Just got back from another 5 great days at SharePoint Conference. I continue to be impressed with the execution of the conference overall and recommend going at least once to anyone who is involved in the industry.

Sure the food could be better (still going to have nightmares about those eggs) and the wi-fi was improved from 2012 but still left much to be desired. But having helped plan and organize just a simple SharePoint Saturday in Austin, which was only 1 day and 1/100th of the attendees, I definitely have an appreciation for event planning. Basically anyone who does this for a living is insane.

Anyways, I know that given there was no new major platform release for this conference, I was curious to see exactly what new information, if any, they were going to present. But boy and how. Here are the 4 takeaways I got from attending the conference this year:

#1 – “Nothing cool will ever happen on premise ever again”

This was our running joke throughout the entire conference. And although, yes it is extreme, and although yes Microsoft made REPEATED claims that on premise releases are here to stay, practically every big announcement and every new feature that was shown at the conference was only going to be released exclusively in Office 365 SharePoint Online with the on prem release TBD.

Why is this? The main reason is that they are looking to break down the barriers between the O365 applications, and make solutions that touch across SharePoint as well as Lync, Exchange, Word, Excel, etc. And of course features like that are going to require the latest and most up-to-date versions of ALL the applications.

You’ll see what I mean by this later on, re: Codename Oslo.

In my opinion this is the right move. Only releasing every 3 years makes things really difficult to keep up with technology’s rapid pace of development (case in point: the unfortunately named MySites). Using O365 as the primary platform allows them to release changes into the market as soon as they are ready, not when the next release is expected to come out.

Now if you can’t move to O365 or don’t want to, this isn’t a reason to panic. Microsoft did also announce that a new version of SharePoint on prem will be released, expected sometime in 2015.

#2 – Codename Oslo is sexy as hell, and Office Graph is now a thing

The biggest example of the new O365 model is a new feature called Office Graph. Similar to Facebook Graphs, this is Microsoft’s approach to “Big Data” as it applies to your organization. The idea behind it is that the typical (O365) worker is going to be doing work on all of the applications, including SharePoint, Outlook, Word, Excel, even Yammer. Information from these individual app needs to be accessible and even surfaced no matter what application you are currently using. This is where Office Graphs comes in.

To show an example, Microsoft developed an application called Oslo (@codenameoslo). Screenshot is above. This application (both the web version and the mobile version) uses Office Graph to help organize content that you’ve worked on, content you’ve seen, as well as content that you probably should see but were not aware of.

Some example use cases:

  • You were on a Lync call where someone went through a presentation. You’d like to see the PowerPoint presentation again but the presenter did not send it out. Oslo can surface “content shared with me” in order to display recent documents that were shared with you via Lync, email, SharePoint, or Yammer
  • You lead a team of developers working on a development project for SharePoint Records Management. Over in the Tampa business unit, another team is also currently working on a Records Management project. Oslo will surface content to show you some of the content the other team is working on, even if you didn’t know it existed. (NOTE: immediately when this was mentioned, audience members had concerns about privacy. It should be noted that Office Graphs still respects security trimming, so you will not see any documents or content that you do not already have access to.)
  • You have a meeting with someone from the Denver office whom you have never met. Oslo can show you who they work with, who you know in common, and what content they have recently worked with (again respecting security settings) to give you an idea of what they do on a day to day basis

Now Oslo may be sexy as hell, but I can’t say for certain whether it’s going to be the next big thing or not. Certainly Office Graph has a lot of potential and I’m very interested to see what additional types of solutions can be built on it. But what we do know is that this is exactly what Microsoft means when they are talking about developing for the entire O365 stack, and shows the direction they intend to go in the future.

#3 – You’re probably going to want to stop using SharePoint Social

Along the same lines of “everything is headed towards the cloud” was VERY clear communication from Microsoft that they are not going to continue to spend any additional resources on the native SharePoint Social features (i.e. newsfeeds, communities, etc.) and instead are full speed ahead on fully integrating Yammer. Now, as things currently stand, Yammer is a standalone social solution that does not persist across specific SharePoint sites, libraries, or documents, but Microsoft is planning to change that. Yammer will soon be integrated across all the O365 applications (starting to sound familiar) and you will be able to comment, “like”, and utilize groups on pretty much everything that you are doing and working on.

Now what if you’re not on O365? What then? Well Yammer is already available for SharePoint 2013 on premises but Yammer itself is stored in the cloud and there is no current plans to offer a fully on premise Yammer offering. In the event that you are on premise, interested in social, but cannot have any part of your solution exist in the cloud, Microsoft recommends to continue to use SharePoint Social features, but advises to just understand that no new development will take place and to keep up with announcements on future service pack releases to determine if your social implementation may be affected.

#4 -This was the greatest slide of the entire conference

This came from Melanie Hohertz from Cargill who was discussing their Yammer implementation and how far she felt they had come as a social community.

Of course I didn’t see every session at SPC but I’m going to go ahead and declare this one the winner.

The lesson learned is: Always understand your metrics of success!