From the 21st to 23rd of May 2018, Microsoft organized the SharePoint Conference North America in Las Vegas. The event gathered speakers and professionals from all over the world to share news and knowledge about SharePoint and the Office 365 platform. Microsoft seized this opportunity to detail on the things to come on these platforms. During keynotes and conference sessions, presentations from enthusiastic speakers were welcomed with cheers from a passionate crowd.
This year's SharePoint Conference was special as it was the first one since 2014. Although in the past years there were SharePoint updates coming from more general Microsoft events, as SharePoint and Office 365 are booming business – 400,000 companies are using SharePoint, with a 70% increase of users in 2017 –, Microsoft decided to grant these stars of productivity systems their own conference again. Of course, this came with some major announcements!
During the keynote session, Microsoft surprised us with a radical innovation: SharePoint Spaces. As a mixed reality rendition of SharePoint sites, a site can be shown in a three-dimensional space with its news, lists and libraries. With users being able to explore the rendition via any browser or with a 3D headset, this new feature will certainly improve engagement, as employees are literally sucked into the data environment.
We are particularly excited about this news, as AMPLEXOR is actively working on the topic of augmented reality. With SharePoint Spaces, we can extend a business AR application to the collaboration environment in Office 365. This means, for example, a development team working in AR mode on a new product could access documents without leaving the AR space.
On the Office 365 front, the most important announcements were about platform improvements, notably two security and compliance features we highlight below:
May 25 2018 will go down in history as Europe’s own Y2K event. The new privacy regulations have created a lot of excitement and concerns across all organizations that somehow store user data in their databases. Microsoft lends a hand via its Office 365 Security & Compliance Center with GDPR dashboards: various tools allow you to track personal user data in the Office 365 system, collect all personal data of a user in a report and manage compliance from a single place.
Figure 1: GDPR dashboards in the Office 365 Security & Compliance Center
In 2017, the Wannacry ransomware attack wreaked havoc on hard drives in hundreds of companies across the globe. Microsoft saw this as an opportunity to greatly improve OneDrive for Business with an impressive backup service. If you suspect that a file synced to OneDrive has been compromised, corrupted or accidentally deleted, you can go back in time and restore it to any second in the last 30 days. This means that you can recover all your files from a ransomware attack in just a few clicks – of course after thoroughly cleaning your workstation.
Figure 2: OneDrive File Restore
The Office 365 ecosystem is becoming more intelligent with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Since everyone is able to find relevant content more quickly and easily, this leads to improved productivity for all users within the organization.
The Office 365 search engine is one of the best-known fundamentals of the ecosystem, and it will provide you with an even better search experience soon. With the search engine expanded with artificial intelligence, as soon as you indicate that you will be using search, e.g. by selecting a search box, you will see results coming up. The results are composed of relevant documents, SharePoint sites and people from your organization that are deemed relevant for you by the AI engine, based on who you work with, trending documents, etc.
Figure 3: Discover relevant content through search even before entering a query.
Microsoft Stream, a replacement for O365 Video, is an internal YouTube-like platform enriched with intelligence. Apart from being nicely integrated in many Office 365 applications like SharePoint, PowerPoint or Microsoft Teams, all videos uploaded to the platform are automatically transcribed by an AI engine. As a result, your videos can display closed captions and let you find terms and phrases pronounced in the video via a regular search.
All images uploaded into Office 365 are automatically processed by an AI engine. After deskewing and auto-cropping the uploaded picture, Office 365 identifies the type of image, e.g. a receipt, portrait of people, a whiteboard with notes, etc. The identification results, together with the geolocation data, are stored as metadata. Furthermore, the AI engine will also perform optical character recognition (OCR) on the image and extract any relevant text it can find and store the results in SharePoint. This image intelligence allows an organization to start business processes with nothing more than image upload!
Figure 4: A picture of a receipt in Office 365 with the automatically added metadata: subject of the picture, location and extracted text.
Alexander Ernon is ECM Business Consultant at AMPLEXOR. Alexander has over 13 years’ experience in business analysis, software consulting and project management, specializing in SharePoint and Office 365.