Let’s face it, Microsoft Ignite is the conference which get’s us excited but also sometimes a little bit overwhelmed. That’s what this article is for. I will show you my favorite parts so far mainly from the Office 365 space like SharePoint and collaboration services.
This article is a summary from Jeff Teper’s session called “The latest innovations in SharePoint, OneDrive, and Office for content collaboration in Microsoft 365” which is now also available on demand here. I highly recommend you tune in. You find also in the article timestamps from the video if you just want to watch a specific segment. If you want to check out my recent take on SharePoint Hub Sites – a different point of view, you should check out my infographic for that!
Jeff Teper started off with a new high in regards of active users per month:
To be honest, not a real surprise to me, as it still is THE backbone for files in Microsoft 365. No matter if you use it as you intranet platform, or you are using Microsoft Teams, SharePoint is the service for your files!
SharePoint is taking some major investments over the next year probably years. Jeff broke them down into the following segments:
He kicked it off with “Knowledge” and something called Project Cortex, Satya already mentioned this briefly in the keynote and dang, that might become something big for every company. Microsoft worked with Mott MacDonald and even though not everybody knew what the company did before, we’re glad they worked together.
Knowledge aka “What is Project Cortex”?
It’s connected to all the experiences connected within Microsoft 365, it leverages all the data and it takes advantage of all the other SharePoint greatness which comes with it’s functionality like for instance customization options.
It is the first major new application since Microsoft Teams, but it is ALL builT on SharePoint!
Cortex is trying to do three things:
- Giving you information and expertise learning in the flow of your work
- Using cutting edge AI-caption technologies to capture and organize information
- Rich security and workflow capabilities to govern this whole application
It is trying to do three things and can be split into two… Well, okay then:
Notion of Discovery
In only a few minutes (starting at minute 6:49 in the on demand video) you will see that a this isn’t a little SharePoint extra, it looks like something big as it not only works in SharePoint. It works as Microsoft says “in the flow“. What they mean by that is that it works in Outlook, Word, Microsoft Teams and probably many more services in the future.
This part is starting in the video at minute 9:23 – It’s roots are as Microsoft says, that companies want to “get more digital”. In Cortex there are three aspects on this. First, there is OCR and Azure Computer Vision to extract data from e.g. hand drawings. Second, there is AI builder to map a paper based form to metadata that lives in SharePoint. Third, there is machine teaching to e.g. marking things up to promote it to metadata.
You can apply for the preview program at http://aka.ms/ProjectCortex and get a chance to see it soon live for yourself. Also a BIG thanks to Naomi Moneypenny. Jeff mentioned that she created the teams behind this great new investment and I think it has a great chance to really take off! If you want to see more about Project Cortex you can find a whole session now available on demand at https://myignite.techcommunity.microsoft.com/sessions/81513
The intelligent intranet portions starts at minute 12:03. Yeah right, only 12 minutes and already that much information. You knew, Jeff wouldn’t disappoint! 🙂
Also in this part they focus on the customers success and showcase VELUX group. You can find more about their story with Microsoft and their intelligent intranet approach by clicking the highlightend VELUX group in the last sentence.
The segment here showed 3/4 things which will help us get better. First, SharePoint Home Sites. Nothing new to the most, but the date is. GENERAL AVAILABILITY THIS WEEK! Here are some impressions of the demo:
There will be also more options in the future so you can bring in news from other sources and more. Up next, Microsoft Search and it’s usage within Microsoft SharePoint.
I’ve been always a sucker for a great search (this part is starting at minute 15:12) and used promoted links and display templates a lot in the “old” SharePoint on-prem days, but the things Jeff showed in a couple of minutes blew my mind. The customization possibilities are now endless and that’s no fake news.
The integration of third parties via Graph connectors, like ServiceNow will bring together not only knowledge, but also users and that’s a huge portion for the user adoption of SharePoint and your third party products!
But the customization options for the search experience is really insane. The search results page is “just” a SharePoint page, but the fact that SharePoint is now “modern” makes this a total different story. Kind of shaking it up a little 😉
We all know pictures are useful and often better than words, but what if you can actually understand the words in your native language? Well, SharePoint now supports multi-language in the modern page sites, change tracking of pages in the edit mode, royalty free stock images (ton’s of content, whatever that means :)) and last but not least page scheduling so we can finally set up our editorial calendar with the right content at the right time.
From these 4 features, I clearly like the page scheduling the most. Too many people have asked how to do that and we did some stuff with Microsoft Flow and tried things here and there, but a build-in function is always the best possible solution in my opinion.
Tomorrow’s intranet & look book
Jeff already showed us a future of the intranet a while ago and it’s called SharePoint Spaces. Also in this session (starting at minute 18) we saw some very nice ideas on that, plus we also heard, that the preview will start early next calendar year.
There is also a new version of the SharePoint look book (starting at minute 19:30) and you can find the new version at https://lookbook.microsoft.com – I have to say, it inspired me for some great designs and I’m sure, it does for you as well.
Content & team collaboration
This part starts at minute 20:06. I know, not even half the session, but I can tell you this: It’s worth watching and scrolling further. Also starting off with an success story and this one is a sweet one 😉 Nestle! Visit their story. Jeff mentioned that they tried trading chocolate for software, but that didn’t work out, so they bought some chocolate anyway 🙂
This part started with the the new design options for office.com and how to create a more accessible place for you to start a new project, document and overall content. You can also integrate your templates from your organization to make it feeling more “at home”.
