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Exploring the future of SharePoint
Insights into five investment areas for the content services platform powering Microsoft 365
“SharePoint is a Swiss Army Knife.” – Adriaan Bloem (June 2011).
“It slices, dices, and makes Julienne Fries.” – Ronco Veg-O-Matic (October 2013).
“The future of SharePoint is now.” – Jeff Teper, President of Collaborative Apps and Platforms at Microsoft (May 2016).
“In 2023, SharePoint is doing more than ever – more integration, becoming friendlier, and growing as a platform to accommodate all kinds of content and services.” – Mark Kashman, Senior product manager (January 2023 – a meta-quote in and from this article) 😉.
The stimulus of this article is a most frequently asked question (FAQ): What is the future of SharePoint? The answer is in the near term, with great specificity. But behind this FAQ, customers want to know why they should bet, and keep betting, on SharePoint – for the long haul – 2-3-5 years out.
It’s always a good bet in my opinion. This article strives to give context to the future of SharePoint – beyond today, beyond 2023 – to decipher which way the content-collaboration wind blows. It builds on and consolidates public statements, peer content, industry trends, and peppers in a few of my own takes.
The TL;DR is the below bulleted list. Read on to unpack each.
Batton down the hatches. Hold on to your SharePoint hats and socks. OK. OK. OK. Here we go.
SharePoint | Five core investment areas
Integrated user experiences (UX) in Teams, SharePoint, Viva, Syntex, Lists, Stream, and more.
AI and machine learning augment processes and insights.
Storage enhancements for scale, file types, user experience, and content AI.
Developer continuum spans no code > low code > pro dev.
Security and access become more granular and add depth.
Integrated user experiences (UX)
Context drives clarity and insight into productivity. When fewer places vie for your attention – to accomplish more where you are at – the value of you + technology is synergistic net gain.
Scale that up beyond the individual and it becomes apparent that applications need to bring that consolidation and value across an entire organization’s, with a new level of simplicity for everyone. The application layer itself becomes the platform for collaboration, integration, and customization within the business processes (however you define it).
“Research shows that when companies invest in their people and focus on improving the employee experience and engagement, they can directly improve retention and profitability.” Seth Patton, GM – Microsoft.
The design impetus must help retain the employee. The design focus is to improve how people work together – on shared content in Microsoft Teams and within Outlook, pulling in dynamic and engaging intranet content through Viva, Syntex, Stream, Lists, Planner, and SharePoint sites themselves. SharePoint powers these applications (and components) to provide you with the richest collaboration, compliance, and customization opportunities.
When you review Microsoft design goals, you see product teams emphasizing the importance of design itself, how it influences the ease of user interface (UI), and how it blends the overall user experience (UX). The SharePoint design upholds this principle through ubiquitous sync AND async collaboration in the cloud. The goal of integrated user experiences is to help you focus on your work.
Expect fewer clicks to get work done. Expect fewer required switches of context. Expect less hunting and pecking – more doing and moving things forward. And if you want to dig into this one a little further, take a look at my previous post, “The role of SharePoint in Microsoft 365.”
AI and machine learning
There are many use cases of AI implemented in Microsoft products – upleveling people expertise, smarter search, content understanding, targeted content consumption, relevant task reminders, and more. Around the corner, notions of generative AI factor into planning minds and how the future of now – with solid service level agreement of reliability and trust intact – can be ‘not too far from now.’
“The entire knowledge economy is going to see a transformation in how AI helps out with repetitive aspects of your work and makes it generally more pleasant and fulfilling.” Kevin Scott, CTA – Microsoft (read the full interview)
This, plus a recent WSJ interview with Satya Nadella regarding OpenAI and ChatGPT, highlights the important of various AI technologies being baked into Microsoft product development + the recent announcement: Microsoft and OpenAI extend partnership. With the explosion of data, shorter attention spans, mobilization of workforce, growing number of teams, sophisticated security threats… effective content management and collaboration is more critical than ever in the modern workplace.
In this area, I would assert that “do more with less” comes to fruition as the service shortens time to value, helps scale repetitive tasks, and opens your attention to hone and deliver business impact.
Storage flexibility is key – across content and data platforms alike. SharePoint in Microsoft 365 – from a storage perspective – is not just storage; not just MBs GBs PBs TBs of 1s and 0s. Active content requires active content capabilities. It powers what you do with files in OneDrive, how you share content in Teams – with Loop and Stream, and recent investments in Viva and Syntex serving as a core content service to their value. Don’t expect to simply store your files in the cloud. Expect to use them in interesting, productive ways that promote UX that promotes value, that promotes cohesive time to market, that promotes building on the strength of other through discovery and reuse.
