Some thoughts for 2020

Blimey - it’s almost 2020. All those 2020 visions now need to be reviewed and likely refocused. All those visions of the past can be checked and realisation that we still don’t have flying cars or our own jet packs (most of us anyway). So will the world change massively next year? Probably not. It will carry on but those small changes we don’t notice will continue their trickle in to our daily lives. The ease that AI is starting to bring, the emergence of voice interfaces will continue, Internet will be everywhere and the ability to consume what media you want, when and where you want will keep the diversity of content at a high. What about in the world of Microsoft 365?

Microsoft Search will become the one search to rule them all

Microsoft Search was first kicked off in 2017 with Bing For Business but formally became Microsoft Search at Ignite 2018. It promised one place to get all your Search and by Ignite 2019, it is really starting to deliver on that with the ability to include custom sources and customise how the results are returned using Adaptive Cards. Combined with more endpoints being made available in Microsoft Graph, this means more ways of getting access to your content.

But it’s certainly not there yet. It is often confusing in SharePoint as to when you are using plain SharePoint Search and when Microsoft Search kicks in. Tools like Teams have their own search. It can also be hard to bring back results from across different systems in one go.

This is all changing though and being a viable solution to use. With the custom connectors, it can truly form a hub to your whole organisation and power one place to go to find information. 2020 will see the final updates that mean it can be your one search and allow control over how those results are displayed and auctioned.

Here come the robots

Bots have been around for a while in the Microsoft ecosystem but the recent changes are in how they are created. The tooling is opening up as people better understand which areas are working well (access to existing knowledge, answering questions, support) and focussing on those areas. Making it easier to structure the conversations mean more helpful Bots and better handling of the often unstructured nature of chat.

Power Virtual Agents (which I spoke about before as Dynamics Virtual Agents) were a great way of structuring the trigger point for a conversation and the flow of each part of that. They are limited in what they can do and, in my opinion, now an expensive way for most people to benefit from Bots but with Bot Framework Composer, there is a similar feel for building those conversations but with a more technical backing in the Bot Framework leading to more control over exactly what you want.

These will help understand what is possible and drive more realistic implementations. Smaller Bots for specific purposes, working together to give an improved digital workplace.

Cortex will dazzle but…

When Project Cortex was announced at Ignite, it quickly became the most talked about topic. The ability to easily but intelligently tag content and make it easy to find that content with knowledge hubs. Soon though, the most takes about topic became about licensing and how much it would cost.

My prediction is that it will be seen as a great tool, much like MyAnalytics when it came out. Then the same issue that MyAnalytics had will kick in - it will be too expensive for most organisations to justify. Large multinationals will start to embrace it and it will find a well loved niche but it won’t hit mainstream.

The areas that will take off though are the accompanying tools such as the new term set admin and other metadata related content. This will position organisations to structure their content and then hopefully, in a few years, Cortex will start to branch in to the E3 world without add-one and gain wider acceptance as a central tool that all use.

Spaces will remain quiet

When SharePoint Spaces was announced in 2018, it became a very Marmite product - people loved it or hated it. Many couldn’t see the point but for me, as one of the lovers, I could see Microsoft positioning themselves for the augmented reality future. This was about the time when glasses would show content and about building out for a new way of interacting with that content.

Sadly since the announcement, not much more has appeared. There were some details at Ignite about a public preview coming in 2020 but nothing else. Even more sadly, I see this slow movement continuing as people still don’t have enough content to show and there isn’t enough momentum in AR to drive a big marketing push yet. However, keep watching as I believe that it's time will come and it's a worthwhile investment.

Custom dev in Microsoft 365 will grow and grow

For any who attend the regular PnP calls or seen Vesa Juvonen speak at a conference this year know, the growth of SPFX has been phenomenal - the fastest growing development framework in Microsoft's history. In my experience though, I still see an overwhelming push to use out of the box with SharePoint Online and avoid the pain that many have felt over the years with highly bespoke SharePoint implementations. There have been small occasions where a small request has been met with SPFX for customers but more often they want to not have to manage custom code.

However, with the use of SPFX for Teams custom tabs and the upcoming expansion across Microsoft 365, I see increasing demand for those custom apps. Not just using PowerApps but building single page applications (SPAs) to give exactly what is wanted. Power Automate and Power Apps will definitely make a difference but dev teams will be able to do more in a deployable and manageable way with SPFX. This will increase the amount it is seen and hopefully raise the profile of custom dev.

Another big driver will be the news that AppSource will support SPFX since organisations can start to monetise SPFX web parts. When companies can make money from it, there will be a bigger push for third parties to modernise their stack to make the most of this. This will lead to more SPFX happening and be accepted as supportable too.

There will be more license fights with big backtracking by Microsoft

2019 saw several big license changes, especially around Power Platform and I think 2020 will see this continue. I feel that the early Satya days of moving to a friendlier and open source Microsoft are still there but the reality hits that it is a large company and does need to monetise on this. This will always lead to overstepping the mark that customers are comfortable with and upsetting partners as they did when they said they would remove Internal Use Rights. In some cases, we will see backtracks again as we did with the Self-Service purchasing not being able to be disabled. However, expect to be disappointed with licenses and prices in the new year still. That way, you'll be less disappointed.

A new decade, same push to productivity and collaboration

So it will be a new decade but don't expect to feel a massive change suddenly to the way things work. Don't expect a massive leap in to the future. Why? Because we are already there.

The desires that we had at the start of the decade to be able to work better together wherever we are and have more intelligence in what we do and really being recognised. Getting to work you do faster and with the ability to better focus are all in place, helping you find the right content is getting there soon and being able to access from anywhere now feels natural.

This won't feel like a big leap because everything is moving forward at a constant pace of an improvement. Look back at where we were ten years ago with little automation, huge amounts of manual processes, little remote access and silos throughout an organisation and then look at many places now and see the change. Not everywhere, I agree but the momentum is well and truly established and it is easier than ever to do. That ongoing change with continue in to the 2020s and 2030 will see us all feeling the new way of working as being the only way to be. We might even have some jet packs.

Image by annca from Pixabay