Each year I sit down to write my year-in-review piece, and I’m consistently amazed by the changes that take place both from a technological and community perspective in 365 days. To me, one of the idiosyncrasies of the SharePoint world is that, for a platform that takes an incredibly long time to strategically plan, implement and support, the eco-system is always changing, scrambling to push the limits.
To me, one of the most exciting parts of SharePoint is the community. I think most would struggle to name another technology that can support the events pushed out by the SharePoint community. From conferences to webinars, articles to tweets, the SharePoint world is thriving with more and more content being produced and consumed each year. Furthermore, Microsoft has pushed out more tools, features and products that have continued to impress, such as Office for iPad, Office 365 Video and Sway. Here were some of the highlights in 2014, and a few hints at what’s to come in 2015 and beyond.
So long InfoPath. Possibly the worst-kept secret in SharePoint this year was the sun-setting of InfoPath. Ironically, this was also one of the highlights of my year as I learned terms that really have no other meaning (both “sun-setting” and “Lifecycle Support Policy” were new ones for me).
With the announcement coming just weeks before SPC, the community was abuzz with rumors and thoughts around how Microsoft would present the alternatives at SPC. Microsoft did a great job at the show presenting alternative options that satisfied attendees with products and features that included Excel Surveys, List Forms, Structured Documents and App Forms. While each brings its own flavor to a forms solution, most clients I have spoken to are content in the fact that InfoPath will still be supported until 2023.
A popular conversation starter today is around Office 365, specifically who is and who is not on the platform. As we learned at SPC14, Office 365 has displaced SharePoint as the fastest-growing product in the history of Microsoft, in an incredibly short period of time.
While a year ago the Office 365 conversation inside most companies was about a product people were still unsure of from many perspectives, it is now seen as a mature product with exceptional features that has not only turned the heads of many, but provided the case studies and in-field experiences to back up the claims. The benefits being seen by small and large enterprise alike include a hybrid design that embraces Microsoft’s constant updates and increased development capabilities as well as productivity options. There is no question that Microsoft’s focus will be to continue to enhance this robust feature set for many years to come. As an aside, you will also continue to see SharePoint MVP’s change their area of specificity to Office 365, something that has already been embraced.
Delve and Office Graph (a.k.a. Oslo) are two incredibly cool tools that stole some of the spotlight this year. These products offer a peek at what Microsoft has in store for the future of computing. You can think of these as a search tool customized for you by meshing machine learning with social, and people with information. Together, these tools create a reimagined search experience, showing you relevant documents, conversations and people around you in one interface. In short, it’s awesome!
In 2015 we will sadly say goodbye to one of my favorite tools, Lync. Fortunately, for those like me who prefer to tap a few keystrokes when communicating across the office, the tool will be rebranded Skype for Business. This rebrand isn’t just the name, but rather a new client experience, new server release, and updates to the service in Office 365. Microsoft’s goal is to once again transform the way people communicate by expanding the reach outside of the organization. So long, federated servers and walls between Lync accounts.
On the heels of a successful SPC, we found out in July that Microsoft’s next-generation conference will bring together the SharePoint, Office 365, Project, Exchange and TechEd shows. Microsoft Ignite will take over Chicago on May 4, 2015, and it promises to be the best experience yet for cloud infrastructure and management, productivity, Big Data, the Internet of Things, unified communications, mobility, and more.
As we wrap up 2014, I am excited to see what changes are coming our way for 2015. I look forward to speaking at SPTechCon 2015 as we move to a new city and venue in Austin, Texas. Until then, I wish you all a safe and happy holiday season.
Eric is the Founder and CEO of Empty Cubicle, an HR platform changing the way businesses source and verify candidates. As a thought leader, Eric is a sought-after speaker, author, and consultant. He is a regular contributor to many industry journals and newsletters, and sits on the Microsoft Solution Advisory Board. In 2013 Eric won the prestigious Microsoft SharePoint MVP award. You can reach Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @RizInsights