Microsoft 365, SharePoint, Teams & Azure Upcoming Changes

Microsoft recently held their annual tech and development conference at Orlando Florida and there are a lot of exciting changes coming to the Microsoft platforms. We’ve summarised a few of the key developments in our blog post and what we’re most excited about.

SharePoint Online

Intranet

There are a huge number of features coming to the platform these range from functionality, branding and mobile improvements. A few of the upcoming changes can be found below.

  • Branding – Improvements to the layout options including the ability to add a header, footer and mega menu.
  • Personalised Web Parts – That will show information tailored to that user rather than generic information for the whole company.
  • New Web Parts – Countdown Timer, Events Roll Up
  • Improved Mobile Capabilities – Accessing Documents, News and Information from the SharePoint application

OneDrive Mac

Microsoft’s fantastic OneDrive on Demand tool allowing for users to sync live copies of SharePoint Document libraries to their PC without consuming storage (effectively replacing file shares) is now available in Beta for the Mac platform. This has been one of the most requested features for Macs for Office 365 and will be a huge step forward for Microsoft and Macs.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft are investing heavily into their Microsoft Teams platform. Here at Valto we’re huge fans of Microsoft Teams and have been deploying this for many organisations and applying our best practices and governance. A few of the key announcements can be found below.

Background Blur

This fantastic feature will make remote and home working much easier and potentially less embarrassing! Microsoft have released a video demonstrating the capabilities of this below.

Teams & SharePoint Integration

Microsoft Teams and SharePoint are already integrated allowing for Teams to display SharePoint sites within the app and visa versa.

 

The new changes will bring much deeper integrations allowing for Lists, Libraries and Web Parts to be displayed within Microsoft Teams directly. More bots and connectors are being worked on to allow for News to automatically be displayed within Channels and Teams. More details from Microsoft on the SharePoint Blog.

Recording Meetings & Stream

Another brilliant feature we’ve been making extensive use of at Valto is the ability to record meetings and have the videos automatically sent to the attendees at the end of the meeting. 

This will be extended further in the future to use Artificial Intelligence to automatically detect actions and create meeting minutes that can be used following the meetings.

Replacing Skype for Business

New tenants will no longer include Skype for Business and will be given Microsoft Teams by default. On top of that, new tools have been created to migrate existing tenants to a Teams Only environment.

Microsoft Azure

Windows 10 Desktop in the Cloud

One of the most exciting announcements for Microsoft Azure and the Modern Workplace is the new capabilities of being able to launch a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud. In other blog posts predicting the future of the Cloud and Microsoft we talked about the ability to use a mobile device to replace your PC with a dock and monitor. Having the ability to spin up a Windows 10 Desktop in the cloud brings this further to reality.

There are a lot of organisations out there that use thin clients and don’t have a requirements for running a desktop 24/7 this new functionality could potentially save enterprises a lot of money.

Office 365

Artificial Intelligence

This is a big focus for Microsoft at the moment as gleamed from the Microsoft Inspire and Ignite Conferences. There is a huge focus on delivering AI that will improve the modern workplace. A lot of the current announcements are about building the platform for this including,

Office 2019

With Office 365 you always get the latest version of Office features as they are rolled out. Microsoft have released the latest on-premise version of Office to the general public which contains a lot of the improvements of the Office 365 version.

Business Automation with Office365 Flow

Microsoft Flow is a Microsoft Office365 product that allow members of your organisation to create and automate workflows across multiple applications. These automated workflows are called “Flows”.

Flows can be created from scratch through a simplistic drag and drop interface without the need to know how to write code. You can also choose from hundreds of templates to get you started creating your own Flow logic.

Flows are most commonly used to trigger notifications or automate tasks your employees may be carrying out manually. For example, if an email was received in the accounts team shared mailbox with the subject containing “Purchase Order” you might have a flow store the email and attachments directly into a SharePoint folder then email a notification to the sales manager.

Amongst the thousands of possibilities, here is some examples of automation using Flow:

  • Request Manager Approval on Document
  • Get mobile push notification when receive email from VIP
  • Get daily weather reports delivered to email and phone
  • Track Facebook wall messages in an Excel Sheet or SharePoint List
  • Save Comments on Instagram posts to Excel Sheet or SharePoint List

In this blog article we will demonstrate how to harvest all tweets from Twitter that contain a certain #HashTag.

