Status Update: Microsoft 365 Roadmap|
Advancements in the digital workplace have skyrocketed. While some have already been deployed earlier this year, others are still on the horizon. The sheer number of advancements, while exciting, can also be overwhelming. That is why we have put together an update on all your favorite Microsoft 365 roadmap features.
Are you looking for a video to cover all the latest Microsoft 365 Digital Workplace Roadmap updates? Watch my monthly M365 Digital Workplace Update video below to get updated on all your favorite applications.
Or if you would like to be updated on a specific solutions announced earlier this year, please click on the links below.
- Navigate Your Spaces
- Brand Your Sites
- Leverage Organization Templates
- Get the Word Out
- Amplify Your Announcements
- Showcase Your Team
- Access Personalized Content
- Organize Your Content
- Customize Your Lists
- Gain Useful Insights
- Custom Search Experiences
- Search for People and Skills
- Search More Naturally
- Optimize Search with Feedback
The foundation of your digital workplace – SharePoint Roadmap
While some may not be aware, SharePoint is behind most of what you do in your digital workplace, especially when it comes to digital communication and collaboration within Microsoft 365. The following features on the Microsoft 365 roadmap look to take SharePoint capabilities even further.
Navigate Your Spaces
At long last, a true “Global Navigation” is being introduced via the new App Bar, available in both SharePoint and Microsoft Teams.
- Not Yet Available
Brand Your Sites
New header options provide more flexibility in applying your brand to SharePoint sites. A common complaint from site designers using SharePoint Modern was the unnecessarily large header footprint.
The welcome addition of the Minimal header option gives communicators a more minimalistic option, particularly useful in scenarios where real estate is at a premium or where the focus should be on the content. In contrast, the Extended header now gives communicators the ability to put an artistic touch by adding an image of their own design, as well as justify their site title appropriately.
Leverage Organizational Templates
The new site template picker offers quick access to both built-in and organization-specific site templates. These improvements contribute towards the larger goal of making the application of site designs more accessible to end users, while also serving as a more transparent means to showcase templates your organization may be trying to promote. After all, we have known for some time that a certain level of consistency across spaces with similar needs is helpful for end users.
Get the Word Out
Many communicators have come to rely and appreciate the configurable news digest to ensure that critical announcements are not being missed. For some, however, the curation of the weekly digest is a chore that could merit from automation. In this vein, the announcement of the SharePoint Auto-News Digest promises to send an automated (and brandable) email to employees in your company about the latest news posts that they have not yet read. Using Microsoft intelligence, a selection of news posts are shared with employees through an email that comes from SharePoint.
- In Development
Amplify Your Announcements
While News articles can be manually sorted, as well as targeted to specific groups, the ability to dynamically sort news articles had so far eluded out of the box intranet implementations. For instance, to ensure a critical news post was viewed, communicators had to paint all users with the same brush and keep the article pinned to the top, even if most users had read it.
The News Boost feature promises to offer several interesting criteria by which to ‘boost’ the importance of a specific News Page, such as hiding it from users who have viewed it and allowing them to focus on other content. This feature will help ensure we can better amplify the reach of our announcements so they get the attention they deserve without the trade off of keeping our pages static unnecessarily.
Showcase Your Team
Another often requested feature from communicators was the ability to showcase a cross section of an organizational chart, using live data from Active Directory. While the People web part allowed manual population of users on a page, it did not fill this need very well. The promised SharePoint Organization Chart component allows you to specify a user whose subordinates, based on reporting structure, you wish to see.
Access Personalized Content
SharePoint and Microsoft 365 in general are moving towards solutions that personalize content to the end user. We saw some of this impulse incarnated in the SharePoint Landing page where a user’s Followed, Recent and Saved content are highlighted.
The SharePoint My Feed component will allow each user to view a personalized feed of content and activity from across Microsoft 365, based on what’s likely to be most relevant to them. The feed is personal to each user: what one user sees is different from what your colleagues will see in theirs. Your feed can show your personal documents as well as additional content from others.
Organize Your Content
The new Section Groups allow content-dense spaces to collapse their content into tabs or accordions – making these pages more user-friendly for content consumption. Microsoft have cleverly integrated this into the section management interface.
