4 things we learnt from the European SharePoint Conference 2017 #ESPC17

It’s been a hectic few weeks in the Osprey household, with a move and the birth of my son Harris (who’s a delight, by the way). For the latter reason, I was unable to attend one of my favourite events of the year, the European SharePoint Conference. Thankfully, I’ve got a cracking team of experts who were able to step in and sink a few pints of Guinness in my absence…or something along those lines. They’ve filled me in on everything they managed to find out (which is a lot!), from our partners’ latest updates to news for developers and insightful workshops. Here’s our top picks from #ESPC17.

1. Development is not dead

The great thing about this conference is that my team could improve their (already fantastic) development skills by learning from the best in the business. This not only included the best and brightest from Microsoft and its partners, but also big players in the field that are seen as competitors. Javascripter Rob Wormald from Google delivered a keynote speech on SharePoint and Angular Elements using a Mac – much to the surprise of the audience.

Rather than competing with its closest rivals, Microsoft is now choosing to work with them (sort of). The Office 365 suite and SharePoint are available on iOS on Macs, iPads and iPhones. Rather than continuing to fight in what some cases was a losing battle – like using the Windows Phone to compete with well-established iOS and Android operating systems – Microsoft is ensuring it has a presence on these devices in the form of its apps instead.

My colleague Michael Duffy (SharePoint Implementation Consultant) was particularly impressed with the focus Microsoft is putting on custom developer content. By releasing tools such as the SharePoint Framework frequently, Microsoft is allowing for the rapid development of SharePoint Web Parts and Extensions that are allowing developers to really customise SharePoint – still its unique selling point. These tools, like many of the apps included as part of Office 365, are allowing developers and clients alike to get up and running immediately, rather than spending time setting up a development environment.

Equally, TSG’s Phil Coulson (SharePoint Implementation Consultant) was impressed at how Microsoft is engaging the developer community. It has released a set of plug-and-play controls for content and property panels in the SharePoint Framework which are free to use, and form part of a library that is sure to grow. This is community-driven (although for security, all projects are reviewed by the framework creators in the Microsoft Engineering team).

In short, it’s a really exciting time to be a developer.

 Speaking of integrations…

2. New products from Nintex

We got an exclusive insight into the new product suites from our partner Nintex, which were highly impressive. 

Nintex Workflow Cloud

The Nintex Workflow Cloud builds upon Nintex’s existing workflow offerings. It brings with it many additional options for starting workflows and interacting with a business’ other 3rd party applications. This will give customers far more control over upscaling their solutions, and allow users to automate even more processes. This provides some fantastic new mobile and process automation features which I think will amaze our customers. It also has a standalone, purpose built engine, making those workflows and links to other platforms (including Office 365) much snappier. 

Nintex Document Generation

Not a new solution but rather a recent addition to the Nintex Workflow Cloud, Nintex Document Generation allows you to automatically generate a document based on a template if certain criteria are met. Think creating a certificate, custom invoice, report or proposal document automatically at the end of a workflow. It can also generate entire sets of documents for specific purposes; really exciting functionality that is sure to replace a lot of paper-based processes. 

Nintex App Studio

The newly-announced Nintex App Studio is a powerful tool that allows you to build your own mobile apps with a lot of customisation options, from uploading images to forms, to adding your own custom HTML pages – useful if there’s a functionality you need that isn’t included. Keep your eyes peeled for this in the future.

3. Improving collaboration…again

SharePoint was built upon the principles of collaboration, but traditionally that’s been limited to the confines of your business. Teams, which is heavily reliant on SharePoint, now allows for third parties to join your teams (providing they have an Office 365 account), meaning you can collaborate as easily with customers and suppliers as you can with your colleagues.

You can also share externally, but not just to those with Microsoft accounts – you can share to people using clients like Gmail. You can send a link, which is secured in a two-factor approach, to the user which is valid only for a short period of time.

Microsoft is primarily pushing collaboration through Groups; when users create a group, they are provided with a new platform to collaborate on for any business purpose – from pushing through a critical business process to organising the Christmas party.

4. The SharePoint family

Many of you will know that Office 365’s flagship applications, including PowerApps, rely heavily on SharePoint. Microsoft is adding functionality to PowerApps at a swift pace, releasing updates all the time. One update that was released during the conference was the ability to edit SharePoint forms using PowerApps; edit an item in SharePoint, up pops the PowerApp.

It also brings with it additional functionality like the ability to select multiple options from a choice, lookup or people dropdown and being able to see and read attachments from a PowerApp – although you can’t add or remove attachments yet, it’s likely that this functionality will follow. These updates ease a number of pain points for customers, and show Microsoft is listening to customer feedback.

Our SharePoint Implementation Consultant Phil Coulson noted that a key message from this conference was that SharePoint no longer stands alone, but is rather part of a larger family – and central to that family. Through this it’s able to fulfil its original purposes – primarily document management, workflow and collaboration – better than ever, with the support of these new applications built upon it. These apps allow for greater customisation to really meet specific customer needs.

What next?

These conferences allow our team to gain inside knowledge of the products and services that we support and provide to you, our customers. They allow us to stay ahead of the game and give you exclusive insight and updates; not to mention they keep our skills up-to-date and our consultants and developers on their toes! This blog only scratches the surface of what was covered at #ESPC17, and we haven’t even had time to look at the more cutting-edge innovations like machine learning and Bot Frameworks, but we can explore that fully in a further blog.

Keep your eyes peeled for TSG offering some of the solutions we’ve mentioned in this blog – and as always, anything from a simple process you need to automate, to a full ‘digital transformation’ -style rewiring of your entire business process, give us a call!