What’s new with SharePoint? Microsoft’s Future of SharePoint event round-up

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Today Microsoft hosted a Future of SharePoint event, sharing publically for the first time what the SharePoint roadmap has to offer in 2016 and beyond.

It did not disappoint. The event placed SharePoint and OneDrive’s soon-to-be-released simple user experience and rich mobile capability front and centre of Microsoft’s Office 365 offering. Another point of emphasis was the huge leap Microsoft have in empowering employees to be more productive, with significant investments having been made in the document lifecycle experience.

What does this mean for Office 365 customers? Let’s take a closer look.

Improving SharePoint Online’s user experience

There has been a proliferation of intranet-in-a-box products built on SharePoint Online over the past 5 years that aimed to make the SharePoint Online experience more intuitive to employees. Their popularity in the market did not go un-noticed by Microsoft, who have listened and responded to customer demand, with heavy investment being made in SharePoint as a “mobile and intelligent intranet,” as Adam Harmetz, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft, informed us today. In 2016 some fantastic new Graph powered enhancements will be introduced to deliver a personalised intranet experience to employees, including a recent activity capability and a recommended sites tool, driven by the actions of those you work with day to day. Team sites will also enjoy a series of updates, in my opinion, making them virtually feature complete from a collaboration standpoint. Favourites, KPI monitors, members, files and spotlights will make up the core team site offering before the year is out.

Microsoft have taken the bold step to reintroduce the SharePoint name into the Office 365 experience and will be swapping out the ‘Sites’ tile for a ‘SharePoint’ tile which comes through to your home experience. This modern and responsive user experience puts all the important sites and groups at your fingertips across your organisation.

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Team sites have a huge overhaul and now provide a crisp and mobile ready experience. Your team can now highlight news, documents and announcement updates right on the home page experience.

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Within these Team sites pages gain the beautiful canvas editing experience from the Delve blogs. This will help teams share those important contextual articles about their work and outputs.

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The improvements to SharePoint Online’s user experience has been supported with a new SharePoint mobile app experience which delivers an “intranet in your pocket” experience.

SharePoint app users will have on-the-go access to their sites and portals, files, search and people discovery as well as their work stored and managed in SharePoint. What’s more, the new app will also leverage office graph to highlight sites, content and people that are most relevant to the individual.

The SharePoint mobile app comes first to iOS, followed by versions for Windows and Android in the second half of 2016.

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Empowering employees to be more productive

Document collaboration has long been the cornerstone use case for SharePoint Online and One Drive for Business. Microsoft are upgrading this experience so that when employees need to bring in files from OneDrive for Business or publish files between document libraries, users can click Move to or Copy to move or copy files to other locations across Office 365, without generating unnecessary versions of the same files. As such, moving a document from One Drive that you may have been working on in isolation, to a team site for wider consumption, will become a quick and easy process.

The Future of SharePoint paradigm series

I’ve been aware of the roadmap announced today for SharePoint Online for a number of months as I was lucky enough to be invited to attended the Developer Kitchen in Redmond at the start of February to play with some of the new tech talked about today. This has kept my company, AddIn365, ahead  in developing products for Office 365 that deliver value over and above what the platform has to offer and the direction of travel for services like SharePoint Online we heard about today. Today’s announcements will exert some much needed pressure on the wider Microsoft SharePoint eco-system to bring harder working value-add solutions to market.

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be publishing articles on three key areas:

Mobile

How the Microsoft mobile offering has transformed the use cases for SharePoint, OneDrive and Office 365 for organisations.

User Experience

Exploring the implications for organisations of the new UI and experiences being pushed into service.

SharePoint Framework

A personal favourite, we’ll explore the implications for design, build and tech approaches in readiness for it’s release later this year. Whispers…. TypeScript and Framework wars enter the SharePoint dev conscious (React against AngularJS)

The full Microsoft roundup

For the full details check out the Microsoft blogs:

Vision & Overview Blog

The Future of SharePoint – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/the-future-of-sharepoint

SharePoint Server GA & Feature Packs

SharePoint Server 2016—your foundation for the future – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/sharepoint-server-2016-your-foundation-for-the-future/

SharePoint mobile app, SharePoint home, team sites, Microsoft Flow & PowerApps integration

SharePoint—the mobile and intelligent intranet – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/sharepoint-the-mobile-and-intelligent-intranet/

SharePoint Framework

The SharePoint Framework—an open and connected platform – https://blogs.office.com/2016/05/04/the-sharepoint-framework-an-open-and-connected-platform/

It’s great to see that Microsoft are being pro-active in claiming the intranet space as part of their SharePoint Online offering. This will add a lot of value to the Office 365 service for subscribing organisations and will provide one more reason to those thinking about a move to Office 365, for doing so. The new user experiences, fantastic new SharePoint app and enhancements to the document experience fill some feature gaps and benefit from being both simple and intuitive.

