Microsoft Unveils SharePoint 2019 and Coming Improvements

sharepoint announcement

Microsoft announced SharePoint and OneDrive progress last week, which also included a brief description of a coming SharePoint 2019 product with many other details. According to Jared Spataro, GM for Microsoft Office, the preview edition of SharePoint 2019 will be out by the middle of 2018.

Let’s take a quick look on the improvements that Microsoft has promised in this version and how you are going to get benefit out of that.

New Admin Center and Migration Tool

Microsoft is making a “completely revamped SharePoint Admin Center,” which you can avail in the “first-release” SharePoint Online testers in early 2018. The new home page of the Admin Center will show SharePoint 2019 and OneDrive notifications. It will also show file activity patterns, active sites (with filterable info) and service health information. There’s also a Recycle Bin to recover removed sites.Moreover, sharing controls and device policy controls for compliance, conditional access and data leakage are included.

A new SharePoint Migration Tool was announced. It’s designed to move content (such as document libraries or file shares) from SharePoint 2019 sites located at an organization’s datacenters to Microsoft’s cloud-based SharePoint Online service or the OneDrive Office 365 service. A preview of the tool is currently accessible at this page.

The SharePoint Migration Tool will be able to handle large and small migrations. Microsoft plans to add more defined control to the tool in  future for site, file and tenant-level moves, according to Bill Baer, senior technical product manager for SharePoint and OneDrive. See this video for more:

Compliance and Security

Microsoft added “data residency and compliance” capabilities for both SharePoint Online and OneDrive, which are called “Multi-Geo Capabilities in Office 365.” Organizations get to choose the regional location for storing data, as well as storing the search index. The Multi-Geo Capabilities are currently at the private preview stage, with signup links located in Microsoft’s announcement.

It may not be new, but Microsoft also described “service-level encryption with customer key” protections for SharePoint Online and OneDrive. The keys can be revoked by organizations, denying access to content.

Microsoft also announced at Ignite that device access policies for content stored in SharePoint and OneDrive can be specified at “the site collection level.” This capability lets organizations “limit access from these devices on a site by site basis, based on the classification of the content,” the announcement explained.

Microsoft is currently working on an Office 365 compliance policy for shared-device scenarios. It will “automatically sign-out sessions at a specified interval after a period of inactivity.”

Web & Mobile app development

SharePoint Hub Sites: New Intranet Building Tool

The SharePoint 2019 timeline wasn’t the only SharePoint news shared at Ignite today.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company also announced it will release SharePoint hub sites next year, with an expected roll out to Office 365 First Release customers in the first half of 2018.

SharePoint hub sites are a new intranet-building element that will bring together related sites under a unified look and feel with shared navigation.

“The digital workplace is dynamic and ever changing. Business goals and team structures evolve and change — often frequently,” Mark Kashman, senior product manager on the SharePoint team wrote in a blog about the new release.

“SharePoint helps your organization adapt, by connecting your workplace with intelligent content management and intranets that give you the tools to share and work together, and to inform and engage people across the organization. And now it gets easier to organize your intranet dynamically.”

What stands out amongst the new functionality included in hub sites is the ability it gives intranet managers to combine multiple team sites and communication sites in one place to create an intranet that reflects the way enterprises work.

Even better, Microsoft designed the new hubs with mobile devices in mind. The SharePoint mobile app will be updated to natively render hub sites, and their pages, news and content, as well as providing smooth navigation between associated sites.

sharepoint 2019 hub

Communication Sites and Team Sites

Microsoft announced Communication Sites improvements that are expected to be available to first-release testers “before the end of calendar year 2017.” New WebParts will be available for Communications Sites at that time. They include Planner, Microsoft Forms, Group Calendar, File Viewer, Spacer and Divider, Twitter, and Connectors (to add “third-party” services). Microsoft also plans to improve the Yammer WebPart for Communications Sites so that it displays well within mobile apps, among other WebPart improvements.

