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How SharePoint paved the way for successful Office 365 services

SharePoint has developed many valuable enhancements through the years. However, several of those features have exceled as stand-alone products within Office 365 services.

Known for its content management and collaboration capabilities in the enterprise, SharePoint has enjoyed many...

years of success within organizations as the go to intranet.

Over the years, Microsoft invested in several new features and enhancements for SharePoint, and all were exciting and valuable to organizations.

After Office 365 began offering SharePoint online services, many of SharePoint's enhancements became stand-alone, popular Office 365 services that seamlessly connected and integrated back to SharePoint. Here are the enhancements that migrated to Office 365 services successfully.

Power BI: Several years back, enterprise users welcomed the release of PerformancePoint in SharePoint. Users could view several different charts and visualizations of data simply by browsing the SharePoint platform. It offered companies one centralized intranet site that could deliver relevant reporting to departments such as sales, accounting and operations.

But it wasn't too long after that Microsoft introduced a few new BI capabilities to SharePoint called Power BI, Power View and PowerPivot. These new dashboards began to gain momentum and, over time, more users adopted them. Unfortunately, the feature didn't last long.

With the constant demand for mobile-friendly BI tools, Microsoft simply responded by removing the new BI features in SharePoint, turning them into a stand-alone service within Office 365 services with full mobile support. This stand-alone service was called Microsoft Power BI. The service became popular in 2016, and was later marked as Microsoft's top data visualization product.

PowerApps: InfoPath was known for its ability to allow companies to develop custom forms to collect data and automate some of the business processes. The product was a popular and crucial piece of SharePoint, so when the announcement was made that the application would no longer receive any new development, SharePoint administrators were puzzled as to why Microsoft would discontinue such an important tool for customers.

In late 2016, following the announcement of PowerApps and Microsoft Flow, the two combined tools, with their ability to support mobile devices, looked to be the obvious successors to InfoPath. A number of InfoPath lovers quickly realized that this was ultimately good news for them.

Office Groups and Microsoft Teams: SharePoint offered a great central place for teams to store their meeting agendas, documents and project tasks. Project managers could set up sites based on workspace or project templates, and could quickly start collaboration on a project.

Unfortunately, with the availability of Microsoft Office Groups and Microsoft Teams within Office 365 services, this leaves very little room for SharePoint to be the go to place for project managers. The demand for collaboration tools that incorporate email, calendar, audio and video communication led to the introduction of these new services, and left SharePoint workspaces obsolete.

Delve: Document libraries have been one of the core features of SharePoint for a long time. The libraries help to store, manage and protect documents for companies. Toward the end of 2016, these libraries received a face-lift, allowing users to enjoy a new user interface. But one capability that has become increasingly important is how to recommend specific content to users based on its relevance and the user's interactions.

Delve is the new tool that integrates with SharePoint and OneDrive to help discover the content, such as documents, that is the most relevant to the user.

Microsoft Flow: Users have always associated business automation with workflows in SharePoint, but with the popularity of software as a service (SaaS) products, SharePoint workflows were no longer enough on their own. It was not too long after the announcement of PowerApps that Flow was mentioned.

This new workflow engine combines the traditional automations available in the SharePoint workflow engine, a set of new connectors to SaaS applications and Office 365 services. Microsoft Flow offers a web-based tool to design and deploy the flows that users create. Automation is one example.

This product quickly gained traction. With its integration with SharePoint and PowerApps, it will continue to gain popularity, and could even potentially replace SharePoint workflows all together.

Microsoft Stream: The need for video support in SharePoint was previously handled by simply linking to external video services using web parts. This caused several issues for SharePoint administrators, as the videos were not always stored in secure and compliant platforms, requiring the admins to manage the videos using a different platform altogether.

Microsoft seems to have solved those challenges by introducing a new video hosting service called Microsoft Stream, offering native support for integrated videos within SharePoint pages. This has helped those users who were looking to leverage SharePoint as a video repository for training purposes.

Over the years, SharePoint has continued to receive new enhancements, sometimes losing those enhancements to Office 365 services integration. But, despite all those ups and downs, the platform remains a key collaboration tool for the enterprise, and a critical content management solution. Many of the new services that have been introduced to Office 365 integrate at some capacity with SharePoint, ensuring that end users can be confident that Office 365 services will continue to help deliver content and business automation.

Next Steps

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This was last published in March 2017

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