What can we expect from SharePoint 2016?

Mobile Man / Thursday, April 9, 2015

It has been 3 years since the last release of the On-Premises version of SharePoint; Microsoft released SharePoint 2013 in February of that year. Since then a lot of things have changed, especially around Office 365. Microsoft hinted a couple of times, especially via their conferences, that the next version might be the last version released On-Premises. Microsoft has recently been putting the focus on their cloud product Office 365, and this message has caused a lot of confusion and rumours. People are worried that Microsoft has forgotten about large enterprises that cannot migrate entirely to the cloud just yet. So, apart from some hints regarding the next version, which was expected to be called SharePoint 2016, no official information was released by Microsoft until February 2015.

Julia White, general manager for the Office Product Management team, published a blog post about the future of SharePoint. She also officially announced the next version of the platform: SharePoint 2016. The message is that Microsoft is focusing on the cloud, but has not forgotten about their enterprise customers who still require On-Premises software. The keyword here is hybrid.

The best of two worlds: Hybrid

Julia White’s official blog post is somewhat quiet about the new features in SharePoint 2016. It does not become clear whether features available in Office 365 like Delve  and Power BI, will become available On-Premises too. However, she does focus on the new hybrid features; it will allow the best of both SharePoint On-Premises features as well as Office 365 in the Cloud.

“With SharePoint Server 2016, in addition to delivering rich On-Premises capabilities, we’re focused on robust hybrid enablement in order to bring more of the Office 365 experiences to our On-Premises customers.” - Julia White

New features are added in Office 365 all the time, while only some of the features become available in SharePoint On-Premises. For example, the Yammer integration introduced in Office 365 in 2013 was implemented about six months later in SharePoint On-Prem.

A hybrid solution will solve this issue. By using Office 365 for functionality only available in the Cloud, it will combine with SharePoint On-Premises for features that cannot be implemented in Office 365. Offering the very best of two worlds. By providing a seamless integration, the end user should not feel the difference between On-Premises and Office 365.

What’s new in SharePoint 2016?

Besides new features to create a hybrid solution, not much news has been released about the actual features in SharePoint 2016. Even when the hybrid features allow for a seamless integration, not everybody is interested in using Office 365 next to their SharePoint On-Premises installation. So, what new features will be added to SharePoint 2016?

The only new feature that is almost certain to be in SharePoint 2016 is the new Hybrid Search. This will be discussed further at Microsoft’s upcoming Ignite conference in May, so make sure you watch this session. Besides that, there is no official “What’s new in SharePoint 2016”, but we can make some guesses. Looking at the implementation of Windows 10, Microsoft has shown that it’s listening very carefully to their customers. If we then have a look at the most requested features of SharePoint 2016 at User Voice, we have extracted a new features top 5 (in random order):

  • Responsive Design: SharePoint has never performed really well when it comes to mobile views. Things have improved in SharePoint 2013, but it still lacks a responsive design out-of-the-box.
  • Deny permissions: The permission system in SharePoint is very powerful, but lacks one big feature: Deny permissions. For example, if you want to allow “All authenticated users” except a certain Active Directory group or user, you’ll have to add everyone separately. It’s not possible to deny permissions to a group or user.
  • Replacement for InfoPath: Microsoft announced a while ago that it is about to deprecate InfoPath. InfoPath offers a powerful solution to create custom forms, so what’s next after InfoPath?
  • Cross site collection navigation: Most SharePoint portal has multiple site collections, for sizing or authorization reasons (for example). However, the top and left navigation between site collections is cumbersome. SharePoint 2013 introduced managed navigation, but still didn’t solve all the issues.
  • Improved Yammer Integration: Integration with Yammer in SharePoint 2013 is working, but lacks some important features. Sharing of tags or users between SharePoint 2016 and Yammer would be very useful.

Microsoft is showcasing an early version of SharePoint 2016 at the Ignite conference. Bill Baer, Senior Product Manager for SharePoint, has published the top three sessions to learn more about SharePoint 2016. Every session discusses these new hybrid features, the last one focusing particularly on Hybrid Search.

We are so excited!

After a time of speculation and rumours, we are happy that we now officially know that SharePoint 2016 is coming later this year. It’s only 40 days until Ignite, where we will finally be able to see the new version. Here at Infragistics we are very interested in the new hybrid features, since the Cloud seems to be where SharePoint is heading. A hybrid SharePoint solution with all the new features in the Cloud, combined with a solid On-Premises solution, gives us the best of both worlds.

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