Well 2015 is nearly completed and it was what I would call a GREAT year for Microsoft and their collaboration platforms. Jeff Teper is back in charge and things really picked up speed. Before we talk 2016, let’s talk about 2015.
Here are few of the highlights for 2015…
Groups became the king of collaboration in O365
- Office 365 Groups were announced in 2014 but became for real in 2015. As we have seen with the majority of “experiences” coming out in Office 365, Microsoft is heavily following the Minimal Viable Product (MVP) deployment model. This means that Microsoft is releasing things without things being fully ready but then actively taking feedback to actually adapt their solutions to business needs. I think this is a great approach and we as technologists working with Microsoft need to understand this. We can be critical of their releases but need to provide the proper feedback through the proper channels such as uservoice and Yammer. There is still a lot of work to do for Office 365 Groups to be fully enterprise ready but Microsoft has made it incredibly clear that this is the future. The recent announcement of the compliance capabilities within Groups is a great start. And remember it is NOT Groups vs Team Sites. Groups have their place along with Team Sites.
SharePoint Server 2016 on-premises was presented and betas released
- If you would have asked me in 2014 what I thought the future of on-premises versions of SharePoint was I would have told you that it wasn’t good. Microsoft had been spending all of its marketing budget on Office 365 and Azure and not telling anyone about a roadmap for on-premises only SharePoint solutions. Then the announcement of SharePoint Server 2016 was released and over the past 12 months I have been able to watch the product grow internally and with the betas. This is not a groundbreaking release for Microsoft as far as any technical or end user upgrades but does provide a better long term infrastructure solution. In my opinion the biggest benefit will be the consolidated codebase between SharePoint Server 2016 and SharePoint Online. As Microsoft is developing everything cloud first this means that solutions will be more easily ported from Office 365 back to on-premises. Now of course there are things that will always be Office 365 only but this new version allows for more possibilities.
New OneDrive for Business sync tool(s)
- If you have ever used the old OneDrive for Business sync tool you know it sucked. Thankfully Microsoft released a new sync client in preview for most of Q4 and finally made it GA in December. Now this release does a lot of things better than the old sync tool, like actually sync, but still has lots of work to do. I would still not consider this an enterprise ready solution. The fact that we still have to use 2 sync tools for OneDrive vs SharePoint vs Groups is enough to confuse everyone.
Office 365 compliance updates
- There were so many releases as far as security, compliance and trust in Office 365 that I could write multiple posts about each. We got our first access to a new Trust Portal, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), advanced eDiscovery, Advanced Threat Protection, Retention, O365 Auditing and more. This was an area that was very hard to keep up with as it changed so much. Even by the end of year, as in this month, they are releasing new things. The Compliance Center is now being rebranded as the Protection Center.
- Better administration in OneDrive for Business
- New OneDrive for Business UI
- Lots and lots of mobile apps (Video, Groups, O365 Admin, Office Lens, Delve)
- Delve profiles
Ok let’s talk predictions for 2016!
The majority of these will by my wishes. I will state nothing I am predicting here I actually know will happen. I have the privy to be a part of certain preview programs but none of my predictions below relate to those. These are areas I either hope will improve or expect to change.
PowerApps will be a niche solution
- My primary issue with PowerApps on its initial release is that it is only directed at mobile and tablet devices. In the right business need PowerApps could be incredible. This really is the first step into having power-users have the ability to create mobile apps. Can you imagine a few years ago if you could use a very intuitive GUI to build an IOS app that could easily be deployed? The world of mobile app developers would have been flipped on its head. I envision that in the right hands with the proper business need PowerApps will be able to save your business money and increase productivity. Now I call it niche because even though we are moving to a mobile first world, the heavy majority of my clients are desktop and laptop based. IF, and that’s a big IF, PowerApps comes out with a desktop component, I can see this being an incredibly great product.
Team Sites in O365 will get some love
- It has been far too long since the backbone of SharePoint Online has been updated. I think we saw the beginning of what it will be like with the new authoring solution in Office 365. It is only being used in the personal blog now but that authoring experience will transition into SharePoint Online in a modernized team site experience. I think the driving factor for this is the lack of responsive design using the default master page and branding in SharePoint Online. if Microsoft provided and page building solution that allowed for even basic responsive design it would be a huge plus. I don’t expect them to redo the master page model but apply the processes on top of it. I predict the new team sites will not be easily branded and used as a lightly customized solution.
OneDrive for Business will be easily manageable for the enterprise
- I have no idea how this will happen but it better. Every time I talk with clients about rolling out OneDrive for Business the process of administering it becomes the number one topic. Right now there are not enough management capabilities to meet their needs There are ways to manage certain areas with PowerShell but we need a GUI for this. We also need better management of security capabilities that can be utilized. For example, there is currently no good way to manage IRM throughout your enterprise. These types of requests will hopefully begin to be added to the new protection center.
Yammer conversations get added into areas of Office 365
- I went into Ignite 2015 expecting to hear Yammer was dead. I keep waiting to read a Microsoft blog post that Yammer is going away. This was a great example that my prediction being completely wrong as Yammer is still going whether its confusing when to use it or not. The newsfeed area of Office 365 is the best part about it and would greatly benefit being included in Team Sites but mainly Office 365 Groups. Right now the conversation section of Groups is simply email. The way Yammer tracks conversations could be included with the email capabilities to provide an even better experience. Things are going to get even more interesting once Groups allow external access as I believe that is one of the primary use cases for Yammer today. Either way something has to happen with Yammer at the least to ease confusion for what to use and when.
I may be wrong about all of these but cheers to 2016!