Microsoft Office 365

Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2014 – Some Highlights

The week of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference for 2014 has arrived, and as is usual for such events, today’s opening sessions featured a bevy of new announcements about the roadmap for SharePoint, Office 365, and more. The highlights I noted from afar are:

1. Office Graph. The Office Graph that plays an auto-discovery role for individuals to highlight content, people, groups, and happenings that are relevant to their work. Using machine learning, the Office Graph is constantly looking for other content and people that are related to what a given user is working on. The Office Graph works across SharePoint, Exchange, Lync, Yammer, and Office. In other words, while Microsoft continues to deliver best-of-breed offerings in these respective market spaces (collaboration, mail and calendaring, real time, social, and office productivity apps), the Office Graph looks across the collection and presents a unified and coherent picture of what’s happening in relation to specific projects, initiatives, etc.

A few notes:
– the Office Graph is an extension of the Yammer concept of an Enterprise Graph. While Yammer created its graph on content in a Yammer network, the Office Graph takes a much wider view.
– the challenge for Microsoft will be to get the relationships right, and to not overwhelm users with redundant, duplicated, or irrelevant information. It’s a great vision. It’s going to take some tuning to get right.

Office Graph sounds like a fulfilment of the Collaboration Auto-Discovery role I wrote about for teams almost a decade ago (see Pillar 7), and more recently of the same capability for collaborative groups (see Chapter 2 in Collaboration Roadmap).

For more, see Work like a network

2. Groups Across Office. An extension of the Yammer Groups capability, for creating a place for a focused group of people to work on a specific process or deliverable. In Office 365, it will work across people, profiles, conversations, emails, calendars, and files. When creating a group, the system will auto-create a space for the group to work together, with an inbox, social feed, calendar, and document library. Each person can choose whether to engage with the group through the site directly, or through the corresponding Yammer feed. Both will show the same information, thus giving people the choice of how they want to work.

3. Inline Social. Pre-social you could work inside a Word document and have an instant messaging chat – powered by Office Communications Server or Lync – with other people who were working on the document too. With social increasingly being the go-to place for real-time conversations, Microsoft is adding social capabilities for real-time conversations into a variety of applications. In the first instance, you can have a Yammer conversation in a sidebar in Word or PowerPoint that are stored in SharePoint or OneDrive for Business (see below). In future iterations, these will be available in Microsoft Dynamics, other line-of-business systems, and other applications.

4. Video Portal. Microsoft showed its new Video Portal for Office 365, that enables the secure storage, sharing, and discovery of videos. Think YouTube for the enterprise, provided by Microsoft. Videos can be grouped into channels, and served up across the many devices in use by end users today.

5. SP1 for SharePoint 2013. Microsoft released Service Pack 1 for SharePoint 2013, the on-premises version of SharePoint. While the service pack includes the usual collection of performance, reliability, and security fixes, there are also some goodies for end users, including integration with OneDrive for Business (see #6 below) and Yammer (see #7 below).

There was also some discussion about the next version of SharePoint, due in 2015 (which made Bjørn very happy).

For more, see SharePoint Server 2013 SP1 Now Available

6. OneDrive for Business. Microsoft announced OneDrive for Business, a stand-alone product for secure cloud-based file storage, synchronization, and sharing. OneDrive for Business can be integrated with SharePoint 2013, so that while SharePoint remains on-premises, its files are actually stored in the cloud. OneDrive for Business will be available in April.

A few notes:
– OneDrive for Business was previously SkyDrive Pro. The newly branded standalone service comes with 25 GB of storage.
– While OneDrive for Business is for individuals to store their business documents and content somewhere, it also provides administrative controls and compliance options for the organization.
– This is a cloud storage and sync play to compete with Box, Dropbox, SugarSync, and others.
– Microsoft hopes that as customers come to rely on OneDrive for Business as a standalone service, they will add other capabilities from the Microsoft stack, such as cloud-based email and meeting services.

For more, see One place for all your work files.

7. Yammer for Social in SharePoint. Microsoft announced an easy transition path for SharePoint social to Yammer. When Microsoft acquired Yammer, it was too late to replace the social capabilities it was about to release in SharePoint 2013. Those have stood in parallel alongside the new Yammer capabilities, and Microsoft has been working to better integrate Yammer into SharePoint. With Service Pack 1 for SharePoint 2013, there are new administrator options for making Yammer the social engine inside SharePoint.

The SharePoint Conference 2014 runs through to March 6, and has an attendee list of about 10,000. There’s quite an agenda lined up too, including tracks on adoption, strategy, and governance.