Moving beyond content to collaboration
17 December 2018 | 0
Microsoft has been working hard in recent years to take its content platform SharePoint beyond a mere content management system and into being a fully fledged collaboration hub.
At the recent European SharePoint conference, one of the principles behind the system, Jeff Teper, corporate vice president for OneDrive, SharePoint, and Office, outlined the roadmap and talked about recent developments.
A major development has been Office365 integration that delivers on the Redmond’s vision for SharePoint to facilitate employee engagement across the organisation. SharePoint news enables users to create and distribute information to targeted audiences across organisations, with new ways to create attractive articles faster, including page designs and new web parts, and news links that enable any content to be shared, including external articles. There are new ways to deliver news using audience targeting, and to publish important articles with visual tags that designate organisational news.
Video too, says Microsoft, is becoming the preferred medium to create compelling news, communications and training. Microsoft Stream, the intelligent video service, powers video experiences on SharePoint sites and live and on-demand events in Stream, Yammer and Microsoft Teams. The new Stream mobile app allows discovery and engagement with video across the organisation, featuring offline viewing so you can catch up with video even in low- or no-bandwidth environments.
There was also a roadmap for modern portals and digital employee experiences that are dynamic, personalised, social, and actionable. For easy creation, there are new portal web parts, including personalised views of recent documents, recent sites, and personalised news, along with more than a dozen features to make sites and pages look better. Also announced were new mega-menu and site footer features, both of which, the makers say, rank among the most eagerly anticipated enhancements for SharePoint portals. There is a new Yammer conversations web part to engage audiences or build a community site that brings content and conversation together to foster open sharing and learning.
Speaking to TechPro post event, Teper highlighted the Office 365 integrations, OneDrive file synchronisation and SharePoint extranet building capabilities as providing key infrastructure to support what he termed “the three Cs” — content, communications and collaboration.
Teper said with the integrations with Microsoft Teams, SharePoint had truly gone from a content manage system to full collaboration.
These key changes and developments in capability are all about facilitating the changes in working practices, workforces and digitalisation.
Teper said coping with these changes were equal parts culture and technology. Today’s organisations, he said, are moving towards flatter hierarchies and multi-generational workforces, and today’s systems and tools need to support the changes.
Transparency too, said Teper, is key for many organisations. In the past, opaque processes and methodologies often reduced efficiency and inhibited scalability. Now, said Teper, there is a need for teams to be able to see all that is going, where appropriate, and to protect sensitive data or intellectual property where necessary.
He cited examples such as the pharmaceutical industry where researchers could learn and work together, while protecting valuable information. The legal sector too, he said, needs the ability to silo information in certain instances.
With regard to the multigenerational workforce, Teper is sanguine. He said the over fifties and millennials “get a bad rap,” much of which is undeserved. He said today’s tools need to “serve real needs,” irrespective of the user’s age, and support creativity and collaboration. The challenge, he emphasised, was more those who were resistive to change, as wherever they are, they will be the ones most at risk.
He said the need is to provide empowerment for people to be able to take the initiative to do what they need to do and allow for innovation. However, there were still dangers around shadow IT, where business units might be leveraging tools outside the usual provision, which can, he warned, lead to a degree of chaos.
Teper said that Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella’s leadership, is looking to foster and empower diversity and creativity in thinking. He said it means unlocking the potential of different voices in the organisation, and getting them involved earlier in the development process. He pointed to Microsoft’s 10 principles of inclusivity, which it has developed to not only improve teams and collaboration, but to improve workplaces too. However, he said without leadership to instil such culture, it can be difficult establish.
The future direction for such tools he said was around simplicity, intelligence and integration.
Teper said the future trend would be to focus on the experience not the product. A holistic approach will see greater integration with Office 365, with greater simplicity. Capabilities such as SharePoint Lookbook, he said, provides an easy way to allow people to create microsites and intranets to contribute, share and collaborate. And Microsoft Flow will allow people to take workflow creation into automation, where tasks that might extend out across other services such as Salesforce or Twitter.
Learning algorithms, he said, can be used to do more work with less effort, where systems anticipate needs and offer a near “read my mind” facility to achieve tasks.