’ve often opted for Microsoft because “it works better together”.

And the vision, which is starting to land in our Office 365 tenants before coming to SharePoint On-Premises, is delivering just that.

Each piece not only brings value on its own, but is even better when combined with the rest, as they’re all built to complement and work with each other. Now more than ever.

Don’t forget all this comes on top of the new Document Library experience and so much more- most of which I’ll be deep diving into in the coming days.

From new Admin and security capabilities to Hybrid and a new Framework for developers, Microsoft Ignite didn’t disappoint.

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