SharePoint seeks to be the future of the mobile and intelligent intranet

Brad Stephenson

Microsoft's SharePoint

It’s been a rather eventful week for Microsoft’s SharePoint service which has been significantly revamped and upgraded to better compete with its rivals and be made relevant again.

SharePoint enables companies and individuals to create an intranet, a private version of select websites and services stored and shared to a selected audience. To increase the convenience of such a service, and to attract more users to SharePoint, Microsoft has done several major things this week. The first of which is to announce the release of brand new SharePoint apps on iOS, Android and Windows phone. The iOS app is first to launch while Android and Windows phone are promised to be supported by the end of the year.

These new SharePoint apps incorporate the Office Graph to better connect users with their existing contacts and services and also boasts improved navigation for accessing sites, services, and portals. Multiple accounts will be supported.

SharePoint has also been added to the online version of Office 365. A link to it has replaced the previous Sites tile, as well as Team sites and Office 365 Groups. “With intelligence from the Office Graph, team members can view recent people and content activity,” explains a post on the official Microsoft blog. “The team site home page offers an updated entry point to where team members get work done and is applicable to new and existing team sites. It is now simple and fast for users to create team sites. And by default, every group in Office 365 Groups gets the full power of a SharePoint Online team site.”

Some significant refinements appear to have also been made. Microsoft explains, “We’ve made huge improvements in the time it takes to create a team site—targeting “seconds-to-ready.” The provisioning flow and integrated value leads to the creation of Office 365 Groups in Azure Activity Directory (AAD), as well as establishing governance and compliance controls for site classification.”

Another aspect of SharePoint that will be improved is the Lists functionality. In addition to a visual redesign, there will also be a new user experience with quick actions for commonly used Lists tasks and a better version of the mobile site. Support for Microsoft PowerApps and Microsoft Flow has been confirmed for a future update.

The way Pages are created and viewed has been rethought as well. “The mobile and intelligent intranet pivots on modern page creation to create multimedia content, like a trip report or information about a new product launch information, using a fluid, inline and responsive page authoring experience. Pages are a great way to communicate and to assemble information from a variety of sources,” Microsoft says. “We updated the page authoring experience to make it effortless to add simple content and powerful web parts. The pages you create can be shared and are part of Office Graph, so users can more easily discover your pages. And our modern pages render beautifully on screens of all sizes.” The entire approach to Pages will be modernized and visually redesigned with simplified workflows and navigational controls. This new look will also improve access to add lists, document libraries, subsites, and apps.

SharePoint iOS, Android, and Windows phone apps
SharePoint iOS, Android, and Windows phone apps

While all of these plans do seem ambitious, and also impressive, it’s natural that they won’t all be happening straight away. Microsoft has released a general timeline for when each feature is expected to arrive with the modern document library experience (in flight to First Release tenants), SharePoint mobile app for iOS, SharePoint home in Office 365, modern List experiences, and Site activity and insights on the Site Contents page promised to launch within this quarter of 2016.

Other features such as the Windows phone and Android SharePoint mobile app, Integration of SharePoint sites and Office 365 Groups, simplified site creation, modern pages experience, team and organizational news and announcements, and PowerApps and Microsoft Flow integration with SharePoint are given a broader “calendar year 2016” timeframe.

Do you use SharePoint? Which feature will impact you the most? Let us know in the comments below.