SharePoint 2016: Home of Your New Intelligent Intranet

Released today, SharePoint 2016 is a foundational release from Microsoft that builds on the success of its cloud based Office 365 offering, extending that power into on-premises dedicated SharePoint farms.

Rackspace customers with Office 365 will have access to these new features first, but for our customers who use a dedicated on-premises SharePoint server, there’s no reason to wait to upgrade to SharePoint 2016. Several new features are available today, with the release of SharePoint 2016 and more should be coming through the future feature packs from Microsoft.

This is the first version of SharePoint to be created by Microsoft with a “cloud first” mentality meaning that it shares a common codebase with Microsoft’s Office 365 SharePoint Online product.

Many of the new SharePoint features showcased today will be in Office 365’s SharePoint Online product, where they can be tested at massive scale to First Release tenants. As those features are proven out online, Microsoft will work to bring certain of those features back to on-premises SharePoint as incremental feature packs that can be turned on or off by on-premises SharePoint administrators.

This new update method ensures on-premises SharePoint will continue to evolve at a much quicker pace than the previous three-year update cycle Microsoft had for SharePoint.

Thanks to our strong relationship with Microsoft, the Rackspace SharePoint MVPs were invited to attend the launch event in person, allowing us to bring you updates directly from the keynote floor.

SharePoint Home

As a longtime SharePoint professional, I found one of the biggest small pieces of news to be Microsoft’s renaming the “Sites” tile and feature in Office 365 back to “SharePoint” and introducing a new concept of the SharePoint home.

This includes a new card-based, modern user interface as well as the inclusion of enhancements based on the Office Graph technology, to show recommended links as well as recently active documents from your SharePoint site. Users will also have the ability to rapidly create new sites that immediately provision an Office 365 Group membership tied to the SharePoint Team site. Going forward, Office 365 Groups are no longer on an island, they are now integrated with SharePoint sites to make a seamless experience for team membership and document storage.

SharePoint 2016
The SharePoint home in Office 365.

New SharePoint User Experiences and SharePoint Mobile App

Along with the enhancements to the SharePoint home, SharePoint Online is getting a new modern facelift for all the key areas of SharePoint, including Team Sites, Document Libraries and Publishing. The refresh will start in SharePoint Online. Newly created Team Sites will get the new user interface as they’re created, while existing Team Sites will get options to apply the new interface over time. Soon after the Team Site updates, Microsoft will update SharePoint Online lists to also get their own user interface refresh.

SharePoint 2016
The updated SharePoint Online Team Site user interface.

Thanks to the success of SharePoint, Microsoft has virtually owned the idea of corporate intranet portals. That said, many aspects of the SharePoint user interface, as it relates to intranet portals, have gotten a little stale. For 2016, intranets built on SharePoint Online will be freshened up. For custom intranet portals, SharePoint Online will have updated pages that allow businesses to create internal news and announcements, blogs and even intranet web pages easily, with a new publishing workflow and modern interface that rivals any beautifully designed website you’d see today.

To add these modern enhancements to your favorite pocket sized device, Microsoft will soon release a new mobile app called, simply, SharePoint, first on iOS and then on Android and Windows later in the year. The mobile app will work with both the new user interface in SharePoint Online but also the on-premises SharePoint 2016 server and even SharePoint 2013.

SharePoint 2016
The SharePoint mobile app on Windows, iOS and Android.

Microsoft Flow and PowerApps

Microsoft demonstrated two other really interesting applications at the launch, Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. Think of Microsoft Flow as way to pull data from other business data sources into SharePoint lists with conditional if/that/then logic. Once the data is in a list, PowerApps can be created by users via a wizard-type, rapid development model, creating rich, mobile friendly form views of their data. It’s worth noting that this isn’t a replacement for the older InfoPath product; think of these apps as another tool in the SharePoint toolbox.

New SharePoint Framework

Finally, Microsoft described a really cool new development model that doesn’t replace the old model, but enhances it. This framework consists of a new canvas-based page model that can leverage client-side coding solutions for creating powerful modern web applications that live inside SharePoint. The idea is to bring today’s code developers, raised on modern JavaScript coding techniques, into the SharePoint world by letting them use current development tools and open source libraries to work with the SharePoint user interface in new and exciting ways.

I’m excited to see all the new features that Microsoft demoed today; the future is clearly bright for SharePoint in 2016 and beyond.

Let Rackspace’s engineers manage your dedicated SharePoint servers and we can help you get started, either with new managed SharePoint hosting or if you want to migrate your existing SharePoint server to SharePoint 2016.

Find out more about SharePoint at Rackspace from our website.

Randy Drisgill is a Product Engineering Manager for the Cloud Office team at Rackspace. He has more than a decade of experience developing, designing and implementing web technologies for clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Randy is a frequent speaker at events such as Microsoft’s Ignite, TechEd and SharePoint Conference and is co-author of the books, “SharePoint 2013 Branding and User Interface Design” and “Professional SharePoint 2010 Branding and User Interface Design” from Wrox. You can find Randy on Twitter as @Drisgill and at blog.drisgill.com.

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