It’s been a very interesting year and half in the world of SharePoint. There was some uncertainty on how it fit in with Microsoft’s mobile first, cloud first vision. But the one thing recent events have highlighted: SharePoint is back in the spotlight, a focus for Microsoft and will remain that way for the foreseeable future.
Let’s go back to May of 2015. Microsoft was hosting their first Ignite conference. This is a superset of the SharePoint conference that among other things included all the collaboration tools within Office 365. During that conference one thing was very striking; of approx. 600 sessions, approx. two contained SharePoint in the title. There were many, many other sessions that certainly talked about SharePoint. But they all had titles like “Future of Collaboration”, “Next Gen Portals”, “Knowledge Management with InfoPedia”, etc. (disclaimer: These titles are from memory and may not be accurate).
At this time there was a lot of concern in the SharePoint community around the evolution of Microsoft. The cloud first, mobile first message was taking center stage. Office 365 was becoming a more prominent and important player. It was now driving the conference. We weren’t sure how On-Premises SharePoint fit into that vision. The last on-premises version, at this time, was SharePoint 2013. We were due for a new version but no real announcements had been made, until Ignite. And even there, it was a subdued launch with only two sessions on the new version. We also weren’t sure how prominent a role SharePoint would play within the new Office 365 world. It seemed a bit odd that the link in the App Launcher to SharePoint sites, was simply named Sites.
It wasn’t hard to start imagining a future where SharePoint was no longer the star player in the Microsoft collaboration story. Where SharePoint would still be an important platform. But a platform mostly hidden to the end user. Hidden behind things like OneDrive, Office 365 Groups, Infopedia, Delve and other Office Graph solutions to name a few. A world where SharePoint ended up in a backend role. Still integral to the solution, but not directly part of the end user experience. If that happened, what would that mean for On-Prem SharePoint?
A big announcement
Fast forward one year to May 2016. More specifically May 4 2016. Star Wars day. The day that SharePoint Strikes Back or Return of SharePoint or maybe A New Hope is the most appropriate Star Wars reference. This was the day Microsoft and the SharePoint team unveiled the Future of SharePoint. They brought out Jeff Teper, the god father of SharePoint to show us the roadmap. He showed us how they were updating SharePoint to align with the mobile first, cloud first vision. In SharePoint Online, he described changes to the front end and a new development framework to bring the platform into the modern web. Some these changes were rolled out prior to the event, such as the new mobile first, responsive, look and feel for document libraries and OneDrive. Others were demonstrated but not ready for release, like modern team sites and the SharePoint Development Framework. There was also a new SharePoint mobile app that he showed off. This app went far beyond the previous SharePoint mobile experience, which was focused on lists and libraries. This app is more focused on bringing the portal experience to the mobile device. Is that an intranet in your pocket…?
But what does it all mean?
I think the two biggest announcements from that event, that really highlighted how prominent SharePoint will be in the foreseeable future, were a bit smaller and easy to miss. The first was a very small tweak. They renamed Sites in the App Launcher to SharePoint. Sometimes it’s the little things. But this small tweak demonstrated just how committed Microsoft is to keeping SharePoint front and center.
The other announcement was feature packs for on-prem SharePoint, specficially 2016. This functionality was mentioned back in 2015 at Ignite. It even inspired me to write a blog post that talked about the future of SharePoint on-prem being SharePoint as a service. Similar to Windows 10 and Windows as service. But this feature was always conspicuously missing from their road map. Made me wonder if I had dreamed up that announcement at Ignite. But there it was, now called feature packs. This is the way that Microsoft will be delivering updates to the on-prem world. Updates will be cloud first, in O365. But eventually will make their way on-prem through these feature packs. This potentially means that although SharePoint 2016 is most likely the last on-prem version of SharePoint, the support for on-prem SharePoint will be around for the foreseeable future. Along with the added bonus of never having to do a platform upgrade again. I’m sure we will have our challenges with feature packs. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say they will be easier to deal with than having to migrate to whole new version.
It has been a very exciting year in the world of SharePoint. Full of high and lows. The biggest take away from the recent events is that SharePoint is still the star player in the Microsoft collaboration story. Obviously Microsoft would prefer all their clients to move to the cloud. Given the rapid pace of change in O365 and relatively slow pace of feature pack releases, they are really incentivizing people to go the cloud or at least hybrid. But either way, on-prem or in the cloud, your SharePoint is here to stay. So go out and put it in the spotlight. Make it the star it is meant to be.
Connect and learn with colleagues and New Signature experts at our next installment of our online SharePoint PowerUser webinar series.