Whew... what a busy couple of weeks. The SharePoint NA conference on May 21-23 was packed with interesting sessions and opportunities to connect. I'm just now getting past the obligatory catch-up cycle that follows one of these events, and I'm starting to look back through my notes. I thought I'd share a few highlights over the next few days to help me process the things I want to remember and perhaps help someone else who didn't get to go. Today, I'm looking back at the keynote from Bill Baer, Jeff Teper, Seth Patton, and a cast of 1,000's on day 1.
The MS team identified and highlighted six trends that are defining the digital workplace, and I thought some of them were helpful in analyzing our own personal and organizational goals from a big-picture / strategic perspective. For now, I'll let you read everyone else's posts about the numerous announcements made there, and I'll focus on the strategic trends the MS team presented, as well as my own thought processes that wandered off from there...
1. The rise of digital natives
Today's workforce is getting progressively more and more made up of those that grew up on the web. I think that has some implications for traditional governance trends that focus on locking down what users can do. The days of spoon-feeding our users the tools and use cases we want them to have are coming to an end. We have to focus on helping our users solve their problems by expanding our horizons and the toolsets we offer them. Frequently, the old way of doing things is not good enough. We have to embrace changes and new technologies that our instincts tell us don't have a valid use case. If we don't, our rapidly evolving user base will simply find ways to work around us. #shadowIT
For Microsoft, this mindset is seen in many of the new tools and features they are adding. Jeff Teper talked about the idea of 'hitting refresh on SharePoint' as a whole. The decisions they are making are moving things that direction. Many IT teams are struggling with why their users need something like Teams - which has some pretty clear and immediate benefits for simplifying users' lives right now. Meanwhile, MS is moving forward by adding things like SharePoint Spaces, the new VR experience that can be used with a HoloLens-type device or even a traditional monitor. This new preview feature isn't quite plug and play VR (yet), but it definitely reduces the barrier for entry and can allow non-developers to envision and participate in building these experiences. With today's corporate comms teams constantly looking for new ways to engage with employees, I think the splashy custom pages we see in intranets now will eventually be replaced with things much like what was demoed here with SharePoint spaces. Will the admin teams of the world dismiss this as silly and unnecessary, or will they see this as a reasonable tool for intranet content authors to use for immersive landing pages? Rest assured there will be other vendors to follow in this space. How receptive we as platform owners are to the idea may determine how relevant SharePoint stays in the intranet world. #kickitupanotch
2. Blurring boundaries of time and place
In the digital workplace today, it is less and less relevant where someone is located. When cloud services like Office 365 bring ubiquitous availability to both enterprise tools and small team-based solutions, most users' everyday activities can be done from wherever they want, from and whatever device they want, and frequently on the schedule that makes sense for them.
3. The demand for life-long learners, and 4. The shrinking shelf-life of information
In the modern world, we simply have to be open to changes and willing to continue learning as they go - especially in the tech industry. For users, this means learning an agile mindset, where we can start using a tool productively without having to go to a training class first. For IT organizations, this means we have to fuel users' ability to get started and then get smarter as they go. That means changing our definition of 'help' away from formal training to include things like performance support and coaching.
The software dev mantra of 'release early and often' has brought huge benefits to businesses today - see the pace of updates to Office 365 versus the old SharePoint patch cycle. New tools and improvements come so quickly now that we have to adapt our way of supporting and teaching them so that our organizations and our users can actually see ROI quickly. We have to simplify and deliver help more quickly and in smaller chunks that can be consumed on the fly as users explore and use new tools. MS announced their intent to publish a 'Help site' that you could spin up in your own SharePoint Online tenant that would receive a feed of helpful items from Microsoft automatically as they make them available. This could be a great help, but it doesn't let us off the hook. How will you adapt what real-time services and resources your team provides to its users for help when and where they need it?
5. The growing impact of artificial intelligence
AI is mainstream now. It is beginning to touch every corner of the industry. The new AI-based capabilities in Azure and Office 365 are accessible even for citizen developers creating no-code solutions with PowerApps, Flow, and the Graph API. Doing things like sentiment analysis (how positive or negative was a particular comment) can now be almost as easy as writing an Excel function. I think AI has now reached a tipping point where it will fundamentally alter the type and capabilities of everyday solutions we build and deploy. If you're a solution builder, get used to AI possibilities - or get left behind. #riseofthemachines
6. Sophisticated cyber threats
I know this is a really important topic, but it's not as interesting to me personally. However, enterprises (and even small to mid-sized businesses) definitely need tooling that helps secure their assets and respond to security incidents. Things have changed a lot in this area lately. For years it took a substantial investment for organizations to do much at all in the way of device management, intrusion prevention, and so forth. Microsoft 365 expanded the focus from Office 365 on the web to include OS and device management. This puts new capabilities within reach for organizations that have an IT guy instead of an IT division.
Another shift that I find interesting is the level of trust organizations are starting to put in the cloud. Not that long ago, it was an unusual organization that was willing to put their internal resources in cloud repositories. Now, cloud providers like Microsoft are doubling down on the security tools they offer. Many companies are coming to the conclusion that these providers may be able to protect their information better than they can themselves. After all, how many firewalls and security experts does your company have? How many do you think Microsoft has?
Did I miss anything big from this strategic part of the keynote? Have a different take on something I shared? What mental wanderings did you get started on?
I'm interested to hear what your opinions are. Let me know what you think of all of this by leaving me a comment below!