Demo-time – Word, Excel and PowerPoint
The next part was a little demo segment (starting at 22:25) focusing on the Office tools like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. First up the designer for branded PowerPoint templates was presented. Nothing new in general, but still so needed. You guys know, I’m a tech-guy, but love design and too often I still find myself in meetings looking at a “presentation” which to be honest didn’t even deserve such a title.
There was also a demo for Microsoft Word and how you can comment with @-mentions within the document. Also not totally new, but you can now assign a task to a mentioned person which then goes into the Graph. I’m not that sure yet on how this is going to end up, as Jeff mentioned Planner, ToDo and Outlook etc. but I’m sure that this is a nice enhancement.
You can also now directly reply to a comment from you phone and you don’t even need to open up the document, as the important part is shown in the mail itself. Your comment is then also going back into the document and the content is not separated. That’s in fact great news.
Lastly the was a short demo on co-authoring an Excel spreadsheet where it was pointed out, that you can now change a view in Excel without changing the whole document for all the other contributes in Excel. Because after the last one, there is always another one 🙂 Jeff showed briefly the new “All-In-One Office Mobile App“. I’ll skip that here, as that could easily be a whole article.
Next up, the newest features on OneDrive (starting 29:10) and the most favorite new feature for Jeff. You will be able to find not only all your documents (OneDrive isn’t your personal network share anymore), but you also find the conversations attached to those documents. Jeff mentioned that he few for this feature to the FAST-Team in Norway to make this happen 🙂 I’m sure that wasn’t the only thing.
Not only the web version got some updates, but also the desktop app and the mobile app. Also in this area we saw some new features like differential sync for more file types and a better integration with Outlook to make it easier to connect to your OneDrive files. More than happy to see those features in action.
Building business solutions
This part starts at 33:10 in the video available on demand here. Also this part has a great customer (Jim Henson) which is showcased here. But before heading into the full business solution mode, Jeff showcased that we are now able to do some magic in SharePoint libraries in addition to the already great SharePoint list views. For example a great tile view with also a customized view on the properties.
It also becomes again easier to integrate SharePoint into Microsoft Teams. No real surprise on that, but the capabilities got even better. You can integrate content into a new team directly so you can discuss on that just as you used to in Microsoft Teams.
The next part (starting at 37:37) is about something new (at least to me) called Office Scripts where you are able to automate many different aspects of your day to day use for example in Excel. There is way more to know about this as Jeff mentioned also other sessions talking about it so I will keep it also short here.
Microsoft and Jeff also didn’t forget the developers (starting at 40:01). It all started with the Graph, than the SharePoint Framework came around and you can now develop add-ins / add-ons for your Office suite. The new thing on that platform is the Fluid Framework. We saw that on several different places already, but we now know, that it is coming to preview soon.
It was only a very short segment, but there are also many more sessions highlighting and talking about the Fluid Framework.
Security & Compliance
The last segment of an incredible feature-packed session was Security & Compliance (starts at 42:05). Jeff showed us two features in this segment (there are many more), but we all know, that Microsoft is quite serious about this. In case you missed it, the Pentagon will go with Microsoft in the future (Microsoft had won the $10 billion Joint Defense Enterprise Infrastructure (JEDI) contract ) and I think there is a file or two quite confidential 🙂
Most of us know that there are labels which we can define and apply on certain content in our environment, but with the new feature Jeff showed us, we can now create automated labels which can safe time applying those and make it easier for the user to feel more secure.
If you are in a highly regulated industry this feature might become useful, but also if you have multiple companies within one tenant in my opinion. You can define groups of people and easily say “Hey, these e.g. two groups (segments) shouldn’t see each other (policies)”. That’s it, done. You won’t be able to find any person of the other group.
At 42:52 it was again demo-time where Jeff showed us new features in the Admin and migration features. It kind of was a short reminder that you can now replace your home site super easily in the SharePoint Admin Center and you are able to change the owners or in general members from there as well, but then something happend I didn’t see coming (at 47:06) and we also saw Jeff didn’t think that this was such a big deal for many of us:
Modern Term Store
It was only a very small segment, but if you had to work with terms, term sets etc. you love this. In addition we will get also analytics for the term store and all thanks to Project Cortex. Thank you!
I really do love this, as I just get crazy working with the “old” look and feel. I think for the audience excitement we can also see, that many people are still working with the term store and we still need this for some time.
Also a short segment about migration with the Migration Manager, SharePoint Migration tool and a short shout-out to the team of Mover which Microsoft acquired recently which should help moving even more customers to the Microsoft 365 platform. One interesting fact here, it is a free service (currently in North America only) as well, so you might want to check it out if you’re thinking about moving to Microsoft.
And then it was over, kind of… It was only the tip of the iceberg as Jeff mentioned and I agree on this 100%. There are so many sessions at Ignite you can check out if you are there in person, but also to watch the sessions on demand will make you better, your company better and most important to me, makes your colleagues better and happier.
You can find many session just by browsing through the sessions page where you will also find the recordings of those sessions. Last slide from Jeff, some interesting sessions worth checking out and that’s what I’m now doing. Thanks for sticking around for +60 images and +2500 words. Hope you might enjoy other content from me, like my infographic on Teams, my modern workplace series (Hogwarts-Style) or some other stuff like my digital transformation series. Until the next time, don’t be afraIT!