There are many layers to Microsoft's vision for enterprise collaboration, including roles for SharePoint and Office 365. But email and the email applications in Office 365 arguable remain some of the most essential in spite of the overall evolution of the company's various collaboration platforms such as Yammer.
Six weeks after the general release of SharePoint 2016, it's fair to ask a key question: Has Microsoft succeeded in providing a better email service for SharePoint through Office 365? Maybe. But more still needs to be done.
"I haven’t seen any substantive changes," John Peluso, VP of Product Management at AvePoint, told CMSWire. "There is some new functionality in the Office 2016 clients that makes things like attachments easier to get into OneDrive and SharePoint libraries with the share function, but not much on the SharePoint side.”
“I suppose you could say some of the additions to SharePoint 2016 on the document retention and data loss prevention (DLP) features that affect general documents and files can be leveraged for email and attachments stored in SharePoint, but organizations should look carefully at the specifics and options in these new compliance features as they are pretty basic at this stage.”
Assessing Email Breaches
The importance of email governance cannot be over emphasized. This week, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released worrisome figures for email fraud.
Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams continue to grow, evolve and target businesses of all sizes. Since January 2015, there has been a 1,300 percent increase in identified exposed losses. The scams have been reported by victims in all 50 states and in 100 countries.
BEC is defined as a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.
Globally, between May 2013 and May 2016, email scams have cost global businesses $3.1 billion — $1 billion in the US alone.
“BEC victims recently reported a new scenario (Data Theft) involving the receipt of fraudulent emails requesting either all Wage or Tax Statement (W-2) forms or a company list of Personally Identifiable Information (PII),” the notice reads.
SharePoint markets itself as a secure enterprise environment, but even the most secure platform needs to stay on its toes to stay ahead of fraud. SharePoint 2016 has — sort of, according to Colligo founder and CEO Barry Jinks.
“With respect to email management, I don’t think a lot has changed in 2016. A connection between SharePoint and Exchange has supported simple email filing for quite some time, though not for sophisticated records management applications where custom metadata needs to be applied. However, there are a couple of interesting governance features that may be useful for managing emails as records,” he said.
“Those features are the Compliance Center and In-Place Policy Center. These make it easier for administrators to develop and deploy records management policies on documents in general, and if emails are captured with metadata (as can be done with tools like Colligo Email Manager) there’s a greater scope for setting compliance and retention policies.”
The SharePoint 2016 release also saw the introduction of a mobile app that puts the entire enterprise SharePoint intranet in users’ pockets. Designed for Windows, iOS and Android, it offers full-fidelity access to company news and announcements, people, sites, content and apps, no matter where they are.
However, it doesn’t support offline or occasionally connected users and is not really designed for the document distribution or email records management use cases where document and emails need to be classified (with metadata) for compliance reasons.
SharePoint Email Governance
Is there a certain amount of disconnect in the way email and SharePoint 2016 interact? David Lavenda, VP of Product Strategy at Harmon.ie, which recently partnered with Gimmal for email governance and management in SharePoint, agreed there is still a lot to be done.
“There are improvements in email as a tool. There are improvements in Exchange, too — stuff like Groups. However, there is no integration with SharePoint for storing email,” he said.
“The primary problem is that Exchange is a personal repository. If an email is in my inbox, nobody has access to it and it is stored separately from important documents. When I need to find something, I have to look in multiple places. If a colleague needs to find something I was working on, they are plain lost.”
This is only the start of the road for SharePoint 2016. Over the coming months and years there will be improvements, including the release of SharePoint Insights.
Insights is a service which aggregates usage and compliance data from on-premises and cloud into the Office 365 Reporting Center, giving users a unified view across the entire organization.
If, as Seth Patton told CMSWire in May, Microsoft’s mission is “to empower everyone to do more, to reinvent productivity and business processes,” and if Office 365 and SharePoint are at the core of that, then email, as a key enterprise collaboration tool, is due for a lot of love as SharePoint evolves.