Microsoft’s Ignite Conference has evolved into one of the tech giant’s biggest and most anticipated annual shows. This year’s event was held in Atlanta at the close of September, and thousands attended to share in Microsoft’s latest innovations and the future direction of the company.

Attendees come from a range of backgrounds and specialties—from members of the Microsoft Partner Network to budding IT Professionals, Enterprise Developers as well as the celebrated Microsoft MVPs. MVPs are the chosen few who make up the elite of the Microsoft ecosystem.

With help from Laura Rogers (a Microsoft MVP herself), we spoke to a number of the top SharePoint influencers to learn more about how the platform is evolving. And that’s what this post is about: a collection of interviews we carried out looking at the recent history and future expectations of SharePoint. From dealing with challenges inherent in rapid change to the success of the hybrid model, the following are five areas we explored with the experts to gain insight into Microsoft’s most robust collaboration platform.

1. How has your role as a SharePoint expert changed over the year?

A lot can change in the course of the year; a statement most apparent when it comes to technology. With the SharePoint platform now housing continual updates, we wanted to know how the top SharePoint influencers have witnessed their role change over the course of the year.

“I’ve been given a closer connection to the product group and the people at Microsoft. That’s really helped me steer my clients more in the direction they should be going because I have added insight on what’s coming down the line.”

Mark Rackley, Office 365 MVP.

There was some focus on how Microsoft’s branding has changed over the past few years—something they need to be aware of to deliver the best expertise and knowledge possible for productivity in the Office suite. Interviewees also mentioned how the new SharePoint framework is sure to play a factor in the near future, and many are already working with Microsoft to build training for it.

2. How are you and your clients keeping pace with the rapid changes in Office 365?

If there’s one medium for keeping up to date with all the changes going on in Office 365, it's blogging. This was found to be a common theme among our interviewees—it’s the easiest and most accessible method to keep constantly aware of changes and what’s going on in the SharePoint space (or whichever space you want to keep updated on).

“I subscribe to individuals on Twitter who know their stuff about what’s going on in that space. And I read and share the articles they post.”

Marc Anderson, Microsoft MVP.

Of course, a lot of blogging is opinion-based. For those that want to know what features and functionality is in the Office 365 pipeline, visiting roadmap.office.com is the best way to find out what’s rolling out to your tenant through the admin portal.

3. Are changes in Office 365 creating problems for end users?

As technology continues its rapid pace of change, our challenge is to make sure we can keep up. The problem is, however, that a lot of the time we’re resistant to change. Think of the first time email was introduced into the enterprise: people thought why use email? Fax is working just fine for me. And yet now, we send around 205 billion emails every day. So, perhaps adopting change is about not being afraid to jump in—something the SharePoint experts agree is considerably easier if you are already aware of any risks or obstacles you may encounter.

“It absolutely is creating change, but it’s creating some opportunities, too. It just comes down to understanding how to take advantage of it.”

John Ross, Rackspace.

4. Is the hybrid model that Microsoft provides really helping users transition to Office 365?

With innovative, and still fairly new, technology such as hybrid SharePoint, there will often be some accompanying questions. But SharePoint influencers agree that the hybrid model is a huge innovation from Microsoft. It’s the way organizations will ‘figure out’ the cloud—a way for users to go from one place to another without them feeling like they’ve left a comfortable environment.

“Having that hybrid environment allows a continual, and more seamless, user experience. This is extremely important when it comes to making sure that first exposure to the cloud isn’t a negative experience.”

Erica Toelle, Valorem Consulting.

5. Do you think that Microsoft is going to see real competition from Slack?

“I don’t think competition is necessarily the right word. I think people like to use a mix of technologies that help them get the job done. I don’t think that people using Slack is detracting from anything Office 365 or SharePoint does.”

Marc Anderson, Microsoft MVP.

There were some mixed opinions on Slack and its sudden emergence in the enterprise space. While some don’t view Slack as a competitor and some do, everyone is interested to see how Microsoft responds—potentially in the form of Skype for Teams or Office 365 Groups.

No one is disputing the usefulness of the platform. The concept of teams working together and collaborating—whether on documents, in Skype meetings or across SharePoint—is one of the reasons behind Office 365’s large-scale success. But some are questioning its longevity. Apps like these often see very rapid growth at the start of their tenure, so we will perhaps have a better idea in a few months’ time.

Igniting future innovation

Ignite 2016 was yet another success for Microsoft and all those that attended. We gleaned some great insight into Microsoft’s goals moving forward, and what that means for us as end-users and business workers. We’d like to thank all the SharePoint Influencers who we spoke to; we’re already looking to the conference in Orlando next year! 

 

Danielle Arad
Digital Marketing Manager