Microsoft Ignite – news, ideas and take-aways with Enfo Modern Workplace pt.2
In this blog Andreas Eriksson Hammar, Solution Architect and Technical Lead within Microsoft 365 at Enfo Modern Workplace shares his thoughts on news in SharePoint and Microsoft Teams launched at Ignite 2020.
Ignite 2020 just happened and it was a special year for Microsoft since we couldn´t attend in person due to the Covid-19 situation. It was not really the same to sit in front of the computer listening to the sessions compared to being on site, meet the people creating the solutions we use every day and have a conversation.
To sum things up, there were a lot of news, perhaps not as many as usual, but I found some great stuff that I would like to share with you concerning SharePoint, Teams (of course), and some other really interesting features. In my next blog I will cover more around security, compliance and Power Automate.
Exciting news in SharePoint
Home site App for Teams & SharePoint app bar
Last ignite (2019) Microsoft presented homesite which is the landing SharePoint site for an organisation on their tenant, most usually the intranet. Since more and more people start working in Teams, the integration of the intranet in Teams have been made possible by creating custom app but on Ignite Microsoft presented the Home Site App for Teams which is a built in app that displays the home site in Teams. The intelligent intranet and Teams, better together!
Figure 1 Home site as app in Teams. Source: Microsoft
In SharePoint, the new app bar complements the site or hub navigation by bringing the user a personalized navigation with quick access to important sites in the organisation, sites relevant to the user, newsfeed, and files. The app bar is available across the intelligent intranet on all modern sites making the SharePoint experience even better for all users.
Microsoft presented the showcase functionality SharePoint spaces at ignite 2018 and there has not been much news about it until now. The mixed reality features will be generally available this fall and enable organisations to showcase 3D content, models and 360° imagery, and bring 2D content to life in stunning new ways. Best experienced with a headset but still very much enjoyable in browser.
Figure 2 Example showroom SharePoint spaces. Source: Microsoft
From my Point of view, Project Nucleus is perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of information this year. Project Nucleus can, which in layman´s terms can be compared to OneDrive but for Lists. Nucleus enables data availability no matter of your internet speed or by the amount of data stored by an app. During a session about Microsoft Lists an official stated that "no synchronous round trips are needed for filtering, sorting or scrolling,". This means that Nucleus technology ensures that large lists will work without throttling. If the user is offline, content will automatically be synchronized once internet connection is re-established.
According to the roadmap, offline access for Microsoft Lists is to be delivered in December 2020 so Nucleus is on its way.
At Ignite 2019 Microsoft announced Project Cortex and one of the features showcased in Project Cortex was the ability to use AI Builder in Power Automate to teach the AI to detect and learn how to find elements in a text to determine what metadata to tag the document with. You could also apply other rules to enforce security and retention on a document. This was a bit tricky and required the user to know JSON and to make quite complex automations. This year Microsoft presented SharePoint Syntex that enables power users to teach an AI but without all the complexity of JSON and advanced automation.
SharePoint Syntex can be trained, or “teach the machine”, to understand unstructured documents to identify metadata to tag the document. Document understanding models are based on Azure Cognitive Services Language Understanding modules. SharePoint Syntex makes it possible to create models and publish them to selected or all libraries in your SharePoint environment.
The form processing engine is still based on AI Builder but is now no code and does not require as many documents to teach the model.
Project Cortex uses Microsoft Graph to find and aggregate information to make it easier for users to find information by metadata or by context. To enable information not in the Microsoft Cloud to be used in Project Cortex Microsoft announced new content connectors to integrate file shares, Azure SQL, and more sources into Project Cortex. I think I heard something about creating custom content connectors and that would be awesome!
Microsoft Teams – new and improved functionality
In the beginning of 2020, a team was limited to 5.000 users, then Covid-19 came into our lives, and the limit was raised to 10.000. At Ignite Microsoft announced that the limit later this year will be increased yet again to 25.000 members.
MS Graph API to prevent Data Loss
At Ignite 2019 Data Loss Prevention (DLP) for messages in Teams was presented but it was not released during the year. DLP for messages in Teams can prevent sensitive information, e.g. passport numbers and so on, from being published in a Teams message preventing leakage of sensitive information. At Ignite 2020 the DLP for messages was presented again and it is general available. The Graph Patch API now allows applying DLP actions to Teams messages.
The Microsoft Graph Teams Export API is now in public preview enabling export of Teams Messages (1:1 and group chat) for retention, indexing, eDiscovery, classification, and regulatory requirements making Enterprise Information Archiving possible for Teams Messages.
Search in Teams have not been the best experience but one step at the time it gets better. At Ignite Microsoft presented improved search in teams where the search result is presented not in the navigation bar but in the main window. It will be faster and present search result in a better context. Will be released in the end of 2020 and the keyboard shortcut is as expected “CTRL+F”
Figure 3 Improved search in Microsoft Teams. Source: Microsoft
Meetings: breakout rooms, custom layouts and more!
One of the most requested improvements in Teams is breakout rooms. It was possible to accomplish earlier but required manual configuration of private channels and team meeting rooms. In October, a meeting organizer will be able to split up participants into smaller groups for e.g. brainstorming or solving a task. The presenter can hop between the rooms and make announcements to all groups and close the rooms that then makes all attendees returning to the main meeting. This is something that can be very useful in workshops, education, and many other areas.
You can be the weatherman on tv! 😊 This feature will make the presentation feel more live since the presenter can be included in the presentation. The feature is based on the background blur technology and looks great!
Figure 4 Custom layout in Microsoft Teams. Source: Microsoft
Custom layouts and previously released together mode are not just for fun. A study conducted by Microsoft compared brain activity in grid view and together mode and together mode may decrease meeting fatigue. The meeting will be more interesting in together mode and it is less risk that your audience falls asleep. Read more here.
Create a team based on a template instead of re-inventing the team again and again. Templates are now generally available and initially 12 templates will be available from start. Admins will be able to select which templates to be available and modify templates. Unfortunately, private channels and template libraries are not supported but ask us about it and we will help you out.
There is so much more interesting news!
Of course, there was loads of other interesting news I do not have place for in this blog. I am very excited to start working with the new functionality for publishing and sharing news in SharePoint, creating flows with Power Automate, building apps and bots with Power Apps, approvals of documents with the Approval app - all directly within Teams! I know this will become very popular among many of our customers!
Much new and helpful functionality is also launching in OneDrive and Microsoft Stream making it easier to share content with the right audience. In Stream we finally get retention, making it possible to set up policies for retention of content. Finally, Tasks is improving with built in option to assign tasks within Office documents, making it easier to keep track of all tasks which will end up at the same place - in Microsoft Tasks! Read more about all this in the Book of Ignite
Hope you are as exiting working with these new features as I am. Stay tuned for my next blog post about Ignite where will share more thoughts about compliance, security and Power Automate!
Andreas Eriksson Hammar works as a Microsoft 365 Solution Architect and Technical Lead at Enfo