Microsoft Ignite announcements you need to know

Microsoft’s flagship conference, Microsoft Ignite, concluded last Friday after a week filled with announcements straight from Microsoft’s senior product teams. With big news surrounding SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer, PowerApps, Teams and more, we’ve highlighted the most significant for your intranet and digital workplace.

The majority of this new functionality won’t be available under mid next year, which gives you time to consider how these fit into your overall strategy. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks as we bring you more on this, with insights into how this new functionality could enhance your own intranet solution such as Unily.

Connecting the modern workplace with SharePoint and OneDrive

OneDrive and SharePoint still sit at heart of 365, making it easy for people to work together. To kick-off the roundup, we’ve highlighted the top headlines around SharePoint and OneDrive, which we talk about in more detail later on.

Announcements from Ignite focused around business outcomes, and how these products can start working better together to support some key activities.

The top announcements surrounding OneDrive include:

  • A simple sharing experience across Office 365
  • Securely share files with people outside your organization without an account
  • See who viewed shared files in OneDrive
  • Web versions of Office open even the largest files faster than ever
  • Co-authoring support in the desktop version of Excel for Office 2016
  • New file thumbnails and previews
  • Connecting existing sites to Office 365 Groups
  • Deeper integration with Microsoft Team

The top announcements surrounding SharePoint sites include:

  • Build richer, more dynamic pages with new web parts
  • Engage your audience with the new Yammer web part
  • Promote news articles to reach people where they work
  • Save news to read later, and catch up on news you saved
  • Measure reach and impact with site and page usage
  • Drive consistency and usability with customized themes, site designs and page designs
  • Organise your intranet with SharePoint hub sites

Read the full story here with more on those points.

SharePoint hub sites new in Office 365

One of the big announcements for the intranet space at Ignite was the announcement of SharePoint Hub Sites, described by Microsoft as “a new building block of the intranet, to bring together related sites to roll up news and activity, to simplify search, and to create cohesion”. 

Essentially, you can now associate multiple Team Sites and Communication Sites (released earlier this year) to Hub sites, bringing together content across separate sites which might be related. Hub sites provide a common navigational structure, look and feel, and search across associated sites. They also aggregate news and activities from associated sites and display the roll-up on the hub site’s home page.

Highlights of Hub Sites:

  • Create a cohesive set of related sites with shared navigation, look and feel
  • Roll up and present a consolidated view of news and activities
  • Create hub sites and associate team and communication sites
  • Access hub sites and associated sites with the SharePoint mobile app

Stay tuned for some new blog posts where we’ll talk more on how these pages can work within a wider digital workplace. Read the full story here.

Skype for Business integration with Teams

The announcement of the new Microsoft Teams last year was an exciting step forward, creating Sites that work hard to pull together multiple tools from the Office 365 Suite. At Ignite 2017, it was announced this integration is being taken even further, with Skype for Business being integrated into Microsoft Teams, replacing the existing chat functionality.

This doesn’t mean Skype for Business as a separate tool is being diminished, as Microsoft also announced a new version of Skype for Business Server for on-premises customers in 2018. However, it does mean that eventually, users will be encouraged to use Teams as the central place for Instant Messaging, as Microsoft steadily work on bringing more of the capabilities currently in Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams.

Read the full story here.

Deeper integration between SharePoint and Yammer

Yammer has always been a question mark for users, as Microsoft are reluctant to specify whether it’s to be replaced with another service, or whether they plan to continue innovating on the platform. With Groups and Teams being introduced, this became even more of a grey area. This year at Ignite however, some news on Yammer’s future has been released. It’s nothing ground-breaking, and items like the Yammer mobile-app should have been available years ago to keep up with user’s needs, but it does confirm that Yammer is here to stay.

Microsoft has committed that over the next few months, “we are innovating on the fundamental enterprise social experience that Yammer delivers”.

Some of the innovations include:

  • New mobile-ready web-part for integrating Yammer conversations into SharePoint Sites
  • Enriched preview and editing experience of SharePoint documents with Yammer
  • Building out default SharePoint file storage and OneNote services for Office 365 connected Yammer Groups
  • The ability to see Presence, as well as launch voice and video calls, straight from Yammer

Read the full story here.

LinkedIn integration with Office 365

In the past, we’ve created Office 365 based intranets which have integrated with LinkedIn in some way. Although they added value, it wasn’t always easy to achieve due to the relationship between Office 365 and LinkedIn. So we’re really excited to hear that Microsoft is going to start integrating its LinkedIn data into Office 365 apps and services.

This will enrich users’ Profile Cards with information from LinkedIn, allowing you to get more information quickly about the people you work with.

Read more on this story here.

Reinventing business process in SharePoint and OneDrive

Microsoft also announced a new series of capabilities for SharePoint and OneDrive at Ignite, integrated with PowerApps, Power BI, Microsoft Flow and Microsoft Form, allowing people to create and share custom forms, applications and workflows that automate processes.

Biggest announcements include:

  • Custom forms with PowerApps.  Solution creators can build rich forms inside SharePoint that blend data from lists with over 160 online and on premises data sources.
  • Flow for OneDrive.  Now, you can build and launch Flows directly from inside OneDrive to automate processes for your personal files.
  • Column formatter.   Allow power users to add rich formatting and interactivity to data in SharePoint lists and libraries. 
  • Predictive indexing.  SharePoint automatically sorts, queries and indexes your information so it’s even easier to work with the largest lists and libraries.
  • Flow launch panel.   When a flow is launched, an inline panel prompts the user to enter information, that can then be used by the flow (e.g.  adding optional steps such as logging or alerting.) 
  • Document/item review.  A built in Flow allows you to route a document for review and feedback.
  • Custom approval action.  Build custom processes with Flow, to approve and publish content for libraries requiring formal check in and approval.
  • Power BI & Forms web parts.  Add simple forms and interactive data visualizations to any SharePoint page.
  • PowerApps web part.  Add PowerApps to any SharePoint page. 

To read more and to find out release dates on the above, take a look here.

SharePoint 2019 is coming

Microsoft also announced the next version of Office this week – 2019. This version will contain all the standard application such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but also means new versions of Skype for Business, SharePoint and more!

Not much is known about the new release yet except for the fact that the final release is expected towards the end of next year.

Read the complete announcement from Jared Spataro here.

Summary

With so many new announcements from Ignite, it’s a challenge for the enterprise to consider these new tools in the context of their own digital workplace. Where tools like Hub have the potential to simplify, they also have the potential to add more complication to the growing list of Office 365 tools available. However, as these features aren't expected to land for another 6-12 months, there's plenty of time to find ways to strategically utilise these new tools without disrupting users.

We’re looking forward to showing you how the Unily solution will use these new innovations to help you create the most streamlined and understandable platform for your users. Stay tuned as we roll our more blogs on this over the upcoming month.

Sam Hassani Principal Consultant

‘Sensible’ Sam is an asset to the consulting team. Having jumped the fence from Microsoft a few years back, he now consults and designs large scale SharePoint, O365 and Azure solutions for BrightStarr. His conscientious approach got him his nickname, and although he’s not afraid to take risks, he’s always a safe bet. Delivering stable, well thought out solutions time and time again.

In his previous job, he specialized in SharePoint, working in the field and with the product team, Sam is genuinely excited by his vocation and speaks at conferences and events with enthusiasm. Just don’t get him started on hybrid search! At the weekend Sam likes to ride his road bike and hang out with his young son.

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