The week that was Microsoft Ignite 2017

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Microsoft Ignite is in the books for another year. The product teams have been busy and as a result there were lots of announcements in the Office 365 areas I focus on. Overall, SharePoint and OneDrive were given a lot of attention as well as some great announcements within Security and Compliance. I’m writing this post as a quick summary of my top takeaways from the week in these two areas and ones I believe my customers will be keen to learn about.

SharePoint/OneDrive Takeaways

#1: Word SharePoint Property Pane

Coming: January 2018

Allows end-user to edit metadata right from within the Word 2016 client on Windows. This replaces the functionality that was once done in the Document Information Panel in the Office clients.

My thoughts: I can’t overstate how important this is for end-user adoption of document management within SharePoint. I am so happy for the positive impact this change will have.

#2: Attention Views 

Coming: October 2017

This is a new view that will show missing metadata and will quickly highlight documents/items requiring metadata. Also, more capabilities and conditions will be rolled out in the coming months.

My thoughts: Like my Takeaway #1, this will be a HUGE usability improvement for end-users. Content is often bulk-uploaded into libraries and if that library has required metadata, it is often left unfilled which has negative follow-on effects. These new attention views will be a great assist for end-users and improve SharePoint usability.

#3: Custom column formatter

Coming: October 2017

This is the ability to visually format columns in a list/library using JSON. For now you can insert JSON to highlight certain columns in a list/library. (data bar graphs, color coding, red-yellow-green KPI icons, or interactive icons for emails and PowerApps)  This will eventually move to a no-code solution, but for now will require a “Super Power User” to code the JSON. There will be JSON examples on the SharePoint Patterns and Practises site. Link here.

My thoughts: In most organizations I work with, no one outside of IT will want to do this type of JSON work, however I still really like this level of customization and will definitely be using it. Looking forward to the no-code solution.

#4: SharePoint Hub Sites

Image-3Coming: First Release early 2018

This is a way of associating sites together rather than following the traditional site and sub-site approach. They will roll up news and content from all associated sites and will have a shared navigation among them thus hiding the back-end structure from the end-user. It also defines a search ‘scope’ whereby any time you search from within there, it will search only sites within the Hub.

My thoughts: The key advantage of this for me is allowing the associated sites to change over time. I see this working very well with re-orgs within a company as well as being a corporate intranet for some Small/Medium sized businesses that do not have highly customized Intranet requirements. My team is already discussing ways we can leverage Hub sites and I can’t wait to try them out!

#5: New/Updated Modern web parts/page design

Coming: First Release end of 2017

Lots of focus has been placed on enhancing modern pages in SharePoint. Many new web parts have been introduced as well as enhancements to existing ones. In addition, you can now save site themes and page designs for consistent re-use across your sites.  (Examples of web parts: Planner, Microsoft Forms, PowerApps, Power BI, Group Calendar, File Viewer, Twitter, Dividers, and numerous O365 connectors such as Jira, Facebook, Bing News, etc.)

My thoughts: This puts more power in the hands of the “SharePoint Power User” which is always a good thing. It will greatly enhance the ability to build robust modern pages in SharePoint sites. I really like the ability to save page designs to provide a more consistent look and feel.

#6: Files on Demand and File Viewer on Desktop (no client installed!)

Coming: Windows 10 Fall Creator Update – October 2017

This will allow end-users to sync their entire library (OneDrive, SharePoint) and only the items they specifically choose to open will be downloaded to their local machine. Also, you will now be able to view more than 270 file formats with OneDrive on the web, mobile and right from within File Explorer on your desktop without having the associated client program installed and will also be able to view these files across other workloads (Microsoft Teams, Search, SharePoint, OneDrive).

My thoughts: This is a big win for desktop support teams so end-users can sync their entire library (which they typically do) but only the items they specifically choose to open will be downloaded to their local machine. No more filling up disk space! This will require end-user education to ensure they understand that they have to download the file if they want to work offline with it. Also, the new file viewer capability on the desktop is a big win particularly for organizations working with file formats a typical user wouldn’t have the program to view (medical imagery, CAD drawings, etc.).