Driving engagement with your organisation through the Office 365 Video Portal

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Back in November 2014 Microsoft announced the release of the Office 365 Video Portal. This was the first of the so named NextGen portals Microsoft aims to release. We gained an internal Video portal within each Office 365 tenant backed by the power of the Azure Media services platform. This was also the first time we had received a service at MVP (minimum viable product) stage. So the community and customers alike began to watch the Office 365 teams roadmap closely and provide feedback via their UserVoice channel.

Introduction to the Video Portal

I won’t spend a huge amount of time explaining every detail about the Video Portal, but if you’re new to Office 365 here is a little more about the Video Portal services.

Video Portal

The Video Portal is the main ‘Hub’ experience, it is the entry point when you navigate to the Video Portal from the application launcher tile. It displays a spotlight of selected videos, trending video aggregation, upto three video channel video aggregations and a channel directory. Video Portal admins can make various settings changes such as the spotlight video selections and the permissions for the portal.

Video Channel

The Video Channels are logical collections of videos. They feature a spotlight, trending aggregations and actually store the videos (for the technical amongst us it’s a little more complex than that). Each channel has settings like the spotlight video selections, Yammer group selection and colour for the header, plus permission.

Video playback page

The playback page is where you can watch the video, discuss it on Yammer, see suggested videos.

Microsoft published a good overview…

Read about the service from the Office 365 site.

To find the indepth help and instructions for the Office 365 Video Portal visit the https://support.office.com site.

Office Mix

At the same time that the Video Portal was announced a little known app called Office Mix also gained the ability to publish directly to the portal. Office Mix is an awesome addition to PowerPoint which helps employees to create interactive video presentations, you can read more about the features over in the tutorial section of their site. Combining both Office Mix and the Office 365 Video Portal opens up many new opportunities to leverage the powerful Office Mix capabilities and still use them within Office 365.

So where can Office Mix help your organisation?

You can use Office Mix when:

  • You need to prepare a presentation for your team, customer or partners and have read-only mode with the animations and transitions
  • You need to improve knowledge sharing, adding voice, video and digital ink to your slides
  • You need to understand who watched which portions of your content, and survey your audience to gain feedback and insights
  • You need to support e-Learning scenarios, turn PowerPoint into a tool which saves time and money allowing experts to produce and publish their content
  • Share pre-recorded mixes for the meeting presentation prior to the meeting, freeing up the meeting time for discussion and actions

You can find out more about Office Mix for business here.

So you can see the this collaboration between Office Mix and Office 365 Video Portal will allow your employees to produce content in a more interactive fashion. This is an area of your Office 365 rollout which really supports employees during their working processes. Publishing these videos into the Video Portal then makes them easier to discover via Delve and other sites.

Where do you use the videos?

So hopefully your organisation has made use of the Video Portal and has a vibrant collection of channels. It’s always better to bring those videos into other information contexts.

You can embed a video anywhere across your SharePoint Online, and with hybrid on-prem SharePoint. Microsoft have a great article on their support site which details the steps. This will help your employees make use of video to support other content. Examples like a mobile phone video uploaded with a site visit, then embedded on a best practices team site for discussion.

Delve is a great way to discover video content being produced across your teams and departments. Using Delve you can add those to Boards or Favourites so you can find them later.

The videos can also be embedded into the Delve modern blog articles, again helping to make those articles much more media and context rich.

Understanding the stats

Just released are the video statistics. You can find all the details here.

The most exciting part of the new stats is the ability to see inside the viewing stats. Video is such a rich media that simple view counts don’t really cut it. The new stats (from Feb 19th 2016 onwards) will begin to show a breakdown of the viewer engagement.

An example from the launch article:

Office 365 Video Viewer Engagement

Why is this cool?

Well lets imagine you have a month all hands meeting in which your CEO talks about the business strategy, sales wins and various reward announcements. These meetings are often recorded and published by the internal communications teams. The comms team will already be promoting the video via existing channels like Yammer/Slack and email. Now they can also understand the true engagement with the video and act accordingly. Imagine that at 48 minutes into the video the CEO made the most significant announcement which the comms team wanted people to see. From the graph above they can quickly see that less than half the viewers made it to that time in the video. This gives them opportunity to tailor new messaging about the missed communication.

Wrap up

Hopefully this has shown you a few options, features or tid-bits about the Video Portal that you can dove tail into your engagement and communication strategy within your organisation. Making better and deeper use of your existing Office 365 investments.

Working with all your OneNote notebooks in Office 365

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OneNote is one of my favourite Microsoft products. The digital notebook has been my number one application for years now. With such a great cross-device scenario and combining it with a Surface Pro 3 it really does become a masterful tool. I’ve used it for everything from technical research, note taking in meetings and workshops and even hooked up to a projector with the Surface as a mobile whiteboard.

While I was giving a team an overview of OneNote last week a simple question was posed.

“How do you find all your notebooks in Office 365?”

One the desktop/device top

In the Office 2016 version your opened notebooks can be found listed in the Notebooks listing top left. Like the screen shot below.

