Today Microsoft announced new and exciting features coming to SharePoint Online and SharePoint 2016 at the company’s Future of SharePoint event.
Microsoft began its presentation by reaffirming its commitment to a cloud-first, mobile first strategy as it relates to the platform. The company did so by unveiling a SharePoint for iOS app to be released in June, with Android and Windows Phone versions to come by years end. Previously, mobile users had limited access. The new apps, on the other hand, have the whole shebang: document libraries, lists, activities, etc. This allows users to remain just as effective on the go as they are at their desks. For example, a user could now share site files from lunch and allow their team to continue collaborating.
Microsoft also seeks to extend changes to OneDrive for Business, which is built off of the same architecture as SharePoint. These changes will ultimately make the platforms function similar to the consumer version of OneDrive, which has not been plagued with the same syncing issues. This includes an updated user interface for SharePoint Online and OneDrive, which will allow users to view files as a list or tiles, as well as “Pin” documents to the top of a site (Similar to pinning apps to the start menu of Windows 10).
Documents saved to SharePoint Online will also have new metadata analytics that will allow users to view recent activity within them, such as who edited what, when, etc. Social functions will also be rolled into file metadata, allowing users to like comment and see the amount of views any given file has.
What’s more, documents will also be able to move freely between OneDrive for Business and SharePoint Online, whereas before there was no path between the two. This will allow users to work on a file and then easily transfer it to a team site for review once it is completed.
Changing the location of SharePoint documents
While some of these features may scare administrators as it creates more user behaviors to keep track of, fret not, as new controls will be coming to the admin tool belt as well. In our experience, managing permissions and external access to sites often poses a major challenge to SharePoint administrators. New whitelist/blacklisting features for external domains and access timeouts will allow administrators to have better control over how company documents are being shared externally.
Finally, Microsoft announced changes to make the automating SharePoint a little easier with the introduction of Flow features as part of the platform. Announced last week, Flow is a workflow app that allows an action in one app to cause an effect in another, similar to the way IFTTT or Zapier works. For example, if a user receives an email with an attachment, they can use Flow to automatically save the file to a SharePoint library. The intuitive “A + B = C” formula for building “Flows”, as they’re called, will be rolled out to SharePoint as a feature, making automation much more easy and accessible for businesses.
How building a Flow works
And despite such a large focus on its cloud platform, Microsoft made sure to announce that on-premises versions of SharePoint will continue past the 2016 version. This may be a delight to die hard fans of the on-premises version, as it was previously reported that 2016 would be its last iteration.
The key takeaway from this presentation is that Microsoft is beginning to understand the immense value that simplicity has in the workplace. From the creation of a new team site, to the ability to share a document from your pocket, things are becoming a lot more intuitive with SharePoint and I applaud Microsoft for the improvement.
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