You cannot talk about Office 365, SharePoint and Microsoft collaboration without talking about them in the context of the wider market. Over the year, this has manifested itself as a competition between Microsoft and just about everyone else. While there are numerous collaboration suites and apps available, competition has largely broken down into Office 365 with SharePoint Online versus G Suite versus Slack.

However, to view Office 365 and SharePoint in terms of collaboration capabilities only is to misunderstand what Office 365 and SharePoint are designed to do. Love them or hate them, Microsoft productivity tools through Office 365 (and now Microsoft 365), with either SharePoint on-premises or SharePoint Online, are dominating the enterprise productivity space.

It goes without saying that this year, the big news from Microsoft was the release of SharePoint 2019, and the upgrades that were added to SharePoint.

However, Microsoft has made it clear to the public that its future direction of product development is cloud focused, not on-premises. As a result, Microsoft has continued to encourage enterprises to move to SharePoint Online. Meanwhile, the release of SharePoint 2019 addresses the lingering challenge many organizations, that have deployed SharePoint on-premises for years, face.

It also became clear that while SharePoint 2019 comes with some enhancements in functionality and user experience to keep the customers who have invested heavily in SharePoint on-premises happy, it is likely that Microsoft will only release emerging and innovative features with Office 365.

SharePoint 2019 may enable organizations to delay their migration to Office 365, but it will not eliminate the need. This, it seems, was the major concern for enterprises over the course of 2018.

10. Office 365 Is Primed to Pick Up the ECM Pieces

How long have we had "real" enterprise content management (ECM)? Let’s be generous, electronic document management started in the mid-1980s, so for argument’s sake, let's say ECM began in 2000 (around the time that FileNet and Documentum rose to prominence).

And in all that time — nearly two decades — not only have we failed to realize AIIM’s paper free office, but we’re seemingly no closer to managing our "born digital" content stored on shared drives, email and other unstructured systems. The result being that most large organizations maintain terabytes (some even multiple petabytes) of unmanaged content on their systems, underwriting (for the most part implicitly) the huge risk associated with this content. Will ECM ever succeed in solving the content management challenges of most large organizations?

The answer is a resounding “no.” The  main reason for this is that Microsoft, with everything it’s doing to develop (and peddle) Office 365, is poised to dominate the ECM space at most large organizations over the next five years.

9. Office 365 Tools: Where to Begin

If you are new to Office 365, you will notice very quickly that there is no shortage of tools available to you. This abundance can be exciting and overwhelming for an organization looking to roll out these tools in an organized and well-governed fashion. As a consultant, I hear this from my customers over and over. They are using Exchange and a bit of SharePoint, but are clueless where to begin with the rest. Does this sound familiar? Here is some advice to get you on the right track.

8. Microsoft Planner: An Unsung Gem in Collaborative Task Management

The Planner collaborative task management tool found in Office 365 is a bit of an underused gem. It's certainly worth calling attention to, particularly after an initial Office 365 launch that allowed people to learn the basics of OneDrive, SharePoint, Teams, etc. As always with non-technical users, you can tell people about a tool, but it only really comes alive when they see an example they can relate to. Here are some use cases that hopefully help bring Planner’s purpose to life.

7. Unpacking SharePoint Conference's Day One Announcements

SharePoint Conference 2018 kicked off with an hour and 45 minute keynote delivered to an audience of over 3,000 at the MGM hotel in Las Vegas and countless others watching the live broadcast from the comfort of their homes. Jeff Teper, Microsoft corporate VP; Seth Patton, general manager of Office 365 product marketing; Omar Shahine, director of program management OneDrive and SharePoint; and Dan Holme, director of product marketing SharePoint led a presentation packed with a number of announcements including news related to SharePoint hub sites, communications sites, OneDrive, integrations with Teams, and introduced a whole new type of site, SharePoint Spaces.

Learning Opportunities

6. What Organizations Want In SharePoint 2019

Microsoft announced at Ignite 2017 that it would be releasing SharePoint 2019. The preview version, according to Microsoft, would be released in the second quarter of 2018 followed by a general release later in the year. While the release of the current version, SharePoint 2016, was characterized by discussions as to whether it would be the last on-premises edition or not, there is no such discussion this time around. SharePoint 2019 will be an on-premises edition of the platform with hybrid capabilities enabling users to move between the online version and the on-premises version.

5. Hub Sites Raise SharePoint's Intranet Potential

Here's a paradox for you: although the majority of enterprise intranets are built on SharePoint, SharePoint historically has had few built-in features that perform basic intranet functions. Standalone intranet products such as Igloo, Intranet Connections, Thought Farmer and Interact all offer ready-made widgets that every intranet user would recognize, such as news, lunch menu, room booking, job openings etc. SharePoint has only recently added news.

For a long time SharePoint operated under the maxim that it was a "platform," on top of which such things could be conjured up using secret incantations such as "custom list" and "server-side solutions." It was a little like the way a can of peas has an appealing serving suggestion printed on it so that it looks like a full meal, but all the tin holds are the peas.

4. Ready-Made SharePoint Intranets in 2018

The market for SharePoint add-ons offering intranet functionality is growing rapidly, not just in the number of options, but also the number of companies rolling them out. Each year, a review of the SharePoint intranets in-a-box marketplace reflects growth in the market: the first report in 2016 covered six products, the second covered 26, and the 2018 edition covered 42. There is an estimated 60 products in all, and that number is expected to keep growing. Three big trends emerged this year: big companies, partnerships and bots. They reflect how the market is maturing, but also show the pressure on vendors to keep their products ahead of Microsoft’s own changes, such as communication sites.

3. SharePoint Hub Sites Have Arrived

Microsoft officially released SharePoint hub sites and started gradually rolling them out to Office 365 customers — but what's all the hub-bub about? Hub sites were first announced at the Microsoft Ignite conference in 2017. A Hub is basically a new site template for a specific type of SharePoint site. The feature is currently only available for SharePoint Online, although Microsoft has said it will consider including hubs and other site templates and features in the SharePoint 2019 on-premises edition due later this year.

2. SharePoint 2019: First Impressions From Enterprise Users

As expected, Microsoft outlined its immediate and medium-term strategy for SharePoint at its user conference. Over several sessions, Microsoft leaders provided insights into where they see SharePoint in the enterprise, what's on its way in the new edition, and what is likely to happen after SharePoint 2019. To clarify where exactly Microsoft is now, Bill Baer, senior technical product manager of Microsoft SharePoint business, published a blog post summarizing the current state of play. SharePoint Server 2019 will be generally available to customers in H2 CY18 while SharePoint Server 2019 Preview will be available to enterprises in the summer of 2018. There are a number of significant improvements in this edition, he wrote, including user experience upgrades that have already appeared in the online edition through Office 365.

1. SharePoint 2019 Says Hello to 6 Features and Goodbye to 6 Others

Earlier this year, Microsoft shared a sneak peek of some of the new features it intended to bring to SharePoint 2019. The launch of the new preview version last week contained many of those features, as well as a promise of more to come. According to a blog post by SharePoint senior technical manager Bill Baer, the preview release should only be seen as the beginning, not the end.

The release did not create the usual fuss that followed SharePoint 2016 and 2013. This is largely because, since the 2016 release and the introduction of SharePoint Online, a lot of what is coming to the on-premises version is a reciprocal version to a feature in the online version, which Microsoft updates regularly with new features.