Jared is a Technology Practice Leader working for Slalom Consulting, a Microsoft Managed Partner providing national Business & IT solutions headquartered in Seattle, Washington. He is a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), and has over a decade of experience building technical solutions, and solving business problems. He is a regular speaker at user groups and SharePoint Saturdays all up and down the East Coast. Jared is also a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) in the Office Servers and Services category. He can be reached through his blog or on Twitter (@jaredmatfess).
Looking back, 2017 was an exciting time for the Microsoft ecosystem! As of October, Microsoft had 120 million business users of Office 365. Given this record year of growth, I thought it would be fitting to share my MVP picks for the top Office 365 “Wins” of the year.
- The Development of Microsoft Teams: It should come as no surprise that on top of my list is the improvements to Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams has helped to evolve Office 365’s collaboration capabilities to help compete with other SaaS platforms such as Slack and HipChat. For those of you who have not explored Microsoft Teams, I like to describe it as a digital workplace which allows you to collaborate with colleagues through persistent chat, 1:1 messaging, and even voice/video conferencing. It pulls together different collaboration experiences across various Office 365 workloads and helps people get work done. I am very excited about the continuing evolution of Teams, as Microsoft has announced that they are shifting their investment from Skype for Business to Microsoft Teams and eventually will integrate all Skype functionality into the platform.
- SharePoint Communication Sites: Back in 2015 at Microsoft Ignite, I attended a session called “Intelligent, Ready-to-Go NextGen Portals in Office 365” which showcased modern sites in SharePoint Online. As a consultant, I felt both the excitement for the new technology along with some concern that Microsoft may be taking away some of my “make SharePoint not look like SharePoint” work. However, that fear was short-lived as a release date was never announced and these modern responsive portals were not released. Fast forward to the 2017 SharePoint Virtual Summit, and these new “Communications Sites” were announced with a “very soon” date for launch. When they finally did start to roll out in June they were well received and delivered on the promise of being able to delivery beautiful, responsive sites with configuration and not code. While they probably will not replace all custom branding projects, they certainly provide a compelling alternative with a minimal barrier to entry.
- The New Modern “App Launcher”: I have been fortunate to have met Jeff Teper on a number of occasions and those experiences drive me to help my clients and the community to adopt Office 365 solutions. A few months back during a dinner at SharePoint Saturday Twin Cities, Jeff go to talking about the changes that would be coming to the App Launcher. He mentioned that one of his goals for 2017 was to focus on helping users navigate the various Office 365 services and surface content that is most relevant for them to get work done. This November, Office 365 customers began to see the new modern App Launcher released to their tenants. The new version abandoned the idea of dozens of different Office 365 services to a more focused view of regularly used services and documents that are relevant to the user. I think this is a fantastic first step at trying to reduce the complexity of Office 365 and I am looking forward to further refinements in 2018.
So there you have it, a couple of top wins for Office 365 in 2017. While there were literally hundreds of fixes/updates released this year, those were the three that I think had the biggest impact on Office 365 users. I am very much looking forward to all the changes that Microsoft will roll out to tenants in 2018!