- Rolling out
Customize your Lists
While the launch of Microsoft Lists was exciting for many, it did not necessarily mean any major leaps in functionality from existing SharePoint lists. However, we are already seeing ways that lists are offering more layers for the site owner to tailor experiences to their needs.
In this vein, Microsoft recently expanded abilities beyond column and view formatting to now allow more customization of the list form itself, without needing to use PowerApps. This now permits users to customize the form’s Header, Body and Footer with custom JSON formatting. As a more accessible way to modify forms, this is a welcome addition.
The recent addition of comments to lists is a welcome one. By allowing collaboration on list items to happen outside the list metadata itself, we now have the ability to have conversations about list content, rather than within it. While comment editing and other expected features like @mentions are not yet available, this remains a step in the right direction.
Gain Useful Insights
A recent innovating to the modern SharePoint analytics was the addition of aggregated Hub analytics, particularly useful for portals architected using this model. Pushing this further, new and improved analytics will allow content creators to view page-level analytics to hone in on insights specific to their individual high priority announcements. In addition, authors will also begin receiving an automated digest once a week with recommendations for actions to boost readership.
- In Development
The solution everyone is talking about – Microsoft Teams Roadmap
Microsoft Teams has now grown to an astonishing 250 million daily active users! While 2020 was a great year for the solution, 2021 has brought polish and refinement to the core feature set.
Have Better Meetings
If the Covid pandemic has highlighted one thing, its the importance of ensuring that remote meetings are engaging and productive. The new Dynamic View gives viewers more control over how they see shared content and participants in the meeting.
Meanwhile, Custom Layouts will allow presenters to customize how content shows up during the meeting, such as transposing themselves over the content.
- Rolling Out
Breakout Rooms will allow meeting organizers to split up meeting participants into smaller groups to facilitate brainstorming sessions or workgroup discussions. Presenters can choose to hop between breakout rooms, make announcements to all breakout rooms, and/or close the breakout rooms to bring everybody back into the central meeting.
Meeting recaps help teams stay on track and keep work moving forward after a meeting for both participants and those unable to attend a meeting. The recap will automatically include the meeting recording, transcript, chat, and files shared in the meeting. The recap will also be available in the meeting event in your Outlook calendar.
Speaker attribution for live captions and transcripts will provide a better means to follow along with what is being said, as well as catch up more quickly afterward. Chat bubbles offer a way for people to participate in the discussion without having to jump in verbally.
If you have been on a call when people are starting to use the raise your hand feature, you have most likely encountered the need for you or others to politely remind someone to lower their hands. Chances are that these individuals have innocently forgotten to lower their hands, and having the ability to lower all hands is a nice way for everyone to move forward.
Poll your Participants
A smart decision from Microsoft was the move to better leverage the infrastructure and capabilities of the Forms product to enhance virtual meeting experiences. Whether you are running a large-scale training session, leading your monthly all hands, or teaching in a remote classroom, polls in Teams meetings enables meeting presenters to get real time feedback and turn attendees into active participants.
Approvals in Microsoft Teams will consolidate approvals from across Microsoft 365 to ensure everyone has a single place to view, action, or request approvals. This has long been a much needed piece to centralize and elevate the visibility of outstanding tasks and Teams is the natural place for this.
Until recently, Microsoft Teams recordings were stored in Microsoft Stream. Going forward, Teams Meeting recordings will be stored in SharePoint or OneDrive – meaning ”Stream” is now less of a storage container and more of a rich media player for use across apps. This shift made sense given the fact that it was still impossible to share Stream videos externally.
Hit the ground running on your digital workplace journey – Microsoft Viva Roadmap
Microsoft Viva is a collection of tools that are designed to help employee engagement, learning, wellbeing and information discovery by providing a shorter bridge to the ideal digital workplace.
Microsoft Viva Connections
Viva Connections will make its way to Teams (on desktop) this month. You will have the ability to change the app’s icon and match your company brand out-of-the-box. It will facilitate the consumption of your top sites in Teams and connect employees to the rest of the intranet using the same global navigation as the SharePoint app bar.
