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The Day Before SharePoint Conference 2018 & A Look Back

Author by Drew Madelung

Are we ready for this? It has been 4 full years since the last real SharePoint conference.  We are about to be surrounded by a giant contingent of experts, from the community and Microsoft, along with thousands of your new closest SharePoint friends.  When looking back at the last real SharePoint conference we have to go back to SPC in 2014. This conference was also held in Las Vegas just like this year.  It's fun to think back at that event and how much things have changed since then and not just on the technology side but also on the business side.  

Since that conference there has also been a shift in the marketing and overall feeling of SharePoint. There was a point in my SharePoint consulting journeys that I didn't know what the future of the product that I primarily worked with was going to bring. A great example is that even just a few years ago the current SharePoint tile in Office 365 was just called 'Sites'.  It felt as if the services that SharePoint were able to provide were being deconstructed into other applications and the brand was falling behind the scenes.  There was no such thing as 'Modern' and we didn't really know what kind of future investments would be made into SharePoint via Microsoft. We were all still used to the multi year release cycle from Microsoft and events were the primary way we learned about these things. There just wasn't the same kind of buzz around SharePoint that we had seen in the past. Another sign of that was the stoppage to the SharePoint Conference and the merging into Ignite.

Since SharePoint Conference 2014 we have seen a tidal of wave of evolution within the product and the surrounding community. Within Microsoft we saw leadership changes around SharePoint that included the return of Jeff Teper and the onboarding of Dan Holme. With these changes we saw a fresh vison and innovation begin to take shape. Jeff put together some of his thoughts on the past and looking forward in this great set of posts out on LinkedIn. It was not just the SharePoint team that changed but we have now seen things like:

The establishment of a more open Microsoft

We are no longer in the multi year release cycles where we didn't know what was happening. We are now in an evergreen release world where new technology rolls out at a very fast pace but we kept more aware of what's next. We now have bi-yearly major announcements from the Microsoft SharePoint team along with blog posts coming out monthly keeping everyone in the loop. We have also seen things established like the Office 365 Roadmap, the Microsoft Tech Community, and the overall engagement of open source with GitHub,, and the amazing PnP community. We also began seeing Microsoft leadership come to community driven events such as SharePoint Saturdays, SPFests, and SPTechCons.

Welcome to the world Modern SharePoint

The front end of SharePoint had seen small changes throughout the years but some of the most note worthy changes were things like 'Site Actions' moving from side to side. We are now working with a fresh and forward thinking UX & UI within SharePoint. One of the first things that I used to be told when starting a new intranet in SharePoint was that they don't want it to look like SharePoint. With the new look that Modern provides us they really went back to basics and are providing key functionality in an easier to consume way. It is an evolution that we are all working through to move from our Classic SharePoint experiences into Modern and there are still gaps but we are seeing those shrink every month.

On-premises isn't going anywhere but look at hybrid

For a period of time we didn't know if there was going to be another version of on-premises SharePoint coming. Since then we have seen the release and adoption of SharePoint Server 2016 along with the announcement of SharePoint Server 2019. We have also seen major enhancements in the vision of hybrid knowing that we can't all take our workloads into the cloud. We even saw investment in supporting hybrid scenarios for older versions of SharePoint prior to 2016. Along with these enhancements we saw a release of a Microsoft migration tool along with migration analysis tool. It is no longer when do I need to go to the cloud but what workload in the cloud could benefit me.

A new solution for teamwork with Microsoft Teams

We now have a vision for the future of both communication and collaboration. A lot of people start their day in Outlook and other disconnected systems. Microsoft Teams has been released and provides us a central source for chat, voice, and the ability to access many other systems all in one location. We can now see how the overall content strategy in Microsoft is built on the back bone of SharePoint and Teams.

