Highlights from the SharePoint Conference 2019

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Las Vegas and the SharePoint Conference for 2019 was the place to be this week if SharePoint and Office 365 are central to your digital workplace. The conference offers three action-packed days of announcements, learning and sessions, and high visibility from the SharePoint team at Microsoft, even though the SharePoint Conference isn’t actually an official Microsoft conference. I summarized here the key announcements at the conference:

SharePoint Home Sites

SharePoint Online continues on its two-pronged pathway. First, becoming the invisible plumbing for documents and files in Office 365; the past couple of years have seen other apps in Office 365, such as Microsoft Teams, take on the mantle of team collaboration. And second, offering out-of-the-box (or more correctly, out-of-the-cloud) intranet capabilities. Previous conferences have seen the release of Communications Sites (for sharing news and updates across divisions, departments and teams) and Hub Sites (offering a way of logically grouping SharePoint sites with unified navigation search, now that subsites are an information taxonomy no-no). This year the prize announcement was the new SharePoint Home Site, a single Communications Site with superpowers that offers the new front page for the intranet, unified searching, and visual marking on authoritative news items.

SharePoint Home Site

OneDrive-the Files App

OneDrive, now called “the files app” for Office 365, attracted a whole set of updates and new goodness, such as hover-over information on a file with time-to-read data and a brief auto-generated summary, the ability to mark a document for reading later, a way of requesting files from other people, and differential sync, among others. The ability to request files from others offers an experience where you – as the person wanting some files from another person – select a folder in your OneDrive hierarchy and then send a request to the other party. He or she responds by uploading their files into that specific location, and they can only see the files they deposit there, not anything else already there (unless, of course, they already have shared access to that folder). This is a neat usability and streamlining capability, because you can specifically and directly say where you want the files to be put, rather than having to receive them in email, for example, and then save them there. Differential sync for non-Office files – due later in 2019 – is probably the largest practical change to OneDrive that will make the biggest difference in how OneDrive performs. Rather than sending the whole file from a device back to Office 365 whenever a change is made, only the bits and pieces of the file that have been changed need to be re-synced. For example, in the Office files work which already has differential sync, if you change one slide in a 100 MB PowerPoint deck, only that change to the one slide has to be synced, not the full 100 MB every time.

Yammer-the Social Layer

Despite many signals to the contrary some years ago, Yammer’s not dead. Microsoft continues to invest in the product, which it calls the social layer in Office 365, and enables open communication across an organisation. Yammer is getting a new type of post – the question and answer type – which allows a post author to state they are asking a question and are seeking answers. The post author (or a group admin) can subsequently mark the best answer as the best answer, which moves this to the top of the answer list, streamlining quick access in the future for other people who have the same question. Yammer is also getting rich text formatting (bold, italics, underline, etc.), Live Events, the ability to embed a Yammer conversation into SharePoint using a web part, and of particular interest to customers in Europe with data residency requirements, partial support for European data storage. There are also eDiscovery capabilities coming for Yammer, although these haven’t been released yet.

There was a whole lot more announced across Microsoft Stream, Microsoft Teams, SharePoint and other products in the Office 365 stack at the SharePoint Conference. The above is but a snippet, and we look forward to working with customers to put the above capabilities to great use.

In the meantime, register to our workshop around user adoption for Office 365 on 7th June in Rotterdam. 

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