BOSTON — SharePoint administrators, developers, consultants and users shared a bevy of emotion at this week's SharePoint Technology Conference at the Sheraton Hotel here.

  • They were worried their development and administrative work in SharePoint 2013 would not carry over to SharePoint 2016 or Office 365 in a migration
  • They were concerned moving to the cloud would not give them security or compliance in a highly-regulated industry like financial services, despite the promises (some concerns, by the way, never change at this conference)
  • They were confused that placing documents in certain folders would make them eventually disappear
  • They were excited about the future: That when a certain manager leaves, they'll be able to innovate and a move to the cloud in SharePoint because the manager refuses to do so (true story from a SharePoint developer)

Emotions swirled at the twice-a-year technology conference that concluded yesterday. We caught up with some of the 750 attendees associated with SharePoint, Microsoft's second largest commercial cloud workload after Exchange. More than 200,000 organizations and 190 million people worldwide use SharePoint at work today, according to a Microsoft spokesperson.

Where's My Document?

Despite all of the advances with SharePoint, routine tasks like tagging and finding documents remains challenging. Chris McNulty, senior product marketing manager for SharePoint and Office 365 for Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, brought this point home in his Thursday morning session, "ECM for everyone, Content Management and Classification in SharePoint on-premises and Office 365."

McNulty illustrated some case scenarios we've bet you've heard before:

  • I'm in the marketing group, and I've just finished a new product sheet for the X-21 Project. Do I keep it on my site, or on the products site, or save it to both places?
  • I'm in the product group, and there's a product information sheet for the X-21 Screen Cleaner. Is that the most recent version or do I have to check on another site?

When you look at how information architecture shifts through the cloud, on-premises SharePoint is very hierarchical, McNulty told CMSWire in an interview at SPTechCon.

"You have an IT site and separate site for each project under it and there may be something underneath that," McNulty said.

Office 365 information architecture tends to be flat, he added, whether Microsoft designed it that way or not. Often, users could find the navigational structure is not there.

Unified Tags

"The key thing here to unify it as a common classification," McNulty said. "So if I can't tag it in a unified manner, I can't search for it in a unified manner." Users should be cognizant of tagging as they enter content into Delve and use discovery and search to be able to go find things.

As long as SharePoint users tag things uniformly — search-driven applications will be well-fed with that content and will reward searchers with relevant content. 

"Where you put your documents doesn't matter as long as it's on a team site and you get the right classification," McNulty said. "Organizations don't focus as much on the outcome of tagging. They focus on input: 'Let's make sure we have a classification scheme that is user friendly.' But they don’t explain why that's important: 'If you do it this way, then you get the information no matter where it is.' That's something the technology supports but it takes a little bit of a configuration but not a burdensome configuration."

Migration Worries

cathy owen dew

Cathy Dew, SharePoint MVP and consultant at Planet Technologies, is a longtime SharePoint user who spoke at the conference. She told CMSWire in an interview the biggest concerns on the mind of SharePoint users are migration challenges to SharePoint 2016.

One user in financial services backed that; her company will not consider the move the cloud because of security and compliance issues. Nor would a SharePoint super user from an electrical company that builds power plants. The engineers on his team won't even use SharePoint much less consider moves to the cloud.

The concern Dew heard? Uncertainty.

"There is a lot of uncertainty of what is possible and what is available and what's still supported especially when it comes to Office 365 and how the new SharePoint framework is going to impact these things," Dew told CMSWire. "What will they still be allowed to do in Office 365? What will they still be allowed to do in SharePoint 2016 on-premises? Unfortunately we don't have any answers for that."

Dew is telling users to expect more information out of the Microsoft Ignite Conference September 26 to 30 in Atlanta.

In SharePoint 2016, Dew doesn't see a lot of new features on the front-end but deemed the back-end almost completely different, with more to take in than the transition from 2010 to 2013.

"Microsoft has learned a lot about how SharePoint servers work and function as they moved into Office 365," Dew said. "We're starting to see their changes and lessons learned populate into 2016, which unfortunately means the back end is almost completely different."

She called the latest changes from Microsoft "core, fundamental changes, so it is different questions and concerns than we've had with previous upgrades."

Title image of Microsoft's Chris McNulty Thursday morning at the SharePoint Technology Conference at the Sheraton Hotel in Boston.