The goal is to enhance the overall UX, minimize siloed content (ensures security and search challenges), require fewer licenses, improve contextual insights and recommendations, increase file viewing capabilities, enhance content creation, and more. And one last point that leads to the next area of focus – ensure all content is accessible through one primary end point for developers: Microsoft Graph. Custom solutions without a fluid connection to content and data are just pretty moving pixels.
“By default, your SharePoint storage is available in a central pool from which all sites can draw. You don't need to divvy up storage space or reallocate space based on usage. That's all handled automatically: sites use what they need when they need it.” Microsoft Learn (read the full Help article)
The best storage feedback we see is usage. Telemetry, reality, and projections are king. Today, as 150PB of new content gets added to SharePoint each month, we plan to bring value to what you do, and can do, with that content. Better real-time collaboration. Improved online and offline experiences. Dynamic capture and playback for video. And the ability to work on discreet components of work – where you work. Keep the feedback coming. Storage is a true backbone to where innovation is born. It’s an area of focus across many teams. What’s here and what’s to come is truly inspiring.
Many decisions balance between build versus buy. Does technology offer 100% of the outcome you desire? Or is it some percentage of the way there and it needs a custom nudge across the finish line. Microsoft offers options, opportunity. The span of this continuum goes from no code – using Microsoft 365 app as they are, to low code – building your own custom forms, workflows, and reports, to pro dev – designing and developing your own UI, logic, and custom connectors). And all areas are ripe for innovation.
Microsoft Graph, SharePoint Framework, and the Power Platform plan to expand, to make sure you are being more productive and in the flow of the work, enabling you to surface more of what you need inside of your work, inside of your own applications and solutions.
“There’s a paradigm shift happening in the way that developers build apps – driven by changes in technology, accelerated by global events. The shift is towards a new kind of app – one that is built for collaboration by design, that is seamless and borderless. An app that meets users right in the flow of their work.” Ben Summers, Director – Microsoft (read the full article)
Since SharePoint files, sites, lists and pages are available in Microsoft Graph, developers can use the single Graph API to connect to third-party services and build custom solutions. We recently exposed the Pages API, the Planner API, and improvement on your you can test your apps. We have more innovation to come so you can surface extensibility and automation with data and insights. Rather than moving into another application or going across the applications, you, too, will design experiences that keep the flow of the work flowing, in the flow of work.
Security and access
Where would we be without trust? And curious that ‘Zero Trust’ is the new security norm. Nowadays, cybersecurity is top of mind as organizations realize their individual digital transformation and growth. With that comes the responsibility of managing and governing all aspects of people, content, and context – diligently.
To empower this, organizations demand a modern content management and collaboration solution that’s intelligent, secure, and integrated into the tools they use every day. We strive to empower every admin worldwide to safeguard and govern their content.
“Microsoft is committed to building a safer world together and helping you maximize the security you already have with your Microsoft investments. We’ve built a simplified and comprehensive security solution … that protect your entire multicloud, multiplatform digital estate.” Vasu Jakkal, CVP – Microsoft (read the full blog)
Oversharing of content is a common problem in many organizations. Despite the right intent, users mistakenly share content with a broader audience that often results in unauthorized access to content. Especially as hybrid work and external collaboration become business critical, oversharing problems expand to a new level. Thus, expect a focus on more granular access controls, content management and moderation, establishing labels and policies that can be applied to more actions and specific content.
Microsoft focuses both on reactive monitoring and proactive safety measures. Default innovations keep you and your content safe, while enabling you to craft how you further safeguard various zones, activities, and unique content.
In the end…
In 2023, SharePoint is doing more than ever – more integration, becoming friendlier, and growing as a platform to accommodate all kinds of content and services. My hope is the above provides insights into five large areas of investment across thousands of designers, engineers, and product planners at Microsoft. They work hard to design and build best-in-class experiences you’ll love and use with confidence and trust. The most comforting knowledge stems from the fact that numerous teams inside and outside of OneDrive and SharePoint work together to enhance the reliability of updates today and innovations to come.
Go, SharePoint and related tech, go! 🚀
P.S. (Pun Sharing)
Get your eye rolls ready to bake… one pun from me, @mkashman 🙄, and one pun from the pun chefs of the world: