The Future of SharePoint – The Day After

1_bgOn May 4th, 2016 the future of SharePoint was announced and at one point during the presentation Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President – OneDrive and SharePoint at Microsoft said something along the lines of “we are reinventing the intranet”. While that might be seen as hyperbole it is hard to argue the fact that Microsoft is reinventing SharePoint.  When Teper was brought back in to lead the SharePoint/OneDrive efforts, there was a lot of buzz in the community about where things would be going. Now we have our answer.

I will not be diving into the details of the changes coming in this post as those were addressed by Microsoft/the SharePoint community as a whole immediately following the presentation. Honestly, I probably need a couple more days to digest everything.

Instead, I will be focusing on some of the challenges that will be faced by the SharePoint community in the upcoming months.  Change is inevitable and in most cases a very good thing, but the reality of what was being presented was apparent very quickly, we are going to have to adapt to a new SharePoint.  When I say we, I am not solely referring to developers.  Everyone working with SharePoint is going to need to be prepared for change. 

Developers are going to essentially have to know 4 development models to support the various SharePoint platforms.  We now have Farm Solutions, Sandboxed Solutions, Add-Ins, New Apps and now the SharePoint Framework will be released this year. As a consultant, the technologies involved in the SharePoint Framework are not a foreign concept to me at all, but I am a consultant, and therefore not strictly a SharePoint developer.  SharePoint developers that have stayed with the Farm and Sandbox Solution development models are going to be seriously behind the curve when it comes to learning and utilizing the SharePoint Framework.

Administrators are really going to need to understand Office Graph and how it surfaces content.  There are likely still quite a few organizations implementing Office 365 that are holding back on Delve as they do not have a firm understanding of the security implications.  This appears to be especially true of the legal and financial sectors where security is of the utmost importance.  Administrators will also need to have a firm understanding of administration of Office 365 as a whole.  The push to view Office 365 as a full application suite has been ongoing and the announcements made in the presentation really did nothing to change that.

Power users are likely going to be asked to learn to utilize Microsoft Flow and PowerApps as those applications will be built-in with SharePoint.  This is likely a great thing in the long run but in many organizations power users are already overwhelmed with their day to day tasks and typically SharePoint is a secondary priority for them.  This is probably my largest concern with the changes announced as generally speaking the power users are the ones that champion SharePoint in organizations and get users to buy into the system. If Microsoft loses the power users due to information overload it would be a serious issue. I am hopeful that they have a plan in place to get power users up to speed easily and on demand.

End users are likely going to need to adapt to the OneDrive look and feel for their lists and library views.  While this may not seem like a big deal on the surface many organizations consider their intranet branding an important piece of the corporate culture/strategy.  We will likely be able to keep the “classic” list and library views for quite a while to maintain custom branding but this could create inconsistent branding if some users want the new features available and others prefer the old way of doing things.

Please do not mistake my pointing out challenges as negativity. I really like where things are heading, especially as a developer. But along with changes comes resistance that we need to be ready to address. Ultimately, what all of this really means is that it is time to hit ground running and get ready to go with Microsoft’s flow (pun intended).  If your organization is utilizing SharePoint and has a governance or steering committee now would probably be a good time to get everyone together and start thinking about the future state of your environment/s.  As for me, I will be reaching out to a client and amending a Statement of Work. The client does not have a drop dead date for their SharePoint Online environment and the mobile application and new Team Site features announced warrant an amended implementation plan.

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