At Valto we work on many projects with Marketing and Communication departments from a wide range of organisations. A common issue we come across is these departments having a lot of “manual” processes for gathering data about what their customers are saying about them on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

Knowing what customers are saying about your organisation in a public platform is vital for several reasons. It will let you know what your customers are happy about, but more likely they will make known what they are unhappy about. The most popular platform for sharing feedback about a good/bad experience of a business is Twitter.

This article will show you how you can harvest all tweets that contain keywords or # related to your organisation and then store them inside a SharePoint Online list.

  1. Create a list inside your SharePoint Online intranet.
  2. Create the following fields:
    SharePoint List
  3. Click on the “Flow” tab on the ribbon and select “Create Flow”
  4. On the template selection pane on the right-hand side, scroll down to “Save tweets that include a specific hashtag to a SharePoint list”Microsoft Flow Template
  1. You will need to make sure Flow is connected to your SharePoint site and twitter account. Then click continue.
  2. You will then see the flow editing screen. First enter the search text you want to use to find tweets you wish to Harvest. In this example we have chosen to find any tweets that contain the hashtag “#Valto”. This will work for any word with or without a hashtag.Flow Tweet
  1. Next select the content that will populate each field as shown below:Microsoft Flow
  1. Click Save Flow at the bottom of the screen then Done at the top of the screen. This will have now published your Flow.
  2. Now from any twitter account post a tweet containing you chosen search word for example “#Valto”Valto Twitter
  1. Go back to your SharePoint list and within a few minutes you will see the post appear.SharePoint List Example

This process could be expanded to include notifications to members of your organisation, so they can react quickly to tweets containing explicit or negative wording for example.

There are many other twitter attributes of the tweets we have harvested we could also include in our SharePoint list for analysis afterwards such as:

  • How many tweets that user has favourite previously
  • How many people the user followers
  • How many friends the user has on twitter
  • What native language the user speaks
  • How many tweets that user has made in the past

All this information can start building a picture of the demographic of the users that has tweeted. For example, using this in analysis you could determine if this tweet is in fact from a genuine user account or perhaps it is a spoof account from a competitor.

If you have any business processes that you feel could be streamlined or made completely automated, please get in touch.

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood
SharePoint Specialist
T:  03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD

Office & SharePoint 2019 – Whats coming next from Microsoft?

Office 2019

Office 2019 and SharePoint 2019 have been announced earlier this year at Microsoft Ignite conference in Orlando as scheduled to be released the second half of 2018. It will include new versions of the Office apps (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook) and servers (including Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype for Business).

Innovation powered by the cloud was a core theme at Ignite this year. However, moving to the cloud is a journey with many considerations along the way. Office 2019 will be a valuable upgrade for customers who feel that they need to keep some or all their apps and servers on-premises for the time being until they are ready to go fully into the cloud.

Share from Office

In addition to sharing straight from explorer, you can share your documents directly from whichever Office application you are using to create them (Word/PowerPoint/Excel etc).

OneDrive – New Features

We are all aware that SharePoint and OneDrive are based on the same technology. The main difference being OneDrive is used to store youronedrive for business own files and SharePoint being used to store files to collaborate on with your team. However, from recent updates we expect this hard boundary to slowly blur, as files and content are getting easier to share you no longer must open a browser or send an email to share your synced OneDrive and SharePoint files. Now you can simply right-click and select share, which will give you a secure URL to send to members of your organisation or even externally if this option is configured.

Save Space and Sync

Microsoft have recently released a “Files on demand” feature meaning you no longer must lose access to your files by choosing to selectively sync them. You will be able to simply right click your file and choose if you want a local copy or not.

Meaning you can retain your most important files for offline mode but also access all your files through explorer mode when connected to the internet. This will save your hard drive a lot of storage space. This will work for your personal OneDrive and SharePoint team sites.

Share to people without a “Microsoft Account”

With a new system that uses single-use security codes. You no longer need to ensure the person you are sharing with has a Office365, Live, Outlook, etc account. Now share your data with people using any kind of email service, give them edit or read access and even set expiry dates on how long they can access that file. Rest assured knowing that they can’t do or share anything you don’t want them to.

Short URLs

Microsoft are aware that the current URLs that are used for sharing files from SharePoint and OneDrive are rather long and ugly. They are working on a release to shorten and make the URLs look more pleasant when you share your files.

SharePoint Server 2019

Not much is known about the release of SharePoint 2019 yet, but we expect the look and feel to align even further to Office365’s SharePoint Online as Microsoft continue to encourage cloud hybrids making the user experience transition smoothly.

