Back in April, I shared my thoughts on what would happen at the May SharePoint virtual conference and it's fair to say that I missed quite a few things! There's still no story about Publishing Pages (although the hub sites will cover quite a bit more than news will) and there's still not really any standardised bot integration. But there has been a huge amount taking place with SharePoint including my predicted increase in Flow and PowerApps integration and some huge improvements to the development lifecycle of SharePoint Framework later in the year.
Here is what I think will happen in the world of office 365 and SharePoint the next 12 months.
SharePoint has been held back by legacy back-ends for some time and these have often limited what could be changed. Coupled with many organisations and vendors building solutions that had requirements on keeping the services the same. However, with modern pages, this has changed. There has now been the chance to rework the SharePoint front-end and this has led to the opportunity to start again. New modern, responsive web-parts, a new development framework using modern web techniques, cross-platform apps with PowerApps and Flow to link it all together. It has taken some time to get to this point but now the foundation is ready, the chance will really be there to see what can be done with it. This year will see more built on that foundation with Hub Sites likely to be just the start. Some of the new features have felt a little half finished (e.g. news not available to be aggregated) but I think that this will quickly accelerate. I am hugely looking forward to what gets announced at the SharePoint Conference in Vegas and also how others make more use of these foundations.
With tools like the designer in PowerPoint and the automatic CV creator in Word, there is a lot of growth of services building on Microsoft's Azure Intelligence services and helping people be more productive. Many of these will be simple and possibly used by a small percentage of users but all of these together will grow and grow the ease of use for all. I already find the ability to add questions from an email as a task with one click as essential to my day to day life and look forward to see what else will come. One area that will definitely improve is search.
Another huge area of growth that was signposted by Microsoft is in Search where I think that the ability to surface content relevant to the current user and powered by the growing expertise in machine learning will open up a much better basic search experience. There will always be the chance to create greater search experiences and tailored content with delicately set metadata. However, there has often been an issue with the amount of work needed to not only set this up but to keep it this way. For personalised content, this has led to a large amount of governance to ensure that metadata is set correctly and consistently.
Because of this,governance will re-emerge as a massive topic. I know, I know, many of you reading this are saying that it never went away which is true. However, the focus has been on getting content, regardless of how and where. Creating new pages, new teams, Yammer groups - all of these are more focused on ease of creation than management. Great for the end user but not for those administering content. Even with all the intelligence behind what content to show when, there will come a point where distinguishing the useful content from the duplicates and what remains relevant event when it is old becomes too hard with the current solutions. This will lead to either greater governance capabilities as a core service or vendors to quickly fill that gap. Having the right content will be key and vendors like Hyperfish make it easier to get the right content in the right place.
As the foundations change around Office 365, the push on vendors to adapt will become greater. Some vendor’s will fall by the wayside as Microsoft offers services to compete with them like the migration tool but others like AvePoint, ShareGate and Metalogix will still be there and will come up with new and interesting solution is to keep people keen and to fill the gaps that exist.
I think Microsoft has done a great job in keeping Office 365 as a key challenger in many different areas. However, I think that there is a chance of something new disrupting the space. Salesforce acquired Quip last year as a disruptor to collaborative services and Slack has shown what is possible as well. I think that some time this year, there will be a challenge across a wider spectrum of the Office capabilities.
At the same time, the excitement and hype around Microsoft Teams will ground out in some reality. However, it will be continued growth of reality with it taking even more of a centre stage. Especially as people in the enterprise move off Skype For Business and start to accept Teams as the new way of working
Amazon made the first big jump ahead of Microsoft with their Alexa for enterprise at the end of this year. This will finally see people accepting the ease with which some services can be improved with voice. Taking actions and notes from a meeting, organising leave and other consistent processes, coupled with search to find the right content. Will it become something that people all grumble about? Oh, certainly it will. It will become an easy target for how "these bots will never take over" but it will gradually take hold and acceptance will grow in the way that SharePoint has taken hold.
The voice input will also be backed up by the bots explosion where developers realise the ease of use of giving access to their services and users realise that not clicking and typing can be much easier. More and more people in the modern workplace travelling around will open up the need for faster access without keyboards as I often find the need to take notes and reply to emails while in the car. Hopefully next year, this will finally be rounded off as a complete service.
More new stuff coming, the old stuff staying around but looking shinier than ever AKA same most years recently! But I am looking forward to it and it feels full of opportunity for all.