The time has come and SharePoint 2016 is finally out in Beta. What do you need to know about SharePoint 2016 and how has it moved on since SharePoint 2013?
This release is the latest on-premises release since Office 365, demonstrating Microsoft’s on-going commitment to on-premises experiences. The original release time has now been pushed back to Spring 2016. There’s an apparent good reason for this as Microsoft is hoping to get as much feedback as possible from clients and vendors which they can they incorporate into the product before its final release. But while that happens, what do you need to know about SharePoint 2016 and how has it moved on since SharePoint 2013?
SharePoint 2016 vision and value
So what is SharePoint 2016 all about? The main driver for this release is to enable customers who are still not in a position to move to the Cloud to utilize some of the newest and coolest innovations which cloud technologies provide. This is all wrapped up with better user experiences and more people-centric compliance.
This is all enabled by massive enhancements to Hybrid infrastructure in SharePoint 2016 (the connection of your on-premises SharePoint sites to SharePoint Online/Office 365).
Why is it important for you? Even if you’re not on the Cloud? As an organization you don’t want to separate yourself from anything in the Cloud and this could be your first step towards it. By leveraging both on-premises and cloud systems, organizations can allow secure access to applications and data from anywhere.
The new features of SharePoint 2016:
Improved user experience with app launcher and UI updates
What is important to note about Microsoft’s recent developments with Office 365 is a growing focus on user experience. It’s such a massive topic at the moment for not only vendors, but also organizations, who are starting to realize the huge negative impact a bad user experience can have on adoption. In line with these trends, SharePoint 2016 has made a small but crucial UI change to the SharePoint ribbon. SharePoint 2016 has now updated the ribbon from SharePoint 2013 to match the Office 365 ribbon, meaning that if users are swapping between systems, there will be a consistent experience. It seems simple and it seems obvious, but it’s a growing commitment to user experience and simplicity, something SharePoint really needs.
Improved mobile touch experiences
In addition to consistent cross-screen experiences, SharePoint Server 2016 provides the latest technologies and standards for mobile push and information synchronization. With deep investment in HTML5, SharePoint Server 2016 provides IT professionals and designers with capabilities that enable device-specific targeting of content – a really interesting feature considering targeting and personalization is on everyone’s minds at the moment. This helps ensure that users have access to the information they need, regardless of the screen they choose to access it on. As a company who are huge ambassadors of great user experiences, we love to see this. The out-of-the-box mobile experiences on 2016 are still quite standard, although there is a new touch-friendly interface. But with some customization and thought into design, there’s the potential to create some really compelling mobile experiences for users in 2016.
The biggie - next generation Hybrid search
And now onto the biggest focus of SharePoint 2016, the Next Generation Hybrid Search. What is so new about it? The best advancement is that it provides a truly unified search experience across SharePoint on-premises and SharePoint Online for your end users. This is something that is crucial to ensure you get your users on board with the Hybrid implementation. In the past when a Hybrid search was setup, results from your on-premises sites (such as SharePoint 2010) and SharePoint Online would show in separated lists within one page. It wasn’t possible to have a neatly combined list of results, making knowledge management unnecessarily complex. With SharePoint 2016 Hybrid Search, you can now effectively index all of your content and therefore provide one set of results with combined search relevancy ranking. A hugely improved user experience, allowing users to focus on the document, rather than worrying about where it is stored.
In SharePoint 2016 there are also some great developments making it even easier to set up a Hybrid environment including:
- New provisioning capabilities to help IT departments
- Hosting service providers to maximize existing infrastructure investments while exploring new services
OneDrive for Business Hybrid experiences
SharePoint 2016’s Hybrid OneDrive for Business is a great feature for those who want to take baby steps to the Cloud in a considered way. OneDrive for Business is turning out to be more than just a My Site. It allows users to change how they manage documents, finally moving them off a local desktop and into the Cloud, making collaboration and sharing simple. What you can now do in SharePoint 2016 is redirect your on-premises My Sites/OneDrive host to SharePoint Online OneDrive for Business, bringing all your documents together.
Another great improvement is that this is 10 x easier for the administrator to set up, it is as easy as following a wizard. Once it’s complete, any click of a OneDrive link from an on-premises site will direct to OneDrive in the Cloud. When the redirection is complete, users may begin moving or syncing files to the Cloud for storage, right away.
Sites Hybrid experience
Following in the consistent UX trend, another new feature is the Hybrid SharePoint sites option. If you have sites both on-premises and online and users follow those sites, you want to make sure that they can find all of them in one central location.
By following the new Hybrid SharePoint sites wizard, you can configure a server-to-server connection that allows you to join features of both environments. When your users follow SharePoint sites, a link to the sites is added to their 'followed sites' list which is available to them from the top level navigation app launcher. This makes it easier than ever for users to access their essential sites, regardless of where they are hosted.
Hybrid deployment automation is much easier
In previous versions of SharePoint, it has been quite an undertaking to setup a successful Hybrid scenario. In SharePoint 2016, as Hybrid is such a massive focus for helping move people to the Cloud, Microsoft has put huge investments into simplifying and automating Hybrid installations.
The new Hybrid scenario picker is designed to help you get up and running quickly. It aims to programmatically configure all of the Hybrid prerequisites for you, including server-to-server and authentication connections. Basically ensuring that the technical implementation is no longer a blocker for your organization to utilize the Cloud.
Social experiences haven’t changed
In SharePoint 2016, not a huge amount has changed enterprise social-wise since SharePoint 2013 and Office 365. We think this is mainly because so much investment has gone into Yammer which is now at the heart of Office 365, while SharePoint Social continues to deplete. So unless you use Yammer in your solution, you won’t see many changes.
However, there are some admin changes being done around enterprise social. By using the new Hybrid sites features, you can provide users with a seamless experience when they use 2016 and Office 365 together. It enables you to:
- Redirect users to their profiles in Office 365
- Consolidate users' 'followed sites' lists in Office 365
Despite this not being one of the flashy new features of 2016, it’s important for anyone who is planning to open up their environment to the Cloud and want to ensure they can control the flow of data.
SharePoint 2016 brings some of the features of the Compliance Centre that are currently featured on Office 365, on-premises. The In-Place Policy Hold Center and the Compliance Center allow you to build your own policies and apply them against your environment. As an example, new basic policies allow you to delete data in OneDrive for Business sites after a certain amount of years for example, similarly to the retention policies.