What We Would Like to See at Ignite 2017

Posted by Chris Poteet on September 22, 2017

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It’s that time of year again where hay rides and pumpkin spice lattes regain our attention, but for those of us involved in Microsoft’s ecosystem, late September also brings us Microsoft’s yearly conference called Ignite. This year it is in sunny Orlando from September 25th- 29th.

This conference has been all about relaying Microsoft’s roadmap and vision for a whole slew of Microsoft products. Withum is particularly interested in seeing how Office 365 is represented in this conference, and this year we have big expectations over what will be unveiled and discussed. This post will look at several of the major areas we are looking forward to hearing more at this year’s conference.

Where Are Modern Sites Going?

Over the last year Microsoft has released “modern SharePoint sites” into SharePoint Online, and it has been the largest change in SharePoint since the release of SharePoint 2013. With modern sites comes a lot of promises that we hope will be realized as Microsoft continues to mature the offering. Many of our clients are beginning to move to modern sites, but currently there are significant functional gaps that need to be addressed. Here are some we hope to hear about at Ignite:

  • When will the “modern” experience extend to more of the SharePoint experience such as settings pages and lists, such as task lists?
  • What is the plan and roadmap for customizing modern sites? Right now, very little can be done to the interface, and our clients want more control over this aspect of their deployment.
  • When will it catch up to SharePoint conventions we’ve had for years? Currently, you cannot create a modern site as a subsite of another since they are created as site collections. There is also currently no global navigation solution to tie modern sites together.

Modern sites bring with it a lot of promise: the interface is natively responsive, the performance is better, and modern publishing pages are supported in native mobile apps. While all of this is great, modern sites still needs a clear path forward, and we have not gotten it yet.

The SharePoint Framework and UI Fabric

Speaking of modern sites, the extensibility framework provided for these sites is the SharePoint Framework and their interface library for the modern sites is called Office UI Fabric. The extensibility models for SharePoint have shifted a lot over the last few years. We went from sandboxed solutions to the add-in model, and now Microsoft wants to go all-in on client side development with the SharePoint Framework.

This is also Microsoft’s first attempt to embrace a “modern toolchain” (meaning development tools) such as Gulp and Yeoman. The biggest issue with the SharePoint Framework right now is its limited utility. Right now, you can do little more than add simple web parts and add a header or footer to a modern page. We are hoping that Ignite will bring a clearer, more holistic picture of what future SharePoint extensibility looks like.

The Future of Microsoft Graph & Delve

In my mind, Delve and the Microsoft Graph are the most exciting developments in Office 365. Admittedly, when it first came out I was bullish on its value, but as Delve has continued to grow I have been very impressed at how it mitigates issues of content discovery, which is a significant issue that needs to be addressed in a platform like Office 365 for our clients.

While Microsoft Graph, which is the technical underpinning of Delve, has evolved since its conception, we at Withum are interested to see how Microsoft envisions the future of this technology. While it’s great that Delve exists as an application in Office 365, will the integration of the technology expand across Office 365 and allow those features to appear in other areas like SharePoint? I am excited to see how Microsoft expands the functionality of the Microsoft Graph and how it allows customers to infuse their applications and customizations with that technology.

Is Yammer Still a Thing?

Yammer was a very strategic acquisition for Microsoft, but it has been odd to see such a high-profile acquisition feel largely unnoticed in Office 365. I will be attending the Yammer roadmap session, and I hope that Microsoft will give clear direction to how they see Yammer fitting in their suite of applications, especially since the advent of Microsoft Teams.

Yammer integration is also an area we would like to see expand. Why did Microsoft unveil native commenting support for modern news sites but not link that to Yammer? Why is the integration story between Yammer and SharePoint still relegated to a simple group embed in a SharePoint page? There is so much potential in allowing Yammer to speak across Office 365, and we hope that Ignite we get a clearer picture on its potential.

The Evolution of Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is still an enormous value proposition for those organizations that desire Office 365, and while it raises an almost infinite amount of questions on which tool to use in which scenario (just look at the amount of sessions at conferences that seek to answer this question), it is still an exciting application to see develop.

While it’s great that Microsoft sought to address external access, which was the single most requested item on Uservoice, its implementation leaves a lot to be desired (only Azure AD accounts can be added). There are many questions remaining such as how will Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams end up relating to each other? When will get a proper extensibility and provisioning framework?

FInal Thought

As you can see, there are many questions that still remain, but Withum remains optimistic about the future of Office 365 for organizations of all sizes. It will only become a larger value proposition as Microsoft hones its focus, provides a clearer integration story, and gives their clients more options in extensibility and customization. Stay tuned because at the end of the conference Withum will be writing and speaking about all the announcements that come from Ignite 2017.

Topics: Office 365, Microsoft Ignite

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Chris Poteet

Chris Poteet is a Senior Consultant at Withum. He has been a user experience consultant for a decade and has focused on the SharePoint ecosystem for the last seven years. His areas of interest and consultation include UX research, process, and its relationship to traditional activities such as business analysis. He also has a technical emphasis on web content management focused on multi-device solutions.

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