Ignite 2017 Wrap Up – SharePoint and OneDrive

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At Ignite 2017,Microsoft announced a number of updates and new features for SharePoint and OneDrive. This blog post consolidates all the announcements and have included my insights on the new features. There were some additional announcements that were made on Groups and Teams that I will detail in a separate blog.

In addition to the announcements, I have also provided links to the blogs and tech-community articles published by the Microsoft product team detailing the new features.

1.     SharePoint 2019 Announced !!

Microsoft announced the release of the next version of SharePoint (SharePoint 2019 ) . The preview is planned to be rolled out in mid-2018 and the GA (General Available) version is slated for release in late 2018.  New versions of  the Office productivity suite, Skype and Exchange are also planned. 

Microsoft also announced the return of the SharePoint conference to Las Vegas in May 2018 (link).

2.     Personalized Search Experience

The updated search experience in SharePoint integrates with Microsoft Graph to use its Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities and provide a personalized search experiences. By infusing (AI) into search, Microsoft hopes to provide end users with an integrated and personalized search experience tailored to each users specific needs. Some of the updates announced during the Ignite conference are:

a)     Automatically transforms images into searchable content

b)     Unified search for global clients with multi-geo capabilities in Office 365

c)       Bing for business – Currently in private preview,  the service is designed to brings internal sites and content into Bing search results. 

d)     Ability to search across the organization, PC, and Office 365 from the taskbar

 For additional information on new search capabilities click here .

3.     Multi Geo Capability

This feature allows organizations to provision and store data-at-rest in the geographical locations chosen, based on data residency requirements.

One of the major hurdles for organization for adopting the cloud has been issues with Data Residency. Microsoft has finally addressed this with the introduction of Multi-Geo capability for OneDrive and SharePoint. The feature is also part of Microsoft’s answer to help organizations using Office 365 comply with GDPR requirements.

Multi-Geo capability is currently in private preview for OneDrive & SharePoint and is currently offered in the following regions/countries:

a)     Asia-Pacific

b)     Australia

c)     Canada

d)     European Union (EMEA)

e)     India

f)      Japan

g)     United Kingdom

h)     United States (North America)

i)      South Korea

Note: India and South Korea are currently only available for customers with licenses and billing addresses in those geo locations

To sign up for private preview:

a)     OneDrive: http://aka.ms/OneDriveMultiGeo

b)     SharePoint: http://aka.ms/SharePointMultiGeo

Microsoft is currently working on a plan to roll out the feature in France in the near futureFor additional information on Geo- Capabilities in SharePoint Online and OneDrive, click here.

4.     SharePoint Hub Sites (Early 2018):

SharePoint Hub Sites provides the ability to associate multiple team sites and communication sites to model and promote an intranet that better reflects the way people organize sites. Hub sites provide common navigational structure, look and feel, and an integrated search capability across associated sites. It also aggregates news and activities from associated sites to display and roll-up on the home page of the hub site.

The thinking here is that Intranet sites will follow a flat structure, instead of the traditional hierarchical structure currently used. The advantage of this feature is that the site structure can be easily updated to follow site structure changes that may be needed due to organizational changes.

For additional information on SharePoint Hub sites click here.

5.     Security

a)     Service Level Encryption with Customer Key

This  feature allows customers to meet regulatory and compliance obligations by encrypting OneDrive and SharePoint data at rest using their own keys.

b)     Site-level device access policies

Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced device access policies at the tenant level, providing the capability to control access from unmanaged or non-compliant devices to content stored in SharePoint and OneDrive.  This feature allows for applying these device policies at the at the site collection level. Meaning, access to a site can be limited based on user’s credentials, as well as the device from which the site is accessed.

This feature allows for restricting access to sites containing sensitive information from certain devices such as non-domain joined devices or devices that may not conform to specific security requirements. The policies can also be set to allow the users to access the site but not download files locally on the device.  

For additional info on the security announcements click here.

6.     The SharePoint Migration Tool

Users or administrators can automate the migration of files from file servers and on-premises SharePoint document libraries to Office 365.

At this time,the tool supports certain simple scenarios. It supports migrating documents, along with its metadata, to SharePoint Online/ OneDrive sites. The supported sources at this time are On-Premises SharePoint sites or a file share.