Microsoft Viva Topics – General Availability
This tool will facilitate providing the right information to the right individual in your organization, powered by AI. The app also makes it easy to divide content into the appropriate buckets and allow AI to take it from there. The artificial intelligence will organize and prioritize content accordingly over time.
Microsoft Viva Learning
Employee training and knowledge building has will be greatly facilitated and consolidated into Microsoft Viva Learning. Pull LinkedIn Learning and/or Pluralsight courses, to name a couple, into one location and provide a catered learning experience that spans across multiple learning platforms.
- Public Preview
Microsoft Viva Insights
Gain deeper insight into how effective your digital workplace is and, more importantly, its employee’s wellbeing.
New data is finding that remote work is leading to more stress and mental fatigue from video meetings, isolation and a feeling of always being “on.” An intriguing and extremely timely partnership announced by Microsoft at Ignite was that with Headspace, the popular guided meditation app.
With the added stress of working during a pandemic, personal wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance has been harder than ever to manage. The introduction of Microsoft Viva Insights, presently on the Microsoft 365 roadmap, like scheduled breaks, virtual commute, guided meditation and emotional check-ins help employees to be more aware of their emotional wellbeing and receive proactive reminders to take time to recharge and reconnect.
In parallel with these employee-focused tools, management will also have better options to track their the patterns within their team and be equipped with the data to make changes. Insights will roll into multi-faceted dashboards revealing behaviors that may be putting their team at risk.
Engaging your broader circle – Yammer Roadmap
An integral part of the overall Microsoft 365 roadmap, Yammer has proven itself a worthy counterpart to Teams and SharePoint. With a full solution refresh not long behind us with the July launch of the “new Yammer,” it was exciting to see the pace of innovation in this platform had not slowed with a slew of exciting announcements officially added to the Microsoft 365 roadmap at Ignite 2020.
Microsoft 365 live events bring live video streaming to a new level, going beyond what was previously possible with Skype Meeting Broadcast. While the ability to host live events in Microsoft Teams is possible, Teams was not always the right fit for a company “all hands” or town hall meeting for the entire corporation.
Making this same functionality available in Yammer meant that we could use this feature in the medium that makes the most sense based on our audience. In addition, producers of a live event in Yammer can moderate comments, questions, and answers posted on a live event page before getting published to everyone.
Also, there are several improvements to this feature already in development on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap.
Enhanced Communication on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap
Similar to news pages in SharePoint Online, but previously missing in Yammer, was the ability for designated communicators to post on behalf of others (such as leadership). With this in place, communicators can now get the word out on behalf of the organization.
- Rolling Out
Many communicators have appreciated the flexibility of using the News Digest option in SharePoint Online, and with the proposed priority announcements in Yammer, users can now flag important announcements that should generate an email notification. This is particularly powerful for roles working in the field and typically away from their desk.
- Rolling Out
Again, in the attempt to reach feature parity with other announcements being made for SharePoint Online – like the news boost – Yammer communicators will now have the ability to feature conversations. This new ability should improve visibility, engagement and add emphasis and longevity to news and campaigns. Featuring a conversation will also increase its prominence in the Yammer discovery feed, for people outside the community.
- Not Yet Available
Improved Insights on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap
With investments in community-level insights for Yammer, both admins and communicators can track activity and measure engagement with their content.
Not only do we see improved insights for community insights, but this also extends down to the conversation level as well as for Q+As – an excellent feature for crowdsourcing answers to questions.
Leverage your Knowledge
Yammer’s Q+A feature has proven itself a great way to leverage internal expertise and make it easier for others to find the right answer to a given question. The additional ability to upvote answers within a slick interface will allow people to upvote responses that they find useful and appropriate, effectively democratizing solutions and ideas. The top voted answers will rise to the top of the thread, not unlike the functionality in many online forums.
- In Development
The ability to leverage this feature even if a conversation was not initially generated as a question is a welcome one, allowing posts to be converted to a question after the fact.
Finally, we are seeing continued investment in Topics in parallel with work being done in Project Cortex. Not only will topics be available in Yammer, but users can also stay on top of community discussions with a list of trending topics that include a count of how many times each has been used. Users can select a topic to filter the conversations in the community to those tagged with the chosen topic.
