Notes from the SharePoint Virtual Summit 2019

SharePoint Virtual Summit was today. It’s the keynote from the SharePoint Conference, streamed for those who can’t go to Vegas. My user group, the Office 365 Adoption User Group, organized a community viewing of it at the Microsoft office in downtown Chicago. Here are my notes on the announcements from the event:

First, this round of product announcements was centered around three themes:

  1. Teamwork and business process automation
  2. Employee Engagement and Communication
  3. Search and content intelligence

Not surprisingly, in spite of this event being called the SharePoint summit, Teams, OneDrive, Yammer, and Stream product teams made significant announcements too.

Here are the individual feature announcements and demos that I found interesting:

  1. The ability to request that a group of people upload their files to a particular folder, initiated by selecting the folder and then choosing “Request files:”. I could see this being beneficial for conference organizers. They often have have many presenters and that need to each submit their slide deck to a common location, that could be a very efficient workflow.
  2. From within PowerPoint, being able to get a link directly to a particular slide. This is convenient for when you want to bring someone’s attention to a slide in the middle of a deck.
  3. OneDrive Sync can sync only file changes, making working with large files much more bandwidth friendly and performant.
  4. Inside teams, you can get a full-width-of-screen view of a list, and see the actual native SharePoint views including conditional formatting.
  5. Conditional formatting for SharePoint lists will also apply in Quick Edit mode.
  6. In a number of versions of SharePoint 2013 on premise, there was the ability to create a new SharePoint list by importing a spreadsheet. You had to have the file set up just right before you imported it. Now in SharePoint Online, they have modernized that with a much more flexible and interactive import process that lets you set column datatypes and skip columns.
  7. In Word, They showed real time chat with other document co-authors, @mentions in comments, and AI-powered editing assistance. What I mean by that last item is that the user would type “insert <something>” into the document, and Word would turn that into a link which showed content suggestions when you click it.
  8. On the information security front, they announced that tenant admins can set an expiration time (e.g. 30 days) for sharing links.
  9. On the SharePoint Admin front, they announced the ability to change the URL of a site (at least the part after /sites/). Doing so sets up automatic URL redirection so no links break. Nice!
  10. Jeff Teper talked about several changes to Office 365 that are behind the scenes. One is the Fluid Framework, a new set of developer tools to enable real-time coauthoring at higher scale and lower latency than ever before. This will enable not just humans to have a better co-authoring experience, but to enable AI experiences, such as real-time translation, as well. The demo is the same one they showed at the Build conference earlier this year, where one person is typing in Word and 8 other people (each in their own window) see the document updates as they happen, but in their native language. The Fluid Framework will also be available to developers and will start showing up in Office products later this year.
  11. Other backend improvements include improved storage efficiency (which is important to Microsoft because SharePoint Online is the world’s largest single consumer of Azure storage) and performance improvements.
  12. The SharePoint Online Provisioning service is now in Beta. This is a tool that tenant admins can use to deploy 1st party specialty sites such as the Custom Learning site.
  13. For Yammer, they announced that “Mark as best answer” is coming next month, and they demonstrated the use of an Answer Bot to handle basic HR questions.
  14. For Stream, Microsoft showed how users can record video on their phones, how Stream on mobile includes transcript search, and how quizzes (Microsoft Forms) can be embedded within videos.
  15. Intranets in a Box. Microsoft didn’t use that term, but they did announce “SharePoint Home Sites”, which is just their branded name for that concept. They idea is that it is now easier and quicker than ever to build a corporate intranet because so much of the functionality you need is now available in SharePoint Online. They also announced a Partner Program where existing “Intranet in a Box” product vendors take the Home Site capabilities and extend it. Here’s a screen capture of the featured Home Site Partners:
  • Key features of Home Sites is that they provide:
    1. Personalized news and content
    2. Engaging conversations and video
    3. Intelligence search and navigation
    4. A great look and feel on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices
    5. A way to aggregate company news from multiple SharePoint sites in the tenancy, featuring selected sites as authoritative
    6. A daily news digest email to employees to keep them informed and engaged

When is all this cool stuff coming to your tenant? Watch the Office 365 Message Center in your tenant to find out what’s rolling out soon. For farther out deliveries, consult the M365 Roadmap.

You can also watch the entire SharePoint Virtual Summit here.

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