Modern Collaboration with Office 365
Since its introduction in 2001, Microsoft SharePoint evolved into the de-facto standard for collaboration and content sharing from small businesses to the largest enterprise and government customers. SharePoint provides a web based productivity environment where users can organize and share files, forms, web content, and structured data such as calendars, contacts, and small databases with internal or external users securely with minimal support from IT.

“In a virtuous loop, Delve enables you to find people through content and content through people”

CIOs and business leaders embraced the concept of the empowered information worker and invested billions annually in hardware, licensing, third party tools, and professional services. Microsoft SharePoint was the productivity hub within Microsoft Office, providing users with portals, search, collaboration, business process automation, business intelligence, web content management, and personal document storage, enterprise and social networking capabilities. With so many features rolled into a single product, SharePoint’s rapid adoption sometimes caused confusion or sprawl without proper information architecture, governance and controls.

Following the release of SharePoint 2013, Microsoft declared a shift in strategy away from a three-year SharePoint release cycle toward continuous product improvements in a new cloud-first model within Office 365. Over the past year, many of the core capabilities of traditional (i.e., on-premises) SharePoint have evolved into their own brand user experiences within Office 365. Since its inception, SharePoint has focused on collaboration, so today we’ll highlight the modern collaboration experience within Office 365.

Work Anywhere on Any Device

Traditional assumptions about how and where we work are changing. Smart phones, tablets, and pervasive high-speed wireless have shaped the expectations of both Gen Y and Millennials who expect to be connected and communicating all the time. Teams consistently interact with more people across geographies at a faster pace while more team members work remotely and bring their own devices to work. The modern information worker expects to snap a picture from a smart phone and securely share exactly as they would their photos from a weekend adventure.

“Everything that we are building is going to be built for this mobile world where the mobility of the experience across devices matters, where social collaboration and co-creation is core to what we do.”  Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella at Ignite 2015

Office 365 is hosted in the Microsoft cloud enabling users to access the service from any internet connected device without being attached to a corporate network. New apps for iOS and Android enable persistent login and support for notifications and device consistent experiences.

Personal Files OneDrive for Business

Office 365 includes 1TB of free personal storage with “lightweight” file syncing and sharing for every user in your organization via OneDrive for business. In addition to having your data backup, all content is automatically indexed for full text search, and can be shared with others inside your organization. An organization can choose to enable external sharing invitations to easily facilitate file collaboration with customers or business partners. The OneDrive application for iOS and Android enables users to browse, search, view, edit, and share both personal files and files shared by one’s coworkers. OneDrive lets users leave the laptop in the bag and get work done from any device.

Dynamic Teams Working Together Office 365 Groups

In the new world of work, we collaborate with more people. Teams can form quickly to take on a task and evolve over time as new members join. Great file sharing is certainly a prerequisite for team collaboration yet without context, users can miss the narrative, slowing down the team. Office 365 Groups bring together a number of different services from across the platform to improve the productivity of teams.

Groups provide a simplified experience overlaying capabilities of a distribution list, a security group, an Exchange shared mailbox and Calendar, a One Drive library, and a OneNote shared Notebook. Office 365 Groups are self-service by default enabling any user to create a group and add members in seconds.

As an example, I can create and add team members to a group (Project A) for a project team. Because it’s a security group, I can share files from my personal OneDrive or a SharePoint site with “Project A.” Because it’s a distribution list, I can email a note or calendar invite to our project sponsor and CC “Project A” to keep the team informed. As new people join the project over time, they can see the full conversation history stored within the group and come up to speed faster. New social gestures such as @mentions or liking comments have been added recently.

From the Outlook Groups app on my iPhone or Android device, I can access the group’s conversations, shared files or OneNote notebook. At our project kickoff meeting I’ll use OneNote on my phone to capture a picture of the whiteboard and integrate it into the notes being captured from a PC using real-time co-authoring. The Outlook Groups app notifies me when a member of my team modifies a file or adds a new thread to the group’s conversations keeping me informed about my project while on the go.

SharePoint Team Sites

With the introduction of OneDrive and Office 365 Groups it’s important to understand that SharePoint Team Sites continue to play an important role. Team Sites support web content authoring, multiple document libraries, multiple calendars, custom lists or databases, workflows, metadata, custom navigation, access apps, subsites and a number of other features key to advanced content management or collaboration scenarios. SharePoint Team Sites have the most flexibility and will continue to be worth the additional training, governance, and information architecture to maximize their value for appropriate scenarios.

Bringing it all together with Delve

As new Office 365 services are introduced and new places to store data are created, finding information fast is actually getting easier due to Delve. Delve is an Office 365 service that uses machine learning to analyze interactions inside Office 365 to determine who you are “Working With” and what content is “Trending Around You”. For example, Delve will surface a file that was presented to you at a meeting a week ago or a document that a teammate edited last night. In a virtuous loop, Delve enables you to find “People through Content” and “Content through People.” If I were searching for information about a new product my company is developing, I can use Delve to find the people associated with that product and the other content those individuals create. Delve respects all permissions and will only show you content that you have right to see, but you will be amazed when you see the collective knowledge of your organization as presented to you by Delve.

By 2020, more than 50 percent of the workforce will be Generation Y and Z members grown up in a connected, collaborative, and mobile environment. New mobile-first, cloud-first experiences from Office 365 leverage once disparate services from Active Directory, Exchange, and SharePoint to connect teams and increase productivity in ways never before possible. Ubiquitous mobile access in concert with a modern collaboration toolset in Office 365 can enable content creation, discovery, and consumption across devices, geographies, and companies at an unprecedented pace. Through a continuous delivery model, Office 365 delivers new value and innovation each month. Given the sheer effort of keeping up with the volume of innovation coming from Microsoft, having skilled and experienced partners is a higher priority than ever. Microsoft partners and local user groups can help you stay connected to the latest and transform your organization.