Saving time and money across your organization – Search
Microsoft 365 is a formidable platform that many organizations rely on for their array of digital workplace solutions. Microsoft looks to facilitate the user experience with some exciting news for Search, that will solve a current workaround that is needed for an optimal Microsoft Search experience. One of the many ways Microsoft 365 saves your organization time and money.
Custom Search Experiences on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap
The new Modern Search project recently moved to a new architecture in its latest version in PnP, v4. This collection of webparts will allow you to create a more tailored search experience for specific content within SharePoint. Used in parallel with the ability to modify Search Result Page URLs via PowerShell, this can offer a powerful toolset to explore while we wait for the promised greater customization of the search experience.
Search for People and Skills
When viewing search results for people, it is now possible to configure the People Card with additional useful properties. You can add any of the following attributes to be displayed from AAD:
You can also add up to 15 additional custom attributes from AD or AAD, but for now, these properties are not searchable.
- Rolling Out
People centric search will make it more intuitive to scope and refine searches for people. This welcome change will make it easier for users unfamiliar with Microsoft Search to find their colleagues and harness their organization’s collective knowledge.
A common problem for many organizations was keeping skills and competencies up to date in a user’s profile. Microsoft is looking to tackle the challenge of finding skills and expertise by using machine learning to help proactively suggest expertise based on self-attestation and content understanding.
- Not Yet Available
Searching more Naturally
While Search has made significant leaps, it needs to become more flexible to respond to users of varying expertise. Helping people search more naturally by recognizing user-friendly search queries is a clear step in this direction. In doing so, we hope to reduce the time and effort involved in reformulating queries, applying filters, and scrolling through results – enhancing the user’s overall experience.
- “PMs I met with recently”
- “Who is Ying’s skip level?”
- “Who knows about Typography”
- “Files Kathy shared with me last week”
- “Engineering in London available now”
- What is <acronym>
- Not Yet Available
A new search vertical for conversations will consolidate results from Teams, Yammer, and Outlook conversation results in SharePoint and Office.com.
- Not Yet Available
Microsoft 365 is planning to roll out AI-enriched image search, making it much easier to locate the right image for the task at hand. Coupled with the ability to create Organizational Asset libraries for key corporate imagery, this should help with a common organizational pain point of locating existing image assets.
- In Development
Optimize Search with Feedback
While Microsoft Search has been rolling out some exciting features to its “Answers” arsenal, including Bookmarks, Locations, Acronyms, Q+A and even Floor Plans, there remained a communication gap between end users using the system and search administrators attempting to optimize. The new feedback feature in Microsoft Search will allow employees to securely provide feedback to administrators, as they use the system. This will allow administrators better real-time visibility into the quality of search results, harness suggested answers, and ultimately be much more collaborative in the lifecycle of search in the organization.
- In Development
Connecting everything with AI powered automation – SharePoint Syntex Roadmap
Businesses have been waiting for solutions like Syntex for years due to its ability to save your company countless dollars and time through automating repetitive tasks. We are thrilled at all the additions to the Microsoft 365 roadmap surrounding it. Also, we are proud to be Microsoft Content Services Partners.
Using document understanding models based on Language Understanding technology from Azure Cognitive Services, SharePoint Syntex can use models to read content and perform “entity extraction.” It applies metadata, invokes workflows, and applies compliance labels to enforce record management policies—all with no code.
Extracted metadata can be automatically applied to content in SharePoint libraries, making these files immediately more searchable, actionable and useful.
SharePoint Syntex includes a powerful form processing engine based on AI Builder that lets you automatically recognize and extract common values from semi-structured or structured documents, such as dates, figures, names, or addresses. These models are built with no code and only require a small number of documents to ”teach” the system to generate reliable results.
An exciting year for the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and Digital Workplaces
There is a lot in store for Microsoft 365 this year, and we will be releasing more content than ever before. We hope that you find value in what we have to share in the coming months.
If you are looking for someone to help you solve your current digital workplace dilemmas, our team of seasoned experts is always here to provide the assistance you need.
We promise you will love the way we work. Together.