Now that the hoopla over the general release of SharePoint 2016 is quieting down, it's time to ask SharePoint professionals some deeper, meatier questions about the release.

There weren’t many surprises, since all but a few small items were revealed in the preview releases.

But the release is noteworthy on many levels. It formalized Microsoft’s hybrid approach for SharePoint, while simultaneously promising on-premises users that they wouldn’t be left behind. It demonstrated a commitment to user experience and introduced the SharePoint Framework, which opens the platform up to more developers.

The Question

What do you think of SharePoint 2016?

The Answers

Christian Buckley, CMO, Beezy

Christian Buckley
Buckley is an Office365 MVP, Top 25 SharePoint Influencer and CMO for Beezy, an Office 365 and SharePoint Independent Software Vendor (ISV) focusing on user experience (UX), social and enterprise collaboration. Before Beezy, he was a key part of two SharePoint ISV acquisitions, served as Chief Evangelist for Metalogix and was member of the Microsoft team that launched SharePoint Online (now part of Office365). Tweet to Christian Buckley.

From a Beezy perspective, we’re happy to see Microsoft turn more attention toward improving the overall user experience and really begin to leverage the power of the Office Graph to deliver features beyond the Delve search experience.

As a partner, we have been working closely with Microsoft to extend and enhance the Office Graph within our own solution, and additionally we’ll be able to leverage all of these new UX capabilities, which is fantastic.

But beyond the features and UX enhancements, there are two things I see as having the most impact, each for different reasons: the new SharePoint Framework and the new Authoring Experience.

With the SP Framework, Microsoft is continuing to reinvent itself by opening up the platform to the tools and methodologies companies are already using to build on top of SharePoint, and possibly reversing the trend of the past few years of SharePoint becoming too rigid and inflexible for custom development.

And the new Authoring Experience offers a dynamic and powerful set of editing tools for publishing to SharePoint. This will blend right into our own solutions and add value from day one by giving people an authoring canvas that meets or beats what is available through some of the most popular consumer-based web authoring platforms, such as Wix or Medium. I can’t wait to start playing with these features.

Simon de Baene, CEO, Sharegate

Simon de Baene, CEO, Sharegate
Quebec-based de Baene is the founder and CEO at Sharegate, a software company that develops a SharePoint/Office 365 migration and management product; a product advisor at Officevibe and president at GSoft. He said he's passionate about product development, innovation and company culture. Tweet to Simon de Baene.

Wow, so refreshing to see SharePoint going back to the basics of just building a great and simple product that people will love (I hope). Of course, it’s not going to change in just a few days, but the direction is very exciting.

We all know that enterprises are battling against rogue IT because people can easily go online and get things done, and I believe this may be the solution to keep them in a managed ecosystem for organizations. With a mobile app that allows you to do more than just view your content, Flow helping us automate some processes beyond SharePoint and the new Team Site as well as the Publishing Pages — there is a lot to like.

Debbie Ireland, Managing Director, ShareThePoint

Debbie Ireland
Ireland is Managing Director of ShareThePoint, a New Zealand-based company that specializes in SharePoint training and consulting. She also organizes the Digital Workplace (formerly SharePoint) Conferences in New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. She has been an MVP since 2009. Tweet to Debbie Ireland

I want to touch on the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me) angle, how it impacts users and what plans we should be making for training and change management

Changing the naming of Sites to SharePoint on the app launcher is to me an obvious and good move. We have had to explain endlessly that the Sites tab, is in fact just like a favorites tab, a way of easily finding the SharePoint sites you have followed or bookmarked. I think this change makes life a little easier in the Office 365 world, as people have struggled to see HOW SharePoint fits in, when in fact it was there all the time! The change will however STILL need to be communicated.

With Lists the change is mainly a visual one with views, again focusing on consistent navigation. This includes removing the ribbon and top navigation but keeps key commands visible.  Group By and other view settings are also very easy for end users to make use of. This is something to look out for in training, as we provide MORE options for the average user, which perhaps were more hidden previously.

