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Wait…is SharePoint cool again?

23 Feb 2016 by Doug Davis

If you were lucky enough to be in the SharePoint world circa 2009, there wasn’t anything cooler. The SharePoint show was huge, SharePoint Saturdays were, well, every Saturday and it seemed like we could pop into any IT shop, wave some Magic SharePoint pixie dust, and make somebody happy by providing them with the collaboration tool that they needed.
Then, it just seemed to fade away. By the time the final SharePoint conference rolled into Vegas in 2014, nobody was surprised when it proceeded to be swept up under the umbrella of Ignite. Other shiny, newbies ascended: Groove, Yammer, whatever the Surface RT was. Like any technology, when investment stops, and focus pulls away, it becomes stale. For a while, Microsoft’s eye wandered, as other opportunities arose.
In the meantime, SharePoint became sort of a ‘junior partner’ in the Server and Office 365 world. But now, it’s back under the spotlight.
Here at SPTechCon Austin 2016, Seth Patton, Senior Director for SharePoint and OneDrive Product Marketing and Chris McNulty, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Office 365, brought all their collective know-how together, and announced that yes, SharePoint is back, and in a big way.
Amidst some of the general foundation statements (cloud first, mobile first etc.) there was a real sense of urgency and focus within the SharePoint team. Cadence of delivery is up, investment is up, you can see real thought and purpose in their approach, and a view to deliver meaningful functionality within SharePoint.
They also shared some nice figures with us.

  • 75,000+ organizations using SharePoint
  • A Million Developers
  • 50,000+ Partners
  • Great Online SharePoint adoption growth, 2x growth in the number of organisations and 5x growth in content

That last one is crucial, as online adoption is what matters to Microsoft, SharePoint needed to grow their presence in this area.
According to Seth, at least 40% of all SharePoint installations are now in the cloud within Office 365, and that is impressive. It will help keep old foes like Google at bay, and may bring some folks back from pure collaboration apps like Slack, that were encroaching on SharePoint’s stomping ground.
But even at 40% that still means that the majority of SharePoint is still on premises. SharePoint Server 2016 looks like a major facelift, perhaps the greatest in its history, as feedback has been received, lessons have been learned, and Office 365 users are incorporated into the server platform. Hybrid is also being dramatically improved, and the ability to host information where it makes sense will allow for a lot of flexibility moving forward. SharePoint 2016 will have a smaller data footprint, improved management, a new and consistent UI experience, and finally, Data Loss Prevention built in. Another aspect to note is a new Roles Based Authentication Control (RBAC), which will allow a better separation of roles including installation versus management.
After Seth provided the messaging, Chris showed off two new components, improved Modern Attachments and PowerApps.
Smart attachments aren’t anything new, (ahem, AttachThis anyone?) but when Microsoft adds it to the main stack it has a little bit more relevance. To be honest, they did a cracking job on making this process work. The permission management is stellar and platform support appears to be top notch as well. It’s a seemingly simple addition to Outlook, but it dovetails nicely into enforcing documents to be in SharePoint or OneDrive, where they belong.
PowerApps are also a new take on an older idea (most of the people who want to create business logic in SharePoint aren’t Developers), and there have been a number of attempts, both within Microsoft and with the wider ISV community, to make SharePoint Development easier. PowerApps is a renewed initiative that should have a major impact, and a longer shelf life than the Sandbox or Agave. With a bevy of data collections, controls and a clear and concise UI – it looks like a winner. Naturally we’ve heard this hype before, but the new Microsoft has a lot more hits than misses.
Also it wouldn’t be the new Microsoft if mobile apps weren’t talked about, and the keynote showed how Microsoft is laser focused on a great mobile experience. In the past SharePoint has been a little hit and miss on the mobile side, so I’m particularly excited about some planned improvements to Team Sites in a mobile context. Having simple, easy to use Team Sites that are mobile friendly and enhanced will further entrench SharePoint as the core of collaboration within Office 365.
Yep, SharePoint is back. Welcome back buddy!
More information on Modern Attachments can be found here.
And more details on PowerApps can be found here.