The tool also provides the capabilities to:

a)     Schedule migrations

b)     Save and re-use migration jobs

c)      Incremental migrations (Note: Incremental migration feature does not delete any documents that were previously migrated but deleted at the source)

The tool does not support the migration of Managed Metadata fields, although this capability is expected to be supported in the future. Also, at this time, the tool only supports the migration of files and document libraries. The capability to migrate SharePoint lists is expected to be introduced in the near future

For additional information and to download the tool click here

7.     Large Lists: 

Major performance improvements to lists, which enables a single list to contain up to 30 million items:

a)     Predictive Indexing

Indexing of columns is now automated and does not require manual management. SharePoint automatically detects a query that would benefit from indexing and creates the index on the fly.

b)     Robust User Experience

The modern UI has been tuned to take better advantage of indices to handle user queries.

8.     SharePoint Framework (SPfx) Extensions (Preview):

Extends the user experience of SharePoint, leveraging the familiar SharePoint Framework tools and libraries for client-side development.

a)     Customize facets of the SharePoint experience such as notification areas, toolbars, and list data views.

b)     SharePoint Framework Extensions will be available for testing in first release tenants and in Office 365 developer tenants as part of the Release Candidate (RC) release.

For additional info click here.

9.     Column Formatting Pane (October 2017)

a)     New Declarative approach for customized column rendering using only JSON and no custom code

b)     Customization capabilities are limited to specific patterns and simple customization, such as applying styling to a field based on column values, action links and data visualizations. The feature also supports customizing UI for buttons that initiates a Flow

c)      To implement complex customizations, implementing a Field Customizer Extension (SPfx) is the recommended approach.

10.     PowerApps

a)     Custom forms with PowerApps (October 2017): The new feature allows for power users to build customized SharePoint forms using PowerApps.

i.     The feature supports many of the scenarios that organizations addressed with InfoPath, and lets you take advantage of new cloud-first, mobile-first, connected  capabilities to create custom forms and digital experiences to transform business processes.

ii.     With InfoPath forms being phased out, Microsoft is positioning PowerApps forms as the successor to replace InfoPath forms that were previously widely used.

b)     PowerApps web parts for SharePoint (December 2017): Ability to add PowerApps to any SharePoint page.

c)      PowerApps & Power BI web part (October 2017): Introduces a new Power BI web part that allows for interactive data visualizations, built using Power BI to be embedded on any SharePoint page.

11.      Microsoft Flow:

a)     Flow launch panel (October 2017):   An initiation form (inline panel) launched when a flow is initiated prompting the user to enter additional information. The information provided in the launch panel can then be used to determine how the flow is processed.

b)     Document/item review and Feedback (December 2017):  An OOTB Flow that allows organizations to implement flows to route documents for review and feedback.

c)      Custom approval action (November 2017): Provides the ability to implement a custom formal check-in and approval process for publishing content from a document library.

d)     Forms web parts (October 2017):  Ability to embed simple forms on any SharePoint page. 

12.     SharePoint Admin Center (Early 2018)

SharePoint Admin center is being re-designed to provide a better user experience and additional capabilities for administering SharePoint Online. Some of the updates announced and demoed during the conference were:

a)     Site Management

(a)   Ability to customize report views by adding/removing columns

(b)   Reporting provides a consolidated list of all sites including Group sites

(c)    Reporting on external sharing users and sites

b)     Usage and Analytics reporting

(a)   Files by activity type

(b)   Total and active sites

The new SharePoint Admin Center will begin to be available to First Release Tenants in early 2018. For additional info click here.

13.      User experience

Core UX and file experiences in SharePoint Online aligned with OneDrive. The enhancements will be available in On-premises in the next major release.

Also, it appears going forward Microsoft will be focusing their efforts on improving Modern Team and Communication sites in SharePoint; meaning all new features will be tailored to these types of sites. Classic Team and Publishing sites, although supported, will not be able to leverage these new features. The guidance from Microsoft is for Organizations to start considering leveraging/migrating to these sites. There also exists a PnP UI Experience Scanner  to help identify potential UI issues when migrating content to Modern Team and Communication Site. Other improvements showcased during the Ignite Conference were:

a)     Modern column creation – Create columns without entering a settings page

b)     Editing metadata in Office – Ability to edit a file’s metadata when open in an Office app

i.     Currently available in Word.

ii.     Future: Planned to introduce the feature in other Office applications and Office Online

c)      Bulk editing in the browser – Performance improvements to allow editing of  metadata values across many items at once

d)     Filters Pane (Additional Info) :

i.     The feature was first introduced in late 2016. However, the classic metadata navigation elements were incompatible with modern user experiences.

ii.     Starting in June 2017, the updated filters pane was rolled out to Office 365 tenants. The updated metadata navigation is now compatible with modern list and document library experiences.

iii.     Any existing metadata navigation already configured in classic lists/libraries will be automatically added to the filter’s pane for modern lists and libraries.

iv.     Replaces Metadata Navigation and Filtering. Navigation settings available previously will carry forward to the filter’s pane.

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