Using SharePoint has always meant a change in the way we work. I always stress to clients when implementing SharePoint that it is important not to think of replicating existing processes (e.g. a file share) — SharePoint is INTENDED to be different! And our users need to realize and embrace this.

I guess Facebook changes daily, and we all seem to adapt to that – the world is changing in this regard, and the structured controlled way of SHARING and ADAPTING to changes has completely changed… we are more open (in regard to sharing) and more versatile (in regard to change). The constant and very frequent changes appearing in Office 365 mean that WE also need to adapt — and fast.

Alex Gorbansky, CEO & Co-Founder, Docurated

Alex Gorbansky, CEO & Co-Founder, Docurated
Gorbansky is founder and CEO of Docurated, a sales and marketing acceleration platform. An entrepreneur with a passion for building disruptive products for the enterprise market, he also co-founded and scaled Frontier Strategy Group, a global emerging markets information services provider for multinationals, and was a senior analyst at Taneja Group. Tweet to Alex Gorbansky

Microsoft’s latest take on collaboration is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but ultimately it falls short. The new SharePoint solves yesterday’s problems quite well, but does not even begin to address the content challenge companies face today.

Today, content is stored across a range of locations like Box, Google Drive, File Shares, Dropbox, Confluence and email. Content storage is now heterogeneous and that is a fact. The new SharePoint has expanded the borders of Microsoft’s walled garden, but it is still a walled garden.

The fact that content stored across those other locations remains outside the scope of the new SharePoint means it cannot solve the enterprise content challenge. To succeed, companies need a heterogeneous solution that spans all content systems and provides the same level of relevance and intelligence across disparate enterprise silos.

David Lavenda, VP,

David Lavenda
Lavenda is a technology and marketing strategist, co-founder and VP Product Strategy at and a PhD candidate focusing on information and knowledge management. Tweet to David Lavenda.

Historically, SharePoint was geared toward IT pros, but now we're getting a more business-oriented and welcoming SharePoint with SharePoint 2016, including exciting new capabilities for mobile users.

Despite these strides, SharePoint still does not address the challenge of making it easy for people to "do the right thing” — namely, upload and classify emails and documents into SharePoint, whether SharePoint is in the cloud or on-premises.

First of all, documents and emails are still stored in separate repositories (SharePoint and Exchange, respectively) despite containing very similar business information, making them difficult to easily retrieve. So, as before, partners will continue to lead the way in humanizing SharePoint by making it easy to use which is the ultimate boon for business-wide adoption.

 Adam Levithan, Director, Metalogix

Adam Levithan Director Product Management Metalogix
Levithan is a seasoned business strategist, SharePoint advocate and information architect, focusing on designing information management and collaboration solutions leveraging Microsoft SharePoint technologies. He is currently director of product management at Metalogix. He was previously practice lead for Office 365 in a Microsoft consulting firm, where he was responsible for moving customers to the cloud. Tweet to Adam Levithan.

As a creator of a portfolio of products, we at Metalogix know what it’s like to manage a diverse set of features and functionality. The GA announcement, with the supporting Microsoft Mechanics videos, represents how Microsoft has retooled their development organization to allow for features to flow smoothly from the cloud to on-premises. 

In the past few weeks we’ve seen how they can roll out the new Document Library experience and make updates based on feedback from users.

Learning Opportunities

 Also, the realities of information governance is that some organizations are not yet able to make the leap, but by supporting SharePoint Server 2016 with feature packs gives on-premises SharePoint owners the ability to more easily adopt at their own pace. It was good to see the brand highlighted in the cloud, replacing the generic ‘sites’ button, and also that the new SharePoint mobile app will support on-premises content along with cloud.

John Peluso, SVP, AvePoint

John Peluso
With 17 years of experience helping organizations understand how they can drive secure collaboration and business productivity through an effective use of technology, Peluso has held both technical and business management roles. Now SVP of product strategy at AvePoint, he said his experience has given him a deep understanding of the priorities and concerns of both sides of the organization. Tweet to John Peluso.

