The current portals
During the SharePoint Conference in March 2014 Microsoft showed the world the first two NextGen Portals for Office 365: The Video Portal and the Office Delve Dashboard. In November 2014 these portals became available for Office 365 customers who activated the ‘First release’ option and currently both portals have been rolled out to most tenants.
One of the interesting things about these ‘NextGen’ Portals is that they aren’t fully build using the SharePoint building blocks we have known for years. The Video Portal is using a SharePoint Asset Library and an Access App under the hood (after the uploaded video is processed by Azure Media Services, as explained here). For presentation of video’s the Video portal is using a custom application, with no SharePoint GUI components. For Office Delve it’s the same, it using a custom interface without any SharePoint parts. For data gathering Delve uses the Office Graph, which can be queried using the SharePoint Online Search REST API.
Microsoft has created an answer to a common SharePoint problem: Building business solutions on SharePoint (Online) still takes a lot of consultancy and customizations. While customers are getting used to ‘click and go’ SaaS experiences like they get with Dropbox, Zoho or Box. Office 365 needs more ‘ready to go’ solutions which are able to provision in a couple minutes.
Microsoft started to build these new Experiences and it seems that most of them won’t appear in SharePoint 2016. There will be Hybrid options which allow Office Graph to receive signals from SharePoint OnPrem (or other applications) and maybe we will get to see some new portal templates…
I slowly moved my focus away from SharePoint distributed on DVDs since 2012, when Wave 15 of SharePoint Online was released. I no longer want to wait for days of configuration to setup a SharePoint solution, I want instant gratification too! So lets take a peek at what’s coming to Office 365 this year!
Updates for the Video Portal
- A companion iPhone app to stream video’s to iOS devices (I guess a Windows universal & Andoid app will follow)
- Responsive Web pages for access across devices of all sizes (PC, Mac, Android and iOS)
- Extend video playback to non-Flash capable devices via the new HTML5-based player from Azure Media Services
- More refinement for some of the admin controls available to portal and channel owners
- Office 365 Video API to push and pull content in and out of Office 365 Video
- The use of Doc types (is this a new name for Content types or a whole no artefact?)
- App Parts (Great! They should ‘ further augment NextGen Portals experiences’ so I guess we get the ability to embed Video’s in SharePoint Online Sites
- Improved performance
New People Portal
Julia White has mentioned in her blogpost on February 2nd that we are getting a new ‘People Portal’. I have implemented SharePoint at more than 50 organisations and the ‘company Facebook’ (who-is-Who) if one of those features all customers want to have. From a new entry in the roadmap I have learned a little bit more about the new People Portal.
The Office 365 user profile page, aka “About Me,” is getting a significant update. First, it will be more user friendly in its overall presentation and how it looks and responds across all devices. <snip> The new “About Me” page will highlight people and people search in a whole new way – from hierarchical views, to showing who people most closely work with, and even a method to send a kudo to a co-worker.
Based on this information I can imagine a ‘Delve like’ Dashboard focused on people and SharePoint Search (Office Graph) oriented Search result pages. The text above clearly indicates the User About pages (public mysites) will get a nice makeover and I hope we will also get some improvements and extensions of the User Profile Store. This Ignite session about the ‘The New Universe of Findability and Discoverability‘ is about ‘how we connect to the content and expertise’ which might indicate some functionalities around ‘People Knowledge and Skill management’. The mention of Kudu’s could indicate the possibility of rating co-workers (and their skills)…
Julia White has also mentioned a ‘knowledge management’ portal in her blogpost and there is a short Ignite session description on this new Knowledge Management Portal. Personally I’m very interested in the capabilities of this Portal. I’m hoping the best SharePoint has to offer (like Document Centers, Topic pages and pre-configured Content Search Webparts) is used to create this experience. But we might see a whole range of new technologies directly built on Microsoft Azure and bypassing the biggest legacy obstacle of SharePoint: SQL Server. One thing that seems to be deeply integrated in SharePoint is a whole new Page authoring tool!
A new page Authoring tool?
This roadmap update about the new About me pages has an interesting description about a new SharePoint Online ‘page authoring tool’. This tool can be used to “create stories within the company – then expand to enable creation of new types of dynamic pages”. Cool! That sounds like an Enterprise Sway! “These stories and pages are created within the browser and have built-in hooks to add other Office 365 content in a seamless way”
So we will get a cool new page builder for users to easily integrate documents from OneDrive, videos from the Video portal and images from SharePoint document libraries! This is like Wikis on steroids and I can image a lot of great scenarios for Enterprise Knowledge Management, Personal Blogs and Support documentation.
Developers will also get some great updates on the Office 365 API’s and the current SharePoint App model since we will be able to “use the Office app model in context with configuring and extending Office 365 NextGen Portals”.
I can’t wait to get my hands on it! Christmas will be in the last week of April / first week of May this year!