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This lists the Notebooks I’ve opened and sync’d with the OneNote application.

If you’re using the Windows 10 universal app then you get the same concept from he hamburger menu.

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I personally keep a different set of notebooks sync’d between the applications. Mainly keeping the bulk in the full application and those I use on the go in the Windows App version. In Edge (Microsoft’s latest IE replacement) you can snip the page into OneNote directly. I have one notebook i use for these snippets so that’s one i sync.

So the conclusion in the desktop and device world is that you can find them if you knew of/accessed them before and opened them. There is no true ‘discovery’ that’s super obvious to an employee.

Office 365

So what’s the story in Office 365?

OneNote is listed in the App Launcher and the main Office 365 portal page by default. The Office portal looks like this.

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The App Launcher looks like this (I’ve ordered my tiles differently to default)

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And this is where life become super cool!!!

When you clicked this icon a few months ago you jumped into the OneDrive for Business notebook by default. Well now we get a splash screen with all the notebooks I have access to. VERY COOL Open-mouthed smile

This is how it looks.

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Now there are some interesting things to notice about this.

  • It is listing all my notebooks, from OneDrive for Business and my Office 365 Unified Groups and team sites. Which is giving my entire notebook estate.
  • The url is actually pointing out to the consumer services at this point. In this example it was https://www.onenote.com/notebooks?auth=2# more on that later in the article.

Clicking into a notebook takes you into the WOPI/Office Online version as you are used too. We’re now back inside our tenant by url.

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Things get even better for us…. You’ll see the splash screen now moves the ‘Quality’ notebook up the order as we’ve recently interacted with it.

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One final thing, when you’re in a notebook you can still quickly skip to another by clicking the ‘Notebooks’ link in the left hand panel. This launches the splash screen again.

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OneNote.com

Now it’s interesting to see the consumer services and the Office 365 service getting some crossover, we know it’s coming as the API is already ‘unified’ to interact with both.

When you visit www.onenote.com you can log in with either Microsoft Account or your Work account and the app will work out what to show you.

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Signing in with your Office 365 work account gives us the already familar splash listing.

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If we log in with our Microsoft Account we get our personal notebooks (from OneDrive normally).

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Wrapping it up

So hopefully this has shown some of the new updates to the OneNote experience that can be shared across the organisation. It also reinforces the value of the web application versions of the Office clients.

OneDrive for Business gets a new user experience

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The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that Microsoft have released an update to the web interface of OneDrive for Business. It now looks and functions in a very similar way to the personal consumer version of OneDrive.

OneDrive for Business look and feel.

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OneDrive consumer look and feel. (i’ve just redacted the names of my personal stuff, it doesn’t really have the blobs of colour all over it)

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To me this feels like a great improvement in the user experience, and probably a good view an Office Fabric use. Microsoft did say that OneDrive for Business was utilising the Office Fabric. One challenge with this unification will be helping your employees to understand the differences, how to identify the UI so they understand where they are. I can already see some tricky consulting conversations ahead with regards the obvious questions around helping an employee differentiate one from the other. We always have to remember those of us living and breathing Office365 24/7 are actually not a ‘typical’ employee Winking smile. The most obvious element is the ‘Office 365’ wording in the suitebar.

A tour of some of the features

Lets take a walk around the new features. While this isn’t an exhaustive list it should help get a footing.

View formats and options

We can switch between viewing formats with the following buttons in the action bar.

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Sort is fairly self explanatory and changes the sorting of the main view.

The little block icon next to it toggles the main view from details to icons.

Details view

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Icons view

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Document details

The ‘hover panel’ is no more. Personally i’m really glad to see the removal of the hover panel idea, it always felt clunky to me and was a really bad experience on a touch enabled device.

Selection of a document is now super easy even with a fingertip.

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You can see the action bar become contextual with the common action now available for that file.

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You can also invoked the menu from the item ‘…’ option as well.

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Opening the details panel now provides an in-depth view of the selected document. The file previewer for an Office Document shows the contents. If you select a folder you get the large folder preview icon and an item count for that folder.

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Return to the older UI style

Simply click the bottom left

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Which takes the view back to the older one.

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Help panel

The new ‘Help’ panel also lights up with new content for this interface. Access it by clicking the ‘?’ icon on the suitebar. This is something that you can encourage employees to click through when they enter an area of Office 365 they are less familiar with. Microsoft are starting to bring some more useful and engaging information in through this mechanism and I’d encourage organisations to begin to highlight this feature as a good way to aid learning.

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First item prompt.

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Second item shows a small animation in the panel.

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Third item prompt.

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Fourth item prompt.

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UserVoice

As you may be aware Microsoft like to hear from their consumer base about their changes and any ideas they might have via UserVoice. The specific OneDrive for Business is here: https://onedrive.uservoice.com/forums/262982-onedrive/category/86090-onedrive-for-business

Summing it all up

So these new user experience changes are great, one thing that struck me was no mention of them on the roadmap site http://success.office.com/en-us/roadmap.