The event was a fascinating look at how Microsoft is really bringing the SharePoint experience into the modern age. It was interesting to see that much of the actual functionality they discussed — essentially workflow with Flow, business forms with PowerApps, curated content views, and metadata management in the new Library UX — at the end of the day these are things we have been able to do for a long time with legacy functionality. But the difference is they are clearly now focusing on making all of this functionality obvious and usable to even the basic users of the system.

By making the true power of what SharePoint is accessible to everyone with very little effort, SharePoint is reborn as a modern and agile collaboration tool. And with the new development model, the concept that we, as third-party Independent Software Vendor (ISV), will be able to plug directly into these same user experiences as the first-party SharePoint native functions — meaning  that we will be able to build SharePoint-based solutions with the same pop and power as what we saw today.

While I am sure there will be criticism that an event purported to be prompted by the launch of the new on-premises version of SharePoint 2016 was so dominated by discussion of features that are rolling out now to Office 365, I think the important thing to remember is that it’s very clear that there is and will remain a commitment to on-premises and hybrid customers, even if that means that the exciting things happen in the cloud first and come down on-premises later.

Microsoft will understandably innovate in the cloud first, because that’s where they can release and test functionality quickly. Instead of feeling cheated by that, on-premises customers should rejoice in the fact that by the time features come down to them, they have been baking for some time in a live, production Office 365 environment.

Aidan Simister, Director, Lepide

Aidan Simister
Simister has worked in the IT industry for about 20 years in various capacities. Now regional director and head of global expansion at Lepide, He has specific experience building UK and European teams for early stage overseas security vendors and cloud providers, often from a standing start. Tweet to Aidan Simister

The whole point of SharePoint is to ensure that documents are easily shared and simply accessed and with the recent announcements at the Future of SharePoint event, it would seem Microsoft have made further inroads into achieving this.

 The ability to be able to ‘pin’ documents to the top of the view make it easier for users to get the documents they really need faster.  The new version will also provide users with the ability to ‘move’ documents from OneDrive to SharePoint rather than having to just copy them which will really help with versioning issues.

They also announced they will be introducing the facility to build and publish better reports and pages, aligning SharePoint teams with Office 365 teams which is a positive step for collaboration. There is also much talk of the new search features which has long been a challenge for SharePoint users.

The new interface users will be able to search and discover the files they need much easier than before.  Ultimately it seems Microsoft have a strong roadmap both in terms of SharePoint functionality and its overall integration plan.

Oliver Wirkus, Senior SharePoint Consultant at Softlanding

Oilver Wirkus
Wirkus is a Senior SharePoint Consultant at Softlanding in Vancouver, British Columbia, and an Office365 MVP. He has consulted for a variety of industries and specializes in international projects. He is a published author, international speaker, former moderator of SPUG Stuttgart, and has been voted one of the Top 25 European SharePoint Community Influencers in recent years. Tweet to Oliver Wirkus

The future of SharePoint is bright — that’s what we have learned recently.

Microsoft published a clear commitment to SharePoint and Office 365 and that has been what many enterprises waited for. But Microsoft did much more – it also explained its vision of future enterprise portals. For consultants and MVPs (like me), Microsoft’s vision of how enterprise portals will evolve in the future wasn’t a complete surprise. However, companies thinking of moving to the cloud might be facing some challenges now.

The structured navigation will change dramatically in SharePoint (my guess) and will be similar to the new user interface provided by the new SharePoint app.

Users will get a list of tiles showing sites they are following and a list of recommended sites. The classic SharePoint libraries will be integrated with OneDrive and the importance of SharePoint search will again be improved by integrating results from Office Graph. The emphasis of SharePoint will be clearly shifted to mobile team collaboration.

Although these changes will affect the way users are working with Office 365 fundamentally, these changes are necessary to allow Microsoft to further follow its Cloud first, Mobile first vision.

In the near future, all of us will be using more and more mobile device of many different kinds to access company data and documents. Although desktop PCs and laptops will still be used, they will be outnumbered by mobile devices even in a corporate environment. This is requires  a new kind of user interface and user experience that needs to be a perfect fit for both worlds. 

Title image by Tim Foster