Groups, Groups, Groups

It's hard to look back and think of Office 365 without Office 365 Groups. The concept and roll out of Office 365 Groups has shifted the landscape for collaboration and security. At it's core an Office 365 Group is a security object to manage access but at the top level this is the core solution being used across workloads in Office 365 and are basically required for things like Teams and Planner. When looking back a bit when Groups first came out we had a hidden SharePoint site that was just surfacing files outside of the SharePoint UI. We now have a full SharePoint site for every Office 365 Group and for every modern team site you will get an Office 365 Group. What started out as a small idea has blossomed into a core technology.

Another SharePoint development framework

Yes we got another way to build custom SharePoint solutions. The release of the SharePoint Framework of course came with questions as we have seen multiple different approaches for how we are supposed to be building SharePoint solutions. You no longer need to have a PhD in SharePoint to be able to do development with SharePoint. The SharePoint Framework has introduced a true modern toolchain to support all developers along with an embrace of open source. We have even seen the power of the SharePoint Framework now being utilized in Microsoft Teams.

Flow & PowerApps

RIP SharePoint Designer & InfoPath. These are a few of the solutions that we are seeing the end of the road and the now the evolution into more modern business solutions. We now have a cross platform business process or workflow solution in Microsoft Flow and a app or form based solution in Microsoft PowerApps. These are not direct replacements for legacy technologies but are the next phase. These are solutions that are not SharePoint agnostic and are built with all technologies in mind. This allows for easier integration and a better overall vision for business solutions within Microsoft and SharePoint.

And more…

The list of changes feels endless and I am sure I missed some huge ones but other major announcements since the last SharePoint Conference that I believe have shaped the current state of the product include:

  • The release of the modern OneDrive sync tool and the death of groove.exe. Including the release of Files On-Demand this has truly changed the way that I work.
  • A real SharePoint mobile app across iOS and Android
  • Investment in cloud security especially around DLP, retention, classification, and conditional access
  • Evolution of the Microsoft Graph as one endpoint to rule them all (queue the LOTR music)
  • Establishment of other supporting services in Office 365 such as Video, Stream, Planner and Delve
  • Site Designs & Site Scripts providing a modern way to build sites
  • Giant site collection and storage capabilities in SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business in Office 365
  • MS acquires LinkedIn

With all these changes what else can there even be?

Three words; SharePoint. Conference. Vegas.
These were words uttered by Jeff Teper at Ignite 2017 during the SharePoint keynote led us to this week and what I know will show you innovative announcements that you couldn’t of even imagined at the last SPC. We are seeing the investment from Microsoft and experts in the community to provide a first class conference with all different types of sessions. If you will not be able to attend the keynote in person, make sure you tune in virtually to see what's coming!

If you are lucky enough to be onsite in Vegas there are few tips that I want to provide from my long string of conference attendance.

  • Take the time to network
    • We are going to be surrounded by SharePoint folks and this is a perfect time to strike up a conversation. Did you have a lingering question that you needed help with? Do you just want to vent about your SharePoint issues? Do you see someone that you have only talked to online that you want to meet? The conversations that you could have at these types of events could be just as beneficial as the overall conference. We are all in this world together and sharing our experiences benefits everyone. The after hour parties are some of the best times to meet new people and have some fun.
  • Spend time in the expo hall
    • The partner and ISV world in SharePoint is amazing. I don't think I have ever left the expo hall at an event like this without learning about a new product that I want to buy or new knowledge from the product team booths. There will also be more SWAG than you can fit in your suitcase but also the potential to win some very cool stuff.
  • Sharing is caring
    • This is a motto that we all should embrace and it really rings true with SharePoint. The consistent changes can be challenging but being aware of what is coming is one of the first steps. Whatever you learn make sure you let other people know about it. When you get back to your office let your team or leadership know about all the cool stuff that you learned. Maybe even you will see an opportunity to keep giving back by jumping into the TechCommunity, contributing to a PnP initiative, or maybe even speaking at your next local SharePoint Saturday.
  • Rate your sessions
    • As an avid speaker at events like this, these types of feedback are vital to grow the event but also help grow the speaker.


Embrace this week and let's have some fun at SharePoint Conference 2018!




Drew Madelung

Technical Architect