Microsoft ignite – this is one of the largest and prestigious Microsoft conferences in North America and always good for exciting announcements and this year it was no different. Being a Microsoft Office Apps & Services MVP (although I prefer Office 365 or SharePoint), I predominantly attended sessions related to Office 365 and here are my personal takeaways:
Keynote by Satya Nadella
To be honest, I was not as impressed as I hoped to be, because Satya did not announce any significant updates or news. However, after listening to his speech for some time, I began to realize, that this keynote is different. Instead of continuing to announce new features, Satya was focusing on Trust & Security which I think was overdue. After years of announcing new and exciting features at almost every conference, Microsoft now focuses on making the cloud more secure and to provide options for organizations to secure their data and environment. I did a lot of migrations to Office 365 recently and many clients shared their concerns regarding security which I think is a justifiable concern and I was delighted to see, that Microsoft was listening to clients, partners and MVPs and is addressing those concerns now.
The other topic which caught my attraction was Artificial Intelligence. I think we all know about AI, how AI is used today (e.g. in Microsoft Azure) and how AI will be used in the future. AI is not only useful for building bots and turning devices into ‘Smart Devices’. In his keynote, Satya announced “AI for Humanitarian Action”. I really hope that this wasn’t just lip service as besides spending money, providing technology is another important pillar of any relief operation. Satya, I will closely watch how “AI for Humanitarian Action” will evolve.
I am not sure if this can be proofed by numbers, but to me, Microsoft Teams is the fastest growing business application in the Office 365 ecosphere and in Microsoft’s history.
Although available for some time, the ability to record meetings in Microsoft Teams just became available to a broader audience. Imagine the options this provides! Record your meeting, upload the recording to Microsoft Stream and get an indexed transcribe. Reviewing recorded meetings has never been easier! If you are a remote worker (as I am), you will love the new ‘Background Blur’ feature, which Microsoft is rolling out currently.
There will be new admin roles for Microsoft Teams, and you will be able to send a sharing link from SharePoint Online or OneDrive for Business to Microsoft Teams directly.
SharePoint Online and OneDrive
When sharing a document, you will be able to block this document from being downloaded, which is a significant security improvement demanded by many organizations. But that is not the only improvement regarding sharing: soon Microsoft will roll out password-protected links which will require entering a password before being able to access a shared document and users who shared content will receive a notification if the content which has been shared is accessed. Talking about sharing, by the end of this year, Microsoft will roll out a smarter People Picker (using AI), which will enhance the user experience of the Sharing functionality.
I also enjoyed a session of the Office Mobile Apps team where they showcased the upcoming features of the Office Mobile apps. The main improvements will be around collaboration and sharing. I was stunned when they showed the mobile sharing dialog looking exactly as the sharing dialog in SharePoint Online. All Office Mobile apps will receive these updates soon. I am really looking forward to these updates as I use the Office Mobile apps a lot on multiple devices.
One of the most anticipated features in SharePoint Online has been announced as well – there will be mega menus (finally), although it looks like they will be site-scoped only and I don’t think, they will be Security-trimmed (just like the Managed Metadata navigation).
There are some new security features as well. SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business are blocking files from being accessed if malware or ransomware got detected. This adds an additional layer of security to SharePoint and OneDrive and addresses concerns of many IT Managers and Office 365 administrators. There is an additional security update which I think will be embraced by many organizations. I was impressed when I watched a demo of the new Sensitivity labels. They will add an additional layer of protection to documents, sites, emails and teams as data is an essential asset of almost every organization and needs to be protected as well as possible.
Microsoft also announced some enhancements to the Office 365 admin center. Admins will be able to manage all sites in the updated Active Sites admin center (Feature already available to most tenants) and the same is true for the improved site creation experience for admins.
There is one feature which really caught my eye. The ‘Request Access’ error message displayed to users who are trying to access a site without proper permissions is existing unchanged for many years, but soon admins will be able to customize this error page. I assume this feature has been added to address complaints of users asking for a more user-friendly way to display this kind of error message as most of the navigation options available today are not Security trimmed.
This year’s ignite was a massive conference with so many interesting tracks and sessions. There have been much more exciting announcements regarding many Microsoft products and services and a single blog post covering all announcements would probably fill dozens of pages. The updates I listed here are my favorite updates and announcements – let me know your favorites in the comments.
About the Author:
Oliver is an author and an internationally recognized speaker on SharePoint, Office 365, and Microsoft technology. As a sought-after speaker and author, Oliver has often had the opportunity to share his insights and experiences on the latest SharePoint products, migration, app modernization, enterprise social, and document management. As a champion of connecting with others and sharing he actively contributes to various publishers such as CMSWire, Redmond Magazine, etc. When not working with customers or sharing best practices at events or online Oliver helps lead the SharePoint community including a role as a former moderator of the Stuttgart SharePoint User Group (Germany) and active role of helping lead and support his local British Columbia SharePoint user groups and conferences.