When Microsoft released the SharePoint 2016 edition it promised regular updates for the online version and, where possible, for the on-premises version.

During the SharePoint Virtual Summit yesterday, company officials shared details of the SharePoint roadmap for the coming months and indicated any missing pieces would be filled in at its Ignite conference in September.

SharePoint On-Premises Upgrade

The main message from the summit was that SharePoint on-premises will continue to get all the love and attention it needs to keep its customer base happy.

In practical terms, this means Microsoft will release a new Feature Pack for SharePoint 2016 later in the year, the contents of which were not unveiled.

Online customers will be the first to receive the majority of the updates flagged during the virtual event, with any on-premises versions — when applicable — following.

Further details were provided on the SharePoint customer numbers and usage stats shared during last week's Build conference.

According to Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, more than 60 percent of the total number of SharePoint seats are currently online with more than 250,000 companies —including 85 percent of Fortune 500 companies — reporting a SharePoint installation somewhere in their organization.

It also claimed the monthly number of SharePoint users grew by 90 percent from last year, with a 300 percent growth in the amount of content stored in the platform and more than 10 million new SharePoint sites created over the past year.

Microsoft stopped short of providing a specific number for how many people are using SharePoint. 

What should be noted is that while Microsoft has previously claimed 100 million Office 365 commercial users that does not equate 100 million SharePoint users, rather just access. Given that early Office 365 adoption was most often driven by demand for online email, it is impossible to extrapolate the number of SharePoint users from the figure. 

That said, SharePoint is clearly experiencing a revival, a lot of which has to do with the Online availability through Office 365.

Interest in hybrid SharePoint deployments has grown as businesses found the benefits of splitting workloads between on-premises and cloud-based technologies.

5 SharePoint Improvements

At the SharePoint Virtual Summit, Microsoft unveiled five new updates for SharePoint that it said will improve the enterprise SharePoint environment and its associated technologies.

1. OneDrive Files On-Demand Update

At Build 2017, Microsoft unveiled OneDrive Files On-Demand, slated for preview release later this summer.

OneDrive is Microsoft's file sync and share solution for collaboration within and outside of organizations. Its deep integration with Office allows users to access their Office 365 files, regardless of the device they're working on.

Yesterday's news was the new ability to share Office 365 files from File Explorer, PC or Mac. Users can share files either with specific people or by providing a link which allows anyone with the link to access files, whether inside or outside the organization. The sharing experience works in both Windows 7 and Windows 10.

In addition, users can set an expiration date to control how long a link provides access to content. The new sharing experience is the same, whether you share on the web, in Explorer, on Windows 10 and Windows 7.

Learning Opportunities

OneDrive Files On-Demand
OneDrive Files On-Demand

2. Personalized Search

The new personalized search offering, due for a summer roll-out, uses Microsoft Graph and its artificial intelligence capabilities to quickly surface relevant search results to queries.

By entering a search term into the search box, users will see a list of recently accessed files, direct results for the query as well as related content news and sites. It will also include people whose skills, interests and projects are related to the query.

3. Team Sites Connections

Over the past few months, Microsoft connected SharePoint Team Sites with Office 365 Groups and services. Later this year it will improve on that by connecting existing sites with Office 365 Groups. Microsoft had promised this with the last Team Sites update.

Users will also be able to add SharePoint pages as tabs in Microsoft Team Sites, an extension of the already existing ability to add tabs in documents.

4. Communication Sites

To improve the reach and functionality of intranets, Microsoft is introducing SharePoint communication sites, which it describes as dynamic sites that work on PC, Macs, mobile browsers and in the SharePoint app.

Communication sites take the smaller group conversations of Team Sites and opens it up across the organization. Through its connection with SharePoint in Office 365, communication sites surfaces content in SharePoint home, in Office 365 and SharePoint mobile to all users with access.

The sites themselves are easy to create, Microsoft claims, and can be customized with drag-and-drop authoring and a range of web parts, including an image gallery, interactive Bing maps and videos from a Microsoft Stream channel. Communications sites are expected to roll out during the second half of the year.

5. Enabling Business Processes

Beginning this summer, Microsoft PowerApps users will be able to create shareable customer forms in a SharePoint list or library to support team and organizational processes.

The integration between Microsoft Workflow and SharePoint will get tighter. Workflow allows the creation of automated workflows between apps and services.

This is just an outline of what’s on the way, with a lot of details still missing. We may have to wait for Ignite to hear further details.