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For many years, businesses viewed SharePoint as a framework on which to build solutions. The combination of flexibility and editing tools provided allowed them to design customized solutions which met business requirements.   

But technology is changing. And so is how we use and want to consume it. We hunger for solutions that can be quickly acquired and implemented, not ones that require building out complex and robust solutions.  The world around us is changing fast and it's exciting to see how productivity tools are beginning to encompass almost every area of our lives.

Keeping Up with a Changing Ecosystem

The evolution not only impacts new tools and products, but also the tools we have been using all long. In SharePoint, we can see this in the addition of Experiences and NextGen Portals. Julia White, general manager of product marketing, Office, wrote in a recent blog post about the evolution of SharePoint, 

Over the years, our customers have built incredibly rich, dynamic portals. Now we’re expanding the portfolio and delivering new ‘ready-to-go’ Portals that historically would have taken customers weeks, if not months, to build. NextGen Portals, by design, are intelligent, collaborative, mobile and ready to go. Office 365 Video, delivered in 2014, is the first NextGen Portal. In 2015, we’ll add new portals focused on knowledge management and people, as well.” 

Microsoft's focus on keeping up with the changing ecosystem and its response -- delivering new ways to work together -- can be seen today in Office 365 in Groups and the Office 365 Video Portal. 

Both are available when First Release is enabled in your environment, and are designed to let you hit the ground running without any configuration required. These features provide maximum value for specific use cases and both are optimized to highlight the desired results of the use case. 

Groups

Groups was the first new Experience released. It provides an easy way to collaborate and share content across a team within the organization.  Instead of having to create and configure a team site or a new Yammer Group, you can create an Office 3365 Group within Outlook Online.  

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Any user within the organization can create new groups. Groups are open to everyone in the organization by default, allowing for easy content sharing across the entire organization.  For conversations and documents that require a higher level of security, group admins can set the security to private, thus restricting it to group members only. The process of creating new groups is straightforward -- easy to understand and follow.

Each Group includes a Calendar, Conversations, Members and Files. It's easy to navigate between these components from within the UI, which gives quick access to the team's information. All of this happens through Outlook Online -- so you never have to navigate away from your email.

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Groups has evolved with new features and updates based on the Office 365 Roadmap since its release. Like other new Experiences that will make their way to Office 365, expect to see minor feature releases and changes to the product over time based on customer use and feedback.  Because of this continued evolution, some organizations may find that Groups doesn’t fit their immediate needs.  

Office 365 Video

The Video Portal was the next Experience to hit Office 365 through First Release. This Experience focuses solely on simplifying how we share video content within the organization.  Like Groups, very little effort is required to get started. 

By design, the site's structure is very simple and meant to be used as is. Within each Video Portal you can create channels to store video collections. Each of the main pages allows you to highlight and spotlight specific videos.

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A partnership between Office 365 and Azure Media Services powers the Video Portal solution. This combines the best features of both platforms in a single solution experience. An organization can have a complete video solution for internal use quickly, without any customization or development necessary.   Just as with Groups, Microsoft will update the Video Portal over time to add more features and functionality.  

More to Come 

These two Experiences give a sense of what types of feature additions we can expect to see in Office 365. The concept of NextGen Portals will open up new ways for organizations to work together with solutions that are ready to go from the start.   

While one sized solutions might not fit all, one single solution can fit most. Microsoft has promised a continual evolution of features within Office 365, some of which we can expect to see at the Ignite Conference this May. 

If you haven’t already checked out Groups or the Video Portal, take them out for a spin. I am very much looking forward to seeing more of these ready to go solutions and the impact they can have on organizations of all sizes.