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Microsoft Ignite 2015

Microsoft Ignite 2015

10 things I learned at Microsoft Ignite 2015

Sebastian Atar | June 11, 2015

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the first Microsoft Ignite conference in Chicago, IL with a few colleagues from Slalom’s Seattle office and several others from Slalom offices around the country. Upon our return, clients and colleagues alike were interested to hear what Microsoft had to share about its vision for the future. When is SharePoint 2016 going to release? What's coming in Office 365? What will happen with Yammer? How does Delve fit into the Office 365 offering?

One thing is clear: Microsoft’s offerings in the collaboration space are changing to account for the new ways in which we work, find, and share information.

Here are the top ten things I learned about what’s next for Microsoft and how it will affect the way we work.

1. It’s not just about SharePoint

The platform has evolved. With Office 365, Microsoft is placing more emphasis on tools that enhance the entire online platform instead of focusing exclusively on content management. With this broader focus, there is more choice, and with that the need to clearly define business cases for each technology. Between Groups, Delve, Microsites, Team Sites, OneDrive, and Yammer, do you know which provides the best fit and value for how your team works?

Watch: Intelligent, Ready-to-Go NextGen Portals in Office 365

2. More frequent releases

Rather than a “big bang” release every few years, Microsoft is becoming more nimble and shifting toward smaller, more frequent releases. In the new model, updates to the platform are first released to Office 365 customers. Sometimes this is a year in advance of the next version. Customers signed up for “first release” could get them even sooner. Are you ready?

Watch: Managing Change in an Office 365 Rapid Release World

3. Productivity from anywhere, on any device

Work is not where we go, but what we do. The workplace is changing and so is the workforce. The enterprise must adapt to new ways of working—whether employees are at the office, working from a café, or from the lobby before a big presentation. Employees expect to be just as productive no matter where they’re at or what device they’re using. If your organization is still struggling with VPN clients, intranet access, or home office productivity, Office 365 will give you even more reasons to move to the cloud.

Watch: Microsoft Project Siena: Build Apps and Create New Mobile Solutions

4. Security is paramount

Security folks understand that security has to be rock solid in order for all of this mobile, BYOD, and sharing functionality with partners and customers to work. Microsoft made a point to highlight security in the Ignite keynote. Office 365 has been verified to meet requirements specified in ISO 27001, EU model clauses, HIPAA BAA, and FISMA. It can also support the most complex scenarios around eDiscovery, device management, and DLP.

Watch: Office 365 Security and Control

5. Social works

Social functionality within the workplace is now proven. It provides more effective and time-efficient methods for your employees to work together than traditional methods that require that employees know who to go to for help (e.g., sending an email to a specific recipient vs. posting a question on a forum that anyone can respond to). New functionality in Office 365 is heavily focused on leveraging this model further to allow for greater ROI and increased productivity.

Watch: Become a Productivity Ninja: Enter the Productivity Dojo

6. With great power, comes great responsibility

In an age of social collaboration and online productivity, new roles are required to ensure your organization is working in the best possible way. Site or community ownership is no longer a passive role. Site owners will evolve into community managers and shift their focus from governance to content curation. New technology also spawns new roles, such as machine-learning engineers and data experts who strive to garner knowledge from new ways of looking at data that were not possible in the past.

Watch: Overview of Advanced Analytics with Machine Learning and Data Orchestration

7. Improved analytics

Microsoft’s increased focus on social collaboration triggered several dashboards, which highlight cross-team interaction and provide data on how and when you work to help maintain work-life balance. Understanding all of this usage data is key to ensuring effective use of technology, as well as staying attuned to your users’ needs.

Watch: Using the Office Telemetry Dashboard to Manage Change

8. Drive data relevancy with organizational data

Office Graph is essentially the next iteration of search + cloud + Azure machine learning. It is the “brain” behind features such as Clutter and Delve. To work effectively, it is important for your organizational details (e.g., role, hierarchy, team name, location) to be up to date in Active Directory. Once you do, you'll be able to find: 1) content without query; 2) content trending around you; 3) content you didn't know existed; and, 4) colleagues by expertise or interest. In addition, Microsoft will expose Graph via an API to develop custom apps directly against it.

Watch: Building Solutions with Office Graph

9. New rules for optimization

The emphasis on mobile underscores the importance of responsive, fast user experiences. Many core elements of an on-premise solution (e.g., structured navigation, content query web parts) have implications on performance that are magnified in the cloud. In addition, heavily customized user experiences often leverage custom master pages. By using custom master pages, we can miss out on new experiences and features being rolled out on the Office 365 platform. In designing a custom user experience in Office 365, there are few black and white decisions. A great design will weigh each decision against the business value and return.

Watch: Deep Dive into Safe SharePoint Branding in Office 365 Using Repeatable Patterns and Practices

10. Revisit ideas about information architecture

A move to the cloud provides an opportunity to reassess your current information architecture. Has your business remained static since you first deployed SharePoint? Likely not, so take advantage of the opportunity to ensure that all of the assumptions, process definitions, and changes since are reflected in a manner that provide an experience that supports and enhances how your employees work.

Watch: Designing and Applying Information Architecture for Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365

The overarching theme of Ignite seemed to be about change. Security was another hot topic, as well as how Microsoft is adjusting its offerings to millennials joining the workforce.

But I was most struck by the fundamental shift in how SharePoint is now being positioned as one function of the Office 365 platform—it’s no longer the conversation lead-in. These changes can have a substantial impact on your employees’ productivity and how they do their work on a daily basis.

Sebastian Atar

Sebastian Atar is a consultant in the Content & Collaboration practice in Slalom’s Seattle office.


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