Most new changes and features are released to SharePoint Online first and they then work their way into the latest version of SharePoint server.

We know the Admin centre of SharePoint is being re-worked and being given a totally new look and feel like Office365 admin centre.

Notifications

The new admin centre will have graphs to show you your usage data, as well as messages that tell you which features have been added and removed from your specific tenant. This will enable you to be notified from both OneDrive and SharePoint of information related to sites about service health and activities.

Recover Bin

Among the many anticipated features, a stand out is the “Recover Bin” feature. This will allow admins to easily administrate the deleted sites much easier than before.

SharePoint 2019 – New Features

  • Communication sites – These have already been rolled out, but Microsoft continually improving these making more web parts, more layouts, and providing easier ways to communicate news and information throughout your organisation or even externally to clients/partners.
  • News Pages – Offering an easy way to create news articles and display them on your intranet homepage.
  • Promote Button – easily share interesting pages.
  • Column formatting –making your list data colour coded based on value has not been an easy task in the past. With the release of this new feature you will not require custom coding to format your list columns.
  • HUB Sites –the new hub sites will replace the need for top sites containing many subsites. You can create a new hub site and then connect ANY of your other sites to that hub site with one setting. This will then roll up all of the key information from team and commutation sites into one place. For example you may have a “HR Department” hub site which rolls up content from the “Finance” and “Resourcing” team sites. Those sites will instantly inherit the navigation, look and feel, and the content and activity feeds will roll up into your hub site.

 SharePoint 2019 – New Web Parts

We expect many of the features available in SharePoint Online will become available in SharePoint 2019 including integration with those found below. A lot of these new features will require your SharePoint 2019 environment to become more integrated with online services especially Office365 and we expect hybrid to become a much bigger part of the deployment.

  • Microsoft Forms – place form and surveys directly on your pages. We expect Microsoft will also integrate better Flow connectors to create automated workflows from the creation of a form.
  • Planner – You will not have to go to a separate app or webpage to view your relevant planner items. This could really benefit SharePoint project sites.
  • Connector web part – Soon you will be able to connect to over 100 different data sources that can be displayed in your sites for example company twitter feeds.
  • Improved Yammer web part – Yammer is Microsoft corporate and social networking product. Microsoft continues to make improvements to help it fit in better with rest of their collaboration apps.
  • 3D file viewer web part – Interact with 3D models right on your pages. This will be incredibly useful to our customers working in the graphic and interior design markets.

SharePoint 2019 Modern Site

Security & Compliance

  • Modern Site Management – Recently trying to manage the new team and communication SharePoint Online sites in Office365 has proven very difficult without a proper SharePoint admin page that can control the new sites. However, this is about to change with a new site management upgrade you will finally be able to search and administrate including Groups/Teams/Communication sites and perform bulk actions such as grouping existing team sites.
  • Site-Level Conditional Access – giving admins the ability to control access to sites depending on which device the selected user is access SharePoint on.
  • Compliance – as the deadline for being GDPR compliant approaches a lot of our customers are wondering about steps they can actively take now to be prepared. As different countries have different governing laws on compliance this has raised many issues. However, with a new feature being rolled out you will be able to determine which users reside in certain geographical locations then apply policies depending on the location they are in. It will also allow you to determine what country your data is stored in.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

For many of our customers GDPR highlights daunting issues of compliance. Organisations that fail to comply with the regulation will face massive fines: up to £17 million or four percent of global revenue, whichever is higher.

The May 2018, deadline for GDPR compliance is drawing closer but many businesses are unsure where to begin. Businesses cannot afford to waste time in GDPR preparation and we are currently helping originations taking the first steps to becoming compliant.

SharePoint 2019 will bring a whole host of tools to assist with this including a “GDPR Activity Hub”. The goal of this hub is to give customers and partners a tool to use in order to keep track of all the fundamental events, requests, tasks and activities required to be compliant with the GDPR.

SharePoint 2019 GDPR Portal

This will give your organisation a greater understanding of what is involved with becoming GDPR compliant and may highlight some critical issues that will need to be resolved before the official regulation comes in.

Find out More

If you’re interested in hearing more about Office & SharePoint 2019 and would like to speak to one of our SharePoint Consultants then contact us or call on 03335 779 009 .

Author

 Valto Dougie Wood

SharePoint Specialist

T: 03335 779 009
E: Dougie.wood@valto.co.uk
W: https://valto.co.uk
10 Watergate Row, Chester. CH1 2LD