Welcome to the intelligent intranet: Key announcements from SharePoint Conference 2019

Microsoft announces new intranet capabilities for SharePoint and Office 365.

sharepoint conference north america 2018
SharePoint Conference North America

Over the past two years, Microsoft has continued to make Office 365 and SharePoint the premier platform for intranet and collaboration solutions. This week, at the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, the SharePoint team brought the intelligent intranet to life with significant enhancements to an already awesome platform.

SharePoint Home Sites

Shortly after Ignite in 2018, Microsoft created an online “look book” showing off the new and upcoming capabilities for SharePoint Online. The look book is a beautifully designed collection of examples that showcase the “art of the possible.” You can now effectively provision the look book examples in your own tenant using the SharePoint Online Provisioning Service. But imagine if your new SharePoint deployment started with a pre-built, beautiful intranet portal that you could adapt as you need to align with your organization’s intranet outcome goals? Imagine no more: introducing SharePoint Home Sites!

SharePoint Home Sites are pre-built portals that are basically a communication site with superpowers. The Home Site has some new web parts (that are also available to any communication site) and is automatically designated as an organizational news site that hosts official organizational news.

There are basically five superpowers of the Home Site. The first three are available to any communication site. The last two are exclusive to the Home Site. Initially, organizations will only be able to have one Home Site. In the “Ask Me Anything” session at the end of the conference, DC Padur confirmed that eventually, organizations will be able to designate more than one Home Site — for example, to represent a different corporate entity or geography. The Home Site has the following superpowers:

  1. Great design
  2. Designated as an organizational news site by default
  3. Includes search scoped to the entire tenant
  4. Integrated with the SharePoint Start page (the My SharePoint link in the sample image)
  5. Special "affordances" (Initially, this was demonstrated as the link via the Home icon in the mobile app but additional special “affordances” are planned.)

SharePoint Home Sites are configured with a new right-side vertical column (also available on any communication site). On the home site, the vertical column is used to host a personalized area. To be valuable to each member of the organization, an intelligent intranet needs to be “all about me” and the “me” web parts in the “me” column make this happen — all without custom code! I would love to see a web part in the Home Site that pulls in all my tasks and actions from within SharePoint and on the other systems I use for my work. I’m crossing my fingers that this is in the works — and I know I’m not the only one hoping for some actionable, personalized activities on my “all about me” intelligent intranet Home Site.

sharepoint home site image courtesy of microsoft Microsoft

SharePoint home sites provide a dynamic, personalized portal. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Soon, new Office 365 tenants will be provisioned automatically with a SharePoint Home Site. Admins for existing tenants will be able to provision a Home Site using PowerShell (and eventually, using the Admin Center).

SharePoint Home Sites also have native integration with an upgraded page in SharePoint: the new SharePoint Start Page. From the home site, the link is called My SharePoint by default — but you can re-name or remove the label as part of your configuration of the site.

SharePoint Start Page

The new SharePoint Start Page has received a face lift from the product team. (If you are a little confused by the naming, the new SharePoint Start Page isn’t really new — it’s what we used to call Share Point home and what you see when you click SharePoint in the suite bar.) The SharePoint Start page has it’s own great features — and they are all about you! On the SharePoint Start page, you will find:

  • Where you want to go — personalized navigation
  • What you might want to know — personally relevant news, sites, and file recommendations
  • Promoted content from your organization — featured links
  • What you want to get back to — My Documents
  • What you wanted to come back to — Saved for later
sharepoint start image courtesy of microsoft Microsoft

The SharePoint Start Page presents a highly personalized view of everything going on in SharePoint for each individual user. (Click image to enlarge it.)

I’ve long said that the best thing about what is now called the SharePoint Start page is that it relieves some of the burden of the information architect to get the overall navigation perfect for every user. No matter what is included in hub or site navigation, the SharePoint Start page has got your back — it’s a way that you can find what you’ve been working on or visited lately even if you can’t remember it yourself or can't find a link in the navigation!

SharePoint Pages on Steroids

I’ve spent the last week tweeting about my favorite new additions to SharePoint !pages, including these great new capabilities that you will soon find in a SharePoint page near you:

  • The ability to copy and duplicate a web part on a page.
  • Undo and redo for web parts
  • Automatic URL-addressable anchor links for H1, H2, and H3 headers on your page. (I am doing the happy dance for this right now! Even though I’m not a huge fan of long pages, when you need to have a long page, you really need anchor links — and now we’ll have them!)
  • A tiles layout for news to create a dynamic “hero-like” experience
  • Automatically generated recommendations on news pages (based on the graph, what you’ve clicked on, what your colleagues have clicked on) that you can turn off with a toggle switch like comments
  • The ability to drag one or more images on to a page and have them land in image web parts and in the Site Assets library automagically
  • Organization-wide document and page templates
  • New web parts including the Call To Action button, Weather, Time, Banner, and more!
  • And this massively long-awaited feature for my favorite web part: the ability to configure KQL queries in the Highlighted Content web part so that you can filter content with complex combinations that include both AND and OR!!

But wait, there’s more …

There is a lot to love about the intelligent intranet capabilities of SharePoint today — and it will only get better over time. Microsoft has summarized all of the great SharePoint, OneDrive, and Yammer announcements in a series of blog posts. I’ve listed links to all the blog posts below. Another favorite announcement for me: we can now have 2,000 hubs in a tenant!! Be sure to review them all to see what is arriving soon and on the near-term horizon.

I’ve compiled all the road map slides from the various Microsoft presentations at SPC 19 into one handy PowerPoint deck — so be sure to review my Summary of Roadmap Slides from SharePoint Conference 2019 to see not only what was announced, but information about timing and what is "top of mind."

The intelligent intranet is here — and Office 365 is the place to build one for your organization!

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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