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 http://www.sharepointnutsandbolts.com/2015/04/improving-office-365-sharepoint-hybrid.html)
  • 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.

Summary

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 :)

9 comments:

Lee Dale said...

Not sure that the hybrid story will get much better to be honest. I'm sure Microsoft would love to do away with on-premise and move everyone to the cloud if they could. I'm not sure there is much motivation to improve the hybrid story from MS point of view, hopefully I'm wrong.

I agree with the remote code model needing to be simplified. Just did a SharePoint add-in for a client that used their Office 365 Azure AD and the hoops to jump through just to get app-only permissions working into the Office 365 APIs is excessive. I'm all for good security an authentication but when I told my client I needed to create an Azure AD app for authentication they didn't even know what that was. I see there is now a simplified Office 365 "wizard" style site now for creating Azure AD apps which helps things somewhat.

Chris O'Brien said...

@Lee,

Yes, it will be interesting to see if this area evolves. I guess you're referring to the new "app registration" capability on dev.office.com (http://dev.office.com/app-registration)? That's definitely a step in the right direction, but yes I agree more is needed..

Cheers,

COB.

Anonymous said...

I like this list Chris!

I agree with your targets for hybrid... Microsoft seems to realize now that enterprises need a gradual transition to the cloud, and they risk losing business if they don't provide a strong hybrid story. You have targeted the right gaps that need filling.

I'd add to your list that the workflow story needs improving. Microsoft hasn't touched Workflow Manager for a while; people need to be reassured that investment in that area is continuing. Also, with SP Designer deprecated and the Feature Framework out of favor, we need improved tooling in Visual Studio. The existing tooling works with the Feature framework.

Speaking of which ... the PnP work is SO important, why is Microsoft not investing in it more? A small group of volunteers are trying to fix the mess caused by years of investment in the Feature framework, sandboxed solutions, master page editing, etc. - none of which are very sustainable in the end. Why doesn't Microsoft make more of an investment in this area?

Thanks!

Chris O'Brien said...

@Bob,

Indeed - good points all round there, I find myself agreeing to each of them :)

Cheers,

COB.

simon.denton said...

Interesting comments and they definitely resonate with me.

Bernd Gewehr said...

I'm not yet that deep in the MS ecosystem, so believe me I'm on a birds view.

The main issue I detect in the toolset is communication and content fragmentation.

Let's focus on files: Because every single tool brings its own file storage you can not provide a consistent content experience. Content you put on onedrive is not shown on your sharepoint and files you upload to sharepoint do not appear in onedrive.

We are 600 engineers doing civil infrastructure planing. Our main product is files. We would like to use a way of collaboration where the content creators (aka planers) just work with their engineer's tools (AutoCAD, AllPlan and many others) against a shared drive like onedrive f. biz but the production planing, expert inviting, permissions management and supervising in the customer projects happens in sharepoint on that same content. Even delve and office graph do not solve that because the group building process to form a projects group does happen in sharepoint or office groups. So it does not solve the problem of inconsistency to put a common discovery layer upon.

We have about 100 - 100.000 files per project so upload and download times would raise the production cost too much. It must be easy, consistent and fast, accessible from every branch and optionally shared shared with the project partners and customers.
It must contain file locking for secure concurrent access, versioning, commenting, sharing and workflow would be helpful too.
MS has all frontend technology we would need, but they do not combine the ends when it's about consistency.

It's only 20% Office files in place and about 80% of us need a shared drive for efficiency in their daily work. 10% need file production planing features and supervising. That's currently not possible, right?

Now tell me if I'm wrong!?

Anonymous said...

Here's what I'd like to see. At present the current SharePoint Add-in model with SharePoint Hosted Apps has allowed me to create some pretty slick apps using Angular and Bootstrap that leverage all the "platform" goodness of SharePoint (custom lists, document libraries etc.).

But...I need to provision the app into a SharePoint site to make it available. Now I *could* migrate all of my custom front-end code to an O365 App but I'd lose the capability of knowing that my app is being provisioned into a SharePoint site and so I can add into the app SharePoint artefacts such as custom lists.

If we first take the example of O365 Groups, the new O365 Groups basically get a "SharePoint site behind the scenes" to allow a group to store documents. I'd like to be able to provision a group app (or add-in using the SharePoint term) that allows me to use the newer O365 APIs, but also allows me to add to the app custom lists, doc libraries, that will automatically get provisioned to the "site behind the group".

Extending this forward, I'd like to have the capability to create an O365 App that can deploy SharePoint artefacts to a "site behind the app", the permissions on the site behind the app would be controlled via the actual app permissions.

Hope this makes sense.

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,

To add to the 12 month list, I'd like to see Microsoft put much more flesh on the CSOM/REST APIs in general, and in particular the governance space, particularly the ability to create Site Policies and Content Type IMP programmatically. Relying on these assets to be published via the content type hub just doesn't align well with the remote provisioning model.

Chris O'Brien said...

@Bernd,

Well, I think you have some slightly specific needs which are a little beyond typical document management needs. *However*, I think part of what's hurting you is the lack of good support for copy/move/link scenarios in SharePoint. Is that the kind of thing you're referring to?

If so I agree :)

Cheers,

COB.