 Security and Compliance Takeaways

#1: Unified Office Information Protection labels

Coming: Preview late 2017

You will now be able to configure a label in the Security and Compliance Center to configure BOTH Azure Information Protection and Retention.

My thoughts: As someone whose blogged about the two labels and the potential for confusion between them, I was very happy to learn of this more unified approach. I think a challenge with this will be how Information Management teams will unify these two controls into one cohesive label.

#2: Granular Retention setting

Coming soon will be the ability to set retention labels at a folder level as well as on custom columns.

My thoughts: Although I didn’t see a demo of this, there was mention of it in one of the sessions I attended. This is a request I am hearing from Information Management teams – they require more granular control on retention than what is currently provided with retention labels. I will blog about this when more information is shared.

#3: Azure Information Protection Scanner

Coming: Public Preview October 2017

The scanner will run against your file server and SharePoint on-premises locations where you may have files stored and allows you to set AIP labels and protection on those files based on your published label policies.

My thoughts: This is good news for getting organizations prepared for GDPR compliance when not all content is stored in Office 365. I talk about these capabilities in my Data Governance presentation and will be including this feature as well.

#4: Compliance Manager

Coming: Preview program starting November 2017 – sign up for the preview program.

As we’re all trying to figure out how to prepare for life with the GDPR (if you’re not, check it out – maybe you should be), this tool is beneficial to help assess your tenant’s preparedness for it (will assess against other regulations as well).

“Compliance Manager enables you to conduct real-time risk assessment, providing one intelligent score that reflects your compliance performance against data protection regulatory requirements when using Microsoft cloud services. You will also be able to use the built-in control management and audit-ready reporting tools to improve and monitor your compliance posture.”

Also, read the new whitepaper “Accelerate your GDPR compliance journey with Microsoft 365 GDPR” to help understand how Microsoft 365 can help you get there.

My thoughts: I’ve signed up for the preview and looking forward to see where tenants I work in “stack up” against the recommendations.

Honourable mentions:

  • IMG_1666The official announcement of Microsoft Teams replacing Skype for Business. First reaction to this from customers I work with is some confusion on the messaging and how the product will be branded to minimize confusion for end-users.
  • Curated news replaces the old-school corporate newsletter. You will be able to identify specific SharePoint news articles to send to people as an email newsletter. I really like the sound of this.
  • The new Me tab in the SharePoint mobile app allowing you to save articles for viewing later with a “Save for later” gesture. I’ve already tried this out and I love it!
  • Great for data governance, search will store the index of the data locally in the same region as the data, and the search results will span and unify those indices based on your search and location.
  • Site level device access policies – this is a new announcement that will define whether or not an unmanaged/non-compliant device can access content for a specific SharePoint Site collection based on its classification. (was previously only configurable at a tenant level)
  • Bing for Business was a cool announcement that will augment Bing search results with internal data (emails, documents, profile information, etc.) This is currently in Preview.

Other highlights

Community Central mural on Office Takeover Day at Ignite

When I wasn’t attending a session in-person, one of my favourite places to go was the Community hang-out. It was a great place to view sessions on one of the giant screens from the comfort of a couch as well as the place to meet up with other people in the community.

Watching sessions from the hang-out

Microsoft Ignite 2017 was also the first to introduce the idea of community reporters. This was a great way for non-attendees to be able to participate in the event from a more personal perspective and something I hope they continue with for future events.

In addition to attending product team breakout sessions, I was fortunate to catch a handful of great community theater sessions by some of my SharePoint/Office 365 friends. Here are some pics of their moment in the spotlight – a job well done by all. (In photos L-R: @tracyvds, @vladcatrinescu, @danielglenn)

I’m returning to work with a renewed sense of purpose in the areas I’m focused on, something a conference like Ignite often gives me. I’m really looking forward to seeing these new features roll out to customer tenants I’m working with!

Thanks for reading.


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