Thursday 29 October 2015

My wish list for Office 365 and SharePoint (late 2015)

Sometimes, it’s good to take a step back and think about the technologies you bet on for your clients, employer and career. I had cause to do this recently, and I see no reason not to publish these thoughts publically – so in this post I’d like to take you through my list of things that I’d like to see Microsoft address. In terms of timing, as we move closer to the release of new things in Office 365 (Next Gen Portals, “Planner” and so on), and of course the on-premises SharePoint 2016 release, it’s probably not a bad moment to do some thinking like this – hopefully some items on my list will be ticked off sooner rather than later :)

I’ve broken the list down into smaller/easier things to accomplish which would be good to see in the next 12 months, and then a list of perhaps bigger/longer-term things. Here we go:

Within 12 months:

  • Progress the hybrid story from "basic" to "joined-up". For orgs with on-premises SharePoint and SharePoint Online, the lack of integration/sync between taxonomy, user profiles, user experience (branding, navigation, customizations etc.) is a big problem. It's great that identity, search and OneDrive are becoming reasonably well integrated - but there's a long list of other areas which are not (e.g. see
  • Take steps to integrate recent and upcoming features with the things that SharePoint does well. Right now Office 365 Groups and Next-Gen Portals seem to be missing the mark for some of our clients, because whilst they're great at "quick and easy" they're not so good for "planned and governed". The lack of integration with taxonomy, search and Yammer creates more siloes and mean that some organizations are unhappy with the direction in these areas.
  • Provide a better top-level experience. SharePoint could be so much better if Microsoft “did more” about the top-level, in terms of a default page. Sure, lots of orgs have strong requirements around their intranet/digital workplace homepage – but many do not, yet are forced to expend effort building the top-level experience. Even those with requirements would probably benefit from better out-of-the-box pieces here.
  • Remove some of the need for site templating by fixing content types. This applies particularly to collaboration scenarios. It's great that the Content Type Hub allows an organization to easily define and manage their content types without development (especially in Office 365), but frankly it's useless because those content types do not get applied to document libraries (without manual steps in each site).
  • Fill the void on forms within SharePoint.
  • Fill the void on analytics within SharePoint.
  • Clarify the social situation/roadmap. As Wictor pointed out recently in Has Yammer played out it’s role?, there hasn’t been a great deal of innovation in Yammer, and things have gone suspiciously quiet. Whilst I agree with many of Wictor’s points, I also note that Yammer has been a pretty huge success at Content and Code (around 100 employees), despite the many sucky aspects. Which, of course, include the useless search, lack of profile integration, inability to edit comments, strange inbox, poor handling of multiple networks, lame mobile apps and so on. But genuinely, the platform still manages to work well in many contexts I see, and really good conversations and team-working can happen. Maybe 1000 employees or less is a sweet spot for Yammer? Anyway – the lack of clarity on Yammer and social needs to be addressed so that organizations can plan.

Within 3 years

  • Retain strengths around documents and collaboration, but leap forward in terms of CMS sites/pages, mobile, user experience and certain specific workloads. In terms of the last point, SharePoint could do such a better job at things common to most organizations - running projects, idea generation, on-boarding new employees and so on. These things don't need to be best-of-breed, but having capabilities in these areas which integrate with other pieces would be hugely valuable.
  • Address key end-user scenarios which still cause pain. Moving/copy and pasting items, sharing content *easily* between sites (cross-site publishing doesn't currently cut it), seeing all the sites I can contribute to, having a proper site directory (or other discovery tools) and so on. It's a big shame that we still have these constraints in 2015.
  • Provide a simple option for self-service sites created from a simple custom template (e.g. team/project sites with some tweaks). The OfficeDev Patterns and Practices initiative helps developers implement this, but the "clone from this master site" feature should be baked into the product and have a FAR lower barrier to entry than it currently does IMHO.
  • Resolve the constraints and pain points which come with the current architecture. The site collection boundary is a good example of this - branding, many site settings, customizations and many more are challenging to implement globally.
  • Eliminate some of the complexity around the remote code model (e.g. more streamlined integration with Azure). Yes, it is HUGE that we now have an enterprise-grade way of customizing SharePoint/SharePoint Online, whilst not impacting the stability of core SharePoint. Kudos Microsoft! However, whilst it’s great for folks like me (and my employer) who can wrap their heads around Azure, Azure AD, development models such as Office 365 apps and SharePoint Add-ins, authentication options and so on - I’d say the world would probably be better off if Microsoft could simplify this landscape somewhat. More progress on integration between pieces in Office 365 and Azure is probably the right angle here.


So that’s my wish list as we go into November 2015. No doubt with a bit more time I would add some more items, and we could go on forever in some ways. But what’s on your list? Do you agree with some of my points, or do you have a completely different set of burning issues?

And don’t forget, the various UserVoice channels are a great way to get your message across to Microsoft. Personally, now I’ve got this off my chest I’ll go back over this list and consider what should be added there, and I suggest you do the same for yours too :)