Team Sites and Microsoft Teams improvements also were announced, with most of them expected to arrive for first-release testers at the end of this year. SharePoint Team Sites will get new WebParts, including Group Calendar, Planner and Document Library WebParts. It’ll also be possible to connect a SharePoint 2019 Team Site with an Office 365 Group and SharePoint Hub Site, which will happen “within the first half of calendar year 2018.”

Microsoft Teams, an Office 365 service, can now access and show “dynamic, data-driven pages and news articles,” not just documents stored in SharePoint libraries, Microsoft’s announcement added. These SharePoint pages or news articles can be accessed through a tab in a Microsoft Teams channel.

Personalized Search

An improved SharePoint Online “Personalized Search” feature will be available worldwide “later this year.” It will be a faster search experience and will include “list items everywhere, not just the results in the enterprise search center, so all content in a SharePoint site is now included,” Microsoft’s announcement explained. In addition, the Personalized Search capability will be accessible via the Windows Taskbar.

Microsoft also announced that Bing for Business, a new Office 365 enterprise search service for finding organizational content, is at the private preview stage. It surfaces content by using the Microsoft Graph, a search service that underlies various Office 365 services. It doesn’t serve up advertising content with the results. Microsoft expects Bing for Business will get “natural language” querying capabilities “over the next year.”

Search also will improve for SharePoint Online and OneDrive by being able to “extract text out of images.” This improved image search capability is expected to be available “within a couple of weeks after Ignite.”

Predictive Indexing and Content Management

Microsoft is working to improve the predictive logic behind SharePoint library queries. The plan is to automatically use an index to filter the results when a query might result in “thousands of records,” which Microsoft is calling “predictive indexing.” This new predictive logic is expected to “be available to most customers in Q4 of 2017,” Microsoft explained, in an announcement.

Microsoft also described some metadata management capabilities that will be coming for SharePoint Online users. One feature, coming Oct. 2017, called “Attention Views,” will provide a visual alert when a file needs attention because it is missing metadata or lacks expiration dates.

Word 2016 on Windows will get the ability to display and edit SharePoint metadata in January 2018. Word 2013 currently has that capability, so it’s catch-up time for Microsoft’s current word-processing software.

A new “Integrated Review Flows” feature, coming Oct. 2017 to all SharePoint document libraries, will permit end users to route documents for feedback.

A Microsoft Flow SharePoint addition coming in November will add the ability to specify that files should undergo an approve-and-publish process to get stored in a library. Microsoft also plans to add an “event-based retention” capability in “Q4 2017” that triggers actions for documents based on events, which can be controlled via the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center.

Lastly, SharePoint and OneDrive will permit the “offline synchronization of libraries encrypted by Information Rights Management,” which permits those files to be synchronized to a PC or Mac. That capability is expected to arrive in “Q4 2017.”

Business Process Additions

Microsoft is continuing its efforts to integrate SharePoint 2019 and OneDrive with its business process services, such as PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, plus Microsoft Forms and Power BI. New capabilities will arrive this year for first-release testers, according to an announcement.

In October, the following capabilities will be available:

Custom forms using PowerApps
Ability to launch Flows in OneDrive
A new Flow “launch panel” to prompt users for input
A Flow-based “custom approval action” for libraries that require “formal check-in and approval”
WebParts for Power BI and Microsoft Forms
Column formatting in SharePoint Lists and Libraries

In December, these capabilities will be available:

A Flow capability to prompt for document reviews
A WebPart to add PowerApps to a SharePoint page
In November, Microsoft plans to add a Flow-based custom approval action capability to SharePoint libraries that require check-in and approval.

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About the Author

Mantra is a Business Consultant & strategic thought leader bridging the divide between technology and client satisfaction. With 12 years of knowledge, innovation and hands-on experience in providing consultations to Startups, ISVs & Agencies who need dedicated development & technology partners. He has also lead to the delivery of countless successful projects.
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