At times it feels as if SharePoint and Office 365 platform managers can barely relax as they keep their eyes on the incessant updates that Microsoft rolls out. SharePoint Online adherents just got used to communication sites when along came hub sites. Those who stuck with server-based deployments have just started their on-premises migrations to SharePoint 2013 or 2016 as Microsoft gets ready to launch SharePoint 2019. As for Office 365 subscribers, they regularly have to deal with numerous updates. Almost every day on my Twitter feed I find a dozen updates across Office 365 and Microsoft 365 shared within the community.
While these changes are exciting and open up new opportunities for SharePoint and Office 365 owners, the overall bustle can bring some unexpected negative outcomes. Let's look into the issues these seemingly never-ending updates can cause and how to mitigate them.
The Downside of the SharePoint and Office 365 Feature Race
Consider these potential drawbacks as you try to absorb new SharePoint and Office 365 features.
Deviating From SharePoint or Office 365 Adoption Strategy
Say you planned to customize 10 new team sites to improve project management and collaboration within several departments. However, when you got access to modern communication sites, you decide to use them instead of custom team sites. While this may initially feel like killing two birds with one stone: you offered an attractive solution to your teams and saved your investments, as communication sites differ from team sites by their purpose and functionality, don’t be surprised if your employees are unsatisfied with your solution. The moral of this story? Don’t hurry up to adopt new features before you make sure they fit your initial goals and meet users’ expectations.
Exceeding Budget Limits
If you try to keep pace with Microsoft, you can quickly exceed any budget boundaries established for your SharePoint and Office 365 projects. Let’s go back to the example above and assume you cooperate with external SharePoint consultants to maintain your deployment. First, an external team adjusts communication sites, second, they start tuning team sites. As a result, you get a heavier bill for SharePoint development. If you planned for other SharePoint modifications, you'll have to postpone them or cut your expenses to stay within the budget.
Overlooking Benefits for End Users
Keeping abreast with Office 365 advances doesn’t guarantee the success of your overall solution. If you continue putting your effort into modernizing your solutions while forgetting to explain to your employees how they will benefit from new Office 365 features, let's just say you shouldn't wait for positive outcomes. Typically, employees will keep using tools they know well and overlook the new ones. For example, if you don’t demonstrate the advantages of SharePoint hub sites, end users won't understand why they need them.
Becoming Hostile Towards SharePoint and Office 365
Users are lost in a jumble of collaboration tools, IT staff is puzzled with their Office 365 management activities, SharePoint consulting costs are growing. Expect these regrettable results if you fail to control the adoption of cloud collaboration. Left unremedied long enough, you and your end users will be left exhausted with the constant turbulences within your deployment, pushing you to decide to leave SharePoint and Office 365 haven, which would cause great distress for your organization.
How to Avoid Office 365 and SharePoint Failures
Hopefully, you will never go through any of the above-mentioned troubles. To keep them at bay, follow several simple principles when you are managing your SharePoint Online and Office 365 environments or when you are planning to migrate to the cloud.
Apply Updates at a Reasonable Pace
Don’t try to spread new functionality across the organization as soon as it is released. Quite often new features come with development flaws and look raw when compared with well-tested and widely used Office 365 components. Sometimes new functionality can also be confusing. This is exactly the case of a Promote page option within modern communication sites, which was meant to turn a promoted page into a news announcement on the SharePoint home page. As users continued to accidentally promote their pages, SharePoint admins scrambled to find feasible ways to disable the feature.
Follow Your Outlined Development Plan
If you didn’t put hub sites into your SharePoint and Office 365 roadmap for 2018, don’t rush to make them a part of your collaboration ecosystem. Choosing to adopt them next year when you understand how to leverage them makes sense. In the mean time, stick to your outlined development goals.
Introduce New Components to End Users
Clearly explain what new features mean and how they contribute to the entire deployment and to users’ daily activities. Pay particular attention to SharePoint sites that users manage on their own. As new web parts appear regularly, make sure users understand what each of them is for. For example, employees can use a separate Twitter web part, but they might wonder how to share a YouTube video unless they know that the Embed web part enables that.
Find the Updates That Matter to You
It’s absolutely impossible to follow and know all of the Office 365 updates by heart. However, it’s really important to keep an eye on security updates and new capabilities that can improve your business processes. For example, the latest April pack included a variety of enhancements across Office 365. You can stay indifferent to PowerPoint’s ability to convert scribbled notes and drawings into readable text and crisp shapes, but if your employees make frequent use of Project, they will be glad to benefit from task board filtering and easier navigation between sprints.
Prioritize the Quality and Value of Your Solutions
Do your best to stay tuned in to SharePoint and Office 365 updates and adapt them to your reality. But remember that addiction to updates can not only exhaust you, but also leave you feeling dissatisfied with the solution you have.
To avoid such a scenario, don’t try to be faster than other companies running SharePoint and Office 365. Instead, focus on your existing solution’s quality and its value for end users. Aim at improving your solution rather than chasing that brand new functionality. For example, you can run only several finely tuned team sites, but they will be more valuable for employees than dozens of scattered and unmanaged communication and hub sites altogether.