Highlights from the Digital Workplace Conference

Posted on 3 September 2015

We were impressed and excited by the latest in intranets, team collaboration, business processes and document management showcased at the Digital WorkPlace Conference (DWC) earlier this week in Auckland. Formerly called the New Zealand SharePoint Conference, DWC now encompasses the full range of Microsoft’s productivity and collaboration centred cloud services, including Office 365 and Power BI.

Some key takeaways:

SharePoint is still a major part of the digital workplace. Many organisations are using SharePoint-based extranets to collaborate with partners, suppliers and customers. External access requirements are a key factor in deciding whether to use Office 365 SharePoint sites or expose on-premises SharePoint externally.

Other SharePoint-related sessions covered ROI measurements, improving productivity and collaboration, information architecture and Search. Unfortunately, we will have to wait a little longer for news on SharePoint 2016.

Teamwork is pivotal to successful solutions. Customer-voice sessions – where customers and vendors show what they’ve implemented together and explain business drivers, how it was to work together, and key learnings (good and bad) – are always a valuable part of the conference. Consistently this year’s presenters noted that the key to avoiding death (to the solution) by committee is having an active product owner from the business who is empowered to make decisions. The engaged product owner needs to be backed by a project manager, and subject matter and technical expertise.

Forms and Workflow is a hot topic.  Last year Microsoft announced the end of InfoPath development. While SharePoint 2016 and Office 365 will continue to support InfoPath for sometime yet, it should be noted that alternative form and workflow technologies such as K2 and Nintex offer a richer more robust and easier to implement solutions.

Business intelligence is now accessible to the masses. Microsoft’s business intelligence (BI) tools have traditionally been built around SharePoint and Excel, unless you use SQL Server Reporting Services. In late July, Microsoft released Power BI and decoupled it from Excel and SharePoint. Power BI reduces costs substantially whilst adding prebuilt content connection packs for a wide range of cloud services. This puts business intelligence data in the reach of a far greater audience. Expect to see and hear much more about Power BI over the coming months as Microsoft integrates it into almost everything!

Office 2016 is here. Microsoft Office 2016 was showcased in many sessions with Excel, Outlook and OneNote shining in many areas. If you are an Excel user, check out the Forecasting functions, Get & Transform (formerly Power Query) and new chart types including box and whisker, waterfall and Treemaps. Outlook has new features including tight integration with Skype for Business and email decluttering features. OneNote is fast becoming a favourite tool for note taking and collaboration, especially on touch enabled devices.

As always at events like DWC, it was great to catch up with other vendors, experts and internal SharePoint team members. Many organisations are focusing SharePoint 2010-to-SharePoint 2013 upgrades, and the biggest trend is toward simplifying and reducing the amount of custom code in favour of out of the box features.

Large scale moves to Office 365 still appear to be on the horizon for most organisations with existing SharePoint environments, but we expect to see more organisations move to Office 365 as they see the value of the cloud as a single source of truth to facilitate partner collaboration.

Finally, we could talk all day about Windows 10, but here are the three most important things you should know:

  1. The user experience in Windows 10, built for cloud and mobile, is great.
  2. You can annotate web pages in the Edge web browser and share the annotations.
  3. Last but definitely not least, Windows 10 is a free upgrade for any Windows 7 or later PC with OEM or Volume licensing for 1 year. In the first six weeks, 75 Million PCs were upgraded, including 1.5 Million Enterprise editions.

We can’t possibly cover everything here, so please get in touch with Steve or Sutter if you would like to know more and to get a copy of our conference notes.

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