On May 4, Microsoft announced the general availability of SharePoint 2016 with a live-streaming event from San Francisco.
But what they really announced was their vision for the future of the platform and some of the new features we can expect to see from SharePoint this year.
What are some things we learned from this announcement?
Mobility is (still) a huge focus
SharePoint, from a UI/UX perspective, is changing once again, but finally to provide a much richer mobile experience. New team sites and page structure will follow a responsive design, allowing you to truly interact with your intranet from a mobile device. This includes major redesigns of Lists and Libraries, which will provide a new, simplified experience for users.
In addition, Microsoft will bring a new publishing experience to SharePoint that follows responsive standards and allows regular users to create rich dynamic pages quickly and easily. These standards will also allow developers to create responsive client-side web parts using open-source development technologies. Microsoft is finally unhooking SharePoint from being a “.NET Only” platform.
SharePoint Mobile App
There is a great emphasis on mobility in the SharePoint platform. After years of “sorta mobile” usage through a mobile browser, Microsoft has finally created a SharePoint mobile app to handle a user’s experience with the platform. This will allow users to have a true mobile experience using SharePoint, whether it be on-premises or in Office 365.
PowerApps and Flow
I wrote about the PowerApps and LogicFlow functionality a few months back here, and Microsoft is now working to provide that functionality natively from SharePoint. So, create a list, and then with a few clicks, create a PowerApp based on the data structure of that list. While I don’t believe this will replace all the functionality of InfoPath and SharePoint Designer workflows on day 1, it seems to be the strategy Microsoft will most likely take to replace these technologies.
Customize SharePoint – Just don’t actually customize SharePoint
As I noted above, Microsoft is really interested in providing developers with the ability to develop against SharePoint using open source technologies and are providing APIs to not only develop against SharePoint but all of Office 365. This is welcome news if you are a SharePoint Application Developer. On the flip side, Microsoft is providing power users with the ability to customize SharePoint to easily add content or add PowerApps.
But what about users who historically have fallen between these two areas? In the past, solutions have been developed using native SharePoint functionality, and often through the functionality found in SharePoint Designer – whether that was creating custom workflows, custom list views, or Data View Web Parts (gag). SharePoint Designer provided a very powerful way to customize the experience on the platform.
With the last release of Office, Microsoft very conveniently excluded SharePoint Designer from any sort of update from SharePoint Designer 2013. This was the same strategy they employed with InfoPath before officially deprecating the technology.
Based on the demos of all the new functionality shown, I don’t see any path forward for that product, and while they haven’t officially said anything, I have no doubt that Microsoft does not foresee any future with the technology. Make no mistake, Microsoft no longer wants users to “customize” the platform in this way. They know how difficult it is to maintain a platform as large as SharePoint Online, and allowing users to customize SharePoint just brings too much risk.
Personally, I have no issue with this approach, but I think Microsoft does itself a disservice by not providing users with tooling that could replace this type of “Power Admin” functionality.
Microsoft REALLY wants you to use OneDrive
Microsoft has finally filled many major gaps with OneDrive for Business, especially around the mobile client. The biggest announcement was a mobile client for iOS that will (finally) allow users to access their OneDrive for business files from an iOS App.
In addition, Microsoft has added in functionality to allow users to natively move or copy files from their One Drive for Business into SharePoint team sites.
Oh, and Hybrid
And of course, Microsoft is pushing the hybrid integration much more now with the release of SharePoint 2016. Because the code base for SharePoint 2016 and SharePoint Online are now the same, this will allow Microsoft to enable the functionality they push to Office 365 down to SharePoint 2016 and allow On-Prem clients to improve their farms without the need to upgrade every time they want new features.
I think the announcements Microsoft made are a great way forward for businesses who are interested in leveraging SharePoint. I think there are still areas Microsoft needs to address to fill deprecating technologies, but overall, the platform seems to be headed in the positive direction.
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