How SharePoint is changing: Behind the scenes with Adam Harmetz, Partner GPM on SharePoint and Office 365

‘How SharePoint is changing: Behind the scenes with Adam Harmetz, Partner GPM on SharePoint and Office 365’

With the big focus on Intelligent cloud strategy, what is your vision with SharePoint on-premise implementations? what guidance you will provide to customer who continue to invest in SharePoint on-premise?
We’ve announced SharePoint Server 2019, our next on premises release, back at the last Microsoft Ignite conference. This upcoming week, we’ll share more details about the release, so stay tuned!
We are committed to supporting customers through the transition to the cloud, including a new on premises release so the cloud earns the right to be the default choice instead of it being a forced move. Our deep investment in hybrid experiences and well as migration tools from us and partners help bridge this gap.
We think a lot about how we can be a trusted partner to our customers in this generational shift to cloud computing. I think the fact that Microsoft ourselves is going through similar cultural and technological transformation gives us a lot of empathy for the disruption many of our customers are seeing and I personally try to channel that empathy into the product every day. It’s not just about a technological choice but rather an entire relationship you can have with Microsoft to help you through a critical time for your business.
Nearly half of the workforce will be millennials by 2020. Will we be seeing any changes in SharePoint in terms of functionality and user experience to address this audience?
We have radically overhauled our user experience over the past two years, designed to simplify the experience, bring it to mobile, and democratize employee engagement and business process creation. Communication Sites, which launched last year, are probably one of the biggest ways we’ve done that. Anyone in an organization can get up and running with a professional and mobile ready Communication Site in just minutes. And of course our new Hub Sites feature is dynamic from day 1 – you can rearrange the sites in a hub as many times as you want, so your intranet is as dynamic as your business.
Much of this modernization was a result of the shift in the workforce you are referencing. These digital natives want self-service experiences and often blur the boundaries between time and place in dynamic ways. SharePoint is evolving to reflect that.
At Microsoft Ignite in 2017, a large number of new SharePoint features were announced. Closer connectivity to the cloud and Office 365 Hub Sites, a brand new migration tool, improved team and communication sites, Flow and PowerApps integration and lot more. Which part of the SharePoint roadmap has you the most excited?
It’s very hard to pick one thing. SharePoint has always been a portfolio product, providing multiple discrete pillars of business value. I truly see my job as not picking one favorite thing but rather ensuring that the broad spectrum of functionality that our customers rely on SharePoint for is all brought forward and modernized.
So I’m probably most excited about the fact that all the major pillar business pillars have something to drive excitement: in Share and Work Together, we announced deep integration with Teams. In Inform and Engage Employees, we talked about the momentum with Communication Sites and announced how you can organize all sites into a intranet with Hub Sites. In Transform Business Process we talked about deeper PowerApps and Flow integration. And the list goes on.
It’s clear that Microsoft is placing a lot of emphasis on SharePoint UX. The evolution of the user experience over the years has been dramatic. Could you share how this was brought about internally by the SharePoint team?
Great question. I love talking about how all this is happening behind the scenes. I think there are a few key ingredients to our plan and a happy confluence of factors that came together over the past couple years:
It was clear in the industry and how our community was extending SharePoint themselves that we needed a new front end architecture for our UX. We wanted to embrace open standards and move our UX code to client side, decoupled from the rest of the service. In short, our engineering team was already motivated to rewrite the front end.
We over doubled the size of our Design team and recruited some of the top designers in the industry. Product people like folks on my team focused less on UX interaction and more on product framing and data-driven insights from our service.
Our feedback loop went from 3 years to 3 minutes. We no longer only shipped a boxed product once every three years, but rather are iterating rapidly and getting a wealth of qualitative and quantitative data. In short, our customers are directly responsible for helping us co-design the improved UX in a way that gets a little better every day.
Intranets have received a lot of love in the SharePoint roadmap. It’s amazing that we are going to see Communication sites, News Pages, Bing Search, Promote Button, leveraging LinkedIn with Improved people cards, News Digest, Hub sites. A lot of these seem to be based on driving up adoption. Could you share some insights on the thought process behind these new changes.
Another great question. This I think was a classic example of how to approach the modernization of a pretty successful existing product. As much as we could, we kept existing concepts and features the same, with perhaps a new UX on top of them. We already have a rich Content Management System in SharePoint so the concepts of sites, metadata, lists, libraries, web parts et cetera – these are successful models and something our community is well used to.
We often talk about how much we can keep the Information Architecture the same as we modernize the product. So I hope folks recognize a lot in the modern intranet from their existing one and what has always been in SharePoint for many years. Beyond that, though, we did look at what customers were telling us and made a few bold bets in the intranet space:
Mobile & time to develop:We made some bets that ensure intranets would be accessible on a mobile device and reduced the development time (often to zero!) for building a site. This required us to own the default UX and create something that feels like an app (which you can extend) vs. a portal platform with no turnkey experience.
News & Social:The one major new user job we added to the intranet is that we took on the burden of helping orchestrate the process by which employees will discover content. Proactively helping people find the content locked away in the intranet wasn’t really a user job anyone relied on SharePoint before, but with News and Yammer & Teams Integration, more and more you’ll see us helping people get their content noticed and shared.
Intelligence:AI is changing the world and it has true transformative power when it comes to content discovery in the enterprise. The intranet will increasingly be a place where it’s clear that AI can have a really positive impact on the employee experience.
We are seeing a lot of interest related to PowerApps from our customers. Are we going to see tighter integration with PowerApps over the long term.
Absolutely! The Power Apps web part for SharePoint recently went out to production, for instance. PowerApps is the Rapid Application Development platform from Microsoft and it’ll be tightly integrated into the content collaboration platform (i.e. SharePoint in Office 365). It’s a classic 1+1=3 opportunity.
Customers are expecting quick implementations of their SharePoint solutions. What guidance you have for developers to address customer expectations? Also what advancements you plan to bring to developer toolset in the future to ease out the pressure on developers?
We designed the SharePoint Framework as a way of addressing these time to market concerns we were hearing from the development community. My biggest advice is to learn client side development as our goal is that any front end developer should be able to extend SharePoint with SPFx, with little to no SharePoint expertise required. The community has a bunch of great classes where you can learn the latest.
What suggestions you will give to IT and business manager to achieve faster and bigger adoption of SharePoint platform
Here’s a few of the most impactful suggestions I’ve seen in various customers I’ve talked to:
Encourage self-service site creation:Empower your users to create sites (or Teams) themselves. There are plenty of governance and organizational controls on the backend to help manage the sprawl; don’t get in the way at the team forming stage.
Adopt SharePoint News:It requires a culture change to move out of email into News, but when done the impact is transformational. It’s a way more transparent culture and there is a shared history folks can refer back to. If done right, the SharePoint News feed is a perfect blend of high value information without being overwhelming, so it can be habit forming when the culture as a whole adopts it.
Get users to install the SharePoint mobile app:Educate users that they can keep up to date with News and find organizational knowledge on the go.
And finally, what are you excited to see at SharePoint NA?
Seeing the community and meeting customers. We have the best community in tech and it’s always so much fun to catch up and build a shared network. And then of course I absolutely LOVE hearing customer stories of how they are using SharePoint or the challenges they are having. I always take back so much that I can share with the team here in Redmond.
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