Reaching peak potential at Microsoft Virtual Summit 2017

The Microsoft Virtual Summit 2017 took place online on the 16th May, where the tech giant unveiled the latest for their SharePoint, Office 365, OneDrive and Azure platforms. It was a great event and a lot was discussed. So what were the highlights and most important new features that were mentioned?

You can catch-up with the Microsoft Virtual Summit in full, on-demand here.

The SharePoint platform continues to improve and evolve thanks to the help of Office 365, with both platforms benefitting the other. More than 60% of SharePoint instances are now online, a good reflection of the value customers see with SharePoint Online and the power of the cloud. Let’s look at some of the biggest improvements to the SharePoint platform announced at Microsoft Virtual Summit.


SharePoint Communications Sites

This is the big one! SharePoint has always been at the heart of employee collaboration with Microsoft technologies, whether working on files or building sites for new projects and teams. And SharePoint Communications Sites provide a new way to publish content, reach your audience and further power your organisation’s intranet.

Communications Sites deliver fast, mobile-ready intranet sites straight out of the box. Whether that’s to share upcoming events or new product launches, or to share insights with other team members, the main goal of Communications Sites is to share messages, interact and (you guessed it!) communicate with anyone and everyone across the breadth of the company. Providing you have access, any news published on your communication site will surface in Office 365 and on SharePoint mobile.

All new site designs, pages and web parts render responsively across screen resolutions; Communications Sites bring a new dynamic-style webpage designed to look good on PC, Mac and mobile devices. But that doesn’t mean they’re complex to create. Users can configure the default web parts in a way that suits your business the best, while drag-and-drop functionality makes it incredibly easy to build a new site—something that previously would have taken a lot of SharePoint expertise and developer hours.

Furthermore, site and content usage pages can let you know how well your site is performing. View overall page views and most active readers, and see what pages or files are getting the most attention to get an overview of site usage so you know what areas might need a bit of tinkering.

With SharePoint Communications Sites, it seems Microsoft are making a push to provide users with an easy way to create new, modern-looking sites for communication. Considering SharePoint has been maligned in the past for its design, we think this is a great addition and one we look forward to testing it out.

For all the details, check out this Microsoft Mechanics video, in which Andy Haon—Principal Group Program Manager for SharePoint—walks through everything users will be able to do in the new SharePoint Communications Sites.


Even more power added to SharePoint search

The ability to search for content in SharePoint took some big strides last year when unified hybrid search was introduced for SharePoint Server 2016 and SharePoint Online. Hybrid search provided users with a much larger repository than before, able to source content from cloud and on-premises environments simultaneously. A year later, and SharePoint search is getting personal.

Leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities from the Microsoft Graph, search results will now include people relevant skills, interests and projects—determined in their Office 365 profiles—as well. Search results will surface ‘people cards’, giving you a quick glance at an individual and the content they work on, adding yet another way to connect with colleagues and people most relevant to your work.


Custom SharePoint forms

One of the other interesting additions coming to SharePoint Online in the near future is the option to create custom forms using Microsoft PowerApps. These forms can feature within the context of a SharePoint list or library, meaning users can interact with data without using the default (and unappealing, clunky, linear…) SharePoint forms. Perhaps the best news is that you can do all this without needing to write a single line of code, so anyone in the business can create useful custom forms.

For more information, take a look at this video, where Kerem Yuceturk—Senior Program Manager for SharePoint—takes you through zero-code business process apps from the perspective of everyday users, managers and app-builders.


A clear view from the Summit

After the successful release of SharePoint 2016 last year, we think it’s great to see Microsoft continuing to find ways for individuals and organisations to improve their productivity and further their digital transformation journey. Updates and improvements announced at the Microsoft Virtual Summit are likely to start being deployed in the coming weeks or months, so make sure you keep up to date with the Office 365 roadmap to see launched, rolling-out and in-development updates to all of Microsoft’s cloud productivity tools.

At Lightning Tools, we’re equally committed to improving user productivity through SharePoint Online and the Office 365 platform. Make sure you look at our list of SharePoint Online Add-Ins to see how they could help you. If you’re not sure where you could improve, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.



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