What did I see at the Microsoft Ignite conference that got me excited? There were a lot of great new announcements and progress on so many fronts. But what’s really going to change the way teams of people work, how they connect, collaborate and share knowledge? The answer for me was Office 365 Groups.
This slide from Microsoft Office 365 Groups Overview and Roadmap (video) really helped crystallize Microsoft’s vision for me and helped me understand where things are going. If you think about some of the challenges with how we collaborate today, you can start to see how Office 365 Groups will make a huge difference. Challenge #1: Siloed collaboration tools – There has always been this strong separation between the experiences and tools we use to collaborate. Go to Outlook for email. Go to a SharePoint intranet for corporate news. Go to Yammer to post content to your network. And back to SharePoint to share a document with a project team you belong to. People have worked hard at creating an integrated experience – often using SharePoint to create a central location and jumping off point for work. But there’s always a tension in terms of finding the right solution for individuals and teams. Should mail experiences be brought into SharePoint? SharePoint content into Outlook? How about the Yammer feed into SharePoint? Challenge #2: Finding that needle in the content haystack – Think about content. If you needed access to information, you would have to guess at a location and then go check. Or you would punch in a keyword and start scanning through results, hoping a relevant hit would appear on the first page. With Machine Learning tools like Delve and the Office Graph, the system can bring content to you that is relevant as well as help you discover information you may not have found as easily through traditional methods. Challenge #3: End-user self-service – What about a user’s ability to self-provision the team collaboration tools they needed? The options we have today are not very good:
- Unmanaged, out of the box SharePoint team sites –> SharePoint Wildfire
- IT-managed provisioning of SharePoint sites –> bottlenecked in IT, or unused
- Customized SharePoint team sites with self-service –> expensive, custom
- Yammer groups –> not connected to other office experiences
Office 365 Groups solves these problems in its early days and has a bigger vision beyond what is available today. It offers:
- Light-weight and easy-to-offer self-service to non-technical users who need a fast, flexible way to establish teams and begin collaborating
- The ability to selectively combine the relevant experiences and provide the right tool and environment to be productive. Do you need some Yammer with that?
- Flexibility in applying the right experience to the collaboration need (be it a distribution list, calendar, shared notebook, discussion forum, etc.)
- Mobile enablement with universal apps that will provide a seamless experience across devices
- Office Graph integration: you have machine learning helpful surface relevant content within the different aspects of Office
- Blending of Governance and Policy to ensure the set of groups are managed well
If you want to learn more about what’s going on behind the scenes with Office 365 Groups, check out this other Ignite session: Microsoft Office 365 Groups Deep Dive (video). In the future, look for the Office Group functionality integrated right into Office apps, making it seamless for you to access or produce content for your groups directly from Word, Excel or other productivity tools. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy these other Microsoft Ignite posts: