As I mentioned my last article The Future of SharePoint – My Verdict, I had the honor of attending the Future of SharePoint event in San Francisco. At the event, I was able to get a sneak peak of where Microsoft is headed with SharePoint. If you didn’t get a chance to read the article, I gave my insight on Microsoft’s renewed commitment to SharePoint, along with some great links to resources and what others in the community are saying about the future of SharePoint.
The below article further explains the direction of SharePoint based on what was shared at another SharePoint event - SharePoint Saturday Nashville on May 14, 2016.
Evidence of a new commitment to SharePoint came when Jeff Teper, Corporate Vice President for OneDrive and SharePoint, stopped by SharePoint Saturday Nashville to very candidly answer questions about SharePoint. Here are some highlights of Microsoft’s very transparent commitment to the future of SharePoint.
As stated in the “The Future of SharePoint” keynote, Microsoft has heard their users and are committed to on-premises. It was even stated there would be another release of SharePoint on-premises. Microsoft has also explained that on-premises SharePoint 2016 deployments will get online functionality in Feature Packs starting in 2017. Jeff stated that Microsoft hopes to be able to announce a more definitive timeline for those feature packs at Ignite this year.
There was a discussion about some of the angst ISV’s were experiencing with the announcement of the SharePoint Framework and Jeff noted that they could have done a better job at the Future of SharePoint event about pointing out that the Add-In model is not going anywhere. This is completely valid-- the whole point of the SharePoint Framework is that Microsoft was analyzing how we were developing functionality for SharePoint. The saw and heard how many of us were injecting script into pages using JS Link and Content Editor Web Parts. The SharePoint Framework is a direct result of Microsoft listening to us and making script development more manageable, controllable, and less likely to break the page. This is very positive news.
Yammer is still alive and well, but that most of the changes lately have been behind the scenes integration, so there wasn’t really anything to “show” at the event. Jeff made mention of efforts to merge Yammer Groups and SharePoint Groups.
When asked about the future of SharePoint Designer and InfoPath, Jeff stated that he sees PowerApps and Microsoft Flow replacing these technologies within a couple of years. He was very clear to state that they do not replace them today and that these tools have a way to go before they have the functionality of their predecessors. This is the first time we at Interlink have actually “heard” this so definitively from someone at Microsoft—we are elated to see that Microsoft has a plan.
When asked about customizing list forms from within the SharePoint UI, Jeff stated that PowerApps will be able to be used in the future within the SharePoint UI to launch forms for list items. He followed that up by stating PowerApps would likely never completely replace the functionality offered by third party forms tools like Nintex, K2, and StratusForms.
There have been frustrations amongst our SharePoint developers that Microsoft Graph does not have full feature parity with the SharePoint REST API. When asked about the plans for Microsoft Graph to have the same features as the SharePoint REST API, Jeff stated that this was indeed the plan and they are working on it; however, their focus at the moment was WebHooks.
Another big concern we have for our clients and the new SharePoint Framework is the ability to brand sites effectively and to be able to deliver a “world class” design experience while still following the accepted patterns and practices of the new framework. Jeff explained that there will indeed be a railed branding experience for Team Sites. This makes sense as the new Team Sites need to work in the mobile application and we can’t expect to do whatever we want and still have them work in the app. Jeff also stated that if clients need a fully branded site they will still be able to do that using the Publishing template. We see a future with a lot of Intranet Home Pages created with Publishing templates linked to department sites created with Site Templates. Branding will be changing but is by no means dead.
We have had a chance to reflect on the changes seen within Microsoft and the SharePoint product team the past few months, on the upcoming changes to SharePoint, on the transparency of Microsoft, their willingness to hear feedback (and criticism), their willingness to own mistakes, and their sudden embracing of the community. We just can’t seem to find anything to be negative about right now. With the efforts of Jeff Teper and team, Microsoft has built up a lot of good will. I’m willing to see where things are going. I feel like I’m being heard and I’m excited for the future. Have we drunk the Kool-Aid? We don’t think so. We just think Microsoft is finally getting it…