Tech Thursdays: Say Hello to Modern SharePoint Sites

There was a time a couple of years back when the future of SharePoint seemed uncertain. With an increasing number of collaboration tools in Office 365, some people were unsure about the role SharePoint would play in the future of the digital workplace. Since its launch in 2001, SharePoint had evolved into to a powerful document management and collaboration tool, but it was in need of modernisation to keep up with the user experience people had come to expect from websites and mobile applications.

There’s now no doubt that SharePoint is here to stay and will play a key role in the modern workplace. From 2017, Microsoft has been introducing Modern SharePoint sites that are reinvigorating the end user experience of using the platform. Modern sites are mobile out of the box, removing the headache of developing responsive pages, and it features a more flexible architecture that can keep up with the changing requirements of a modern business.

This post discusses some of the key improvements that modern sites bring, and how you can benefit from going modern.

Daniel Fowle

Daniel Fowle

Principal Consultant

Classic and Modern: What are the differences?

Firstly, Modern SharePoint sites are easier to manage and configure.

Easier to set up

A common complaint about classic SharePoint was that it required a lot of time, money and expertise to assemble the building blocks of SharePoint into a site that addressed a customer’s requirements. The flexibility of SharePoint can be a big benefit, as the only real limits to what can be achieved are an organisation’s appetite and budget; however, it can often mean that relatively simple requirements require a lot of time and expertise to achieve.

Modern sites are much easier to set up, and it no longer requires a large amount of technical skill to configure sites that are fit for purpose. Microsoft has also created new web parts for modern pages which are more intuitive to use and help you get started more quickly.

Closer integration with Office 365 tools

Modern sites also make it much easier to integrate with the other great tools available within Office 365, without custom coding, or lengthy workarounds. There are web parts available out of the box for Yammer, Forms, PowerApps (rolling out now), Planner and Power BI.

Flexible architecture

Unlike classic SharePoint, Modern SharePoint is based on a flexible architecture where communication and team sites are connected to a ‘Hub’ site. With this concept, users can move a site from one hub site to another, and it will inherit the look, navigation and search of the new hub site. The best bit is this that site URL doesn’t change, so your users’ links and favourites won’t break following the move.

Enhanced security features

Modern SharePoint sites also offer enhanced features for compliance and security, for example offering site classification to tell users when they are accessing a site that contains sensitive information.

With site designs in SharePoint online we can still give users (or a selection of users) the ability to provision their own sites and at the same time apply custom lists, libraries, content types and most importantly security settings based on a predefined setup.

Ability to create team sites without Office 365 Groups

Recently, Microsoft announced that it would allow users to create modern team sites that aren’t connected to an Office 365 Group or a communication site. This will be of huge benefit to organisations who want to allow their users to create modern team sites, but don’t want to give permissions to create Office 365 Groups.

Modern SharePoint sites deliver a better user experience

Responsive out of the box

Modern SharePoint sites are responsive out-of-the-box, meaning it no longer requires additional work to configure your sites to work on a mobile device. Whether your users are accessing SharePoint via their mobile app or their browser, their pages will render automatically and stack content neatly – avoiding the frustration of having to zoom and scroll sideways to access content.

More intuitive

Using lists and libraries has also become more intuitive, as modern sites have improved the filtering and formatting capabilities. The number of icons in the ribbon has been reduced to only show the actions a user might like to do, depending on the context of the page.

Easier to create engaging content

It’s also much easier to quickly create engaging pages to share content with your users. Communication sites are great for publishing content on an intranet, as you can share news, documents and upcoming events in an attractive way without any customisation or advanced configuration. Appearances matter to users, and the fresh look of Communication sites will help you win over those users who ask for SharePoint ‘not to look like SharePoint’.

Modern SharePoint sites help you connect your Office 365 world

Connected to Office 365 tools

Modern SharePoint sites are attached to Office 365 groups, so in addition to your lists and libraries, your site will have its own Exchange calendar, shared mailbox, OneNote notebook etc. This gives your users the option of which tools they would like to work in and removes the confusion of having a separate SharePoint calendar.

Microsoft is investing heavily in Microsoft Teams, giving users the option to access tools like Skype for Business and surface applications like Dynamics 365 from within this single application. This is great for users, as it gives them options about how they would like to work, and enhances productivity by bringing together insight from multiple applications under Microsoft’s ‘single pane of glass’. The same is true of SharePoint: all Microsoft Teams create a SharePoint Team site, and users can add the SharePoint site to a channel in their Team to access it easily.

Powering automation with SharePoint

Workflow and automation are also becoming more powerful thanks to Microsoft Flow and PowerApps. As well as automating processes within SharePoint, Flow allows you to extend the reach of your workflows outside of SharePoint, and even outside of Office 365. Flow comes with over 100 supported connectors to external tools out of the box, meaning your SharePoint lists now have the ability to power processes across your whole organisation.

What does this mean for me?

Classic SharePoint isn’t going anywhere soon, but Microsoft have made it clear that the future is Modern. For existing SharePoint users with an Office 365 subscription, you can start to take advantage of modern sites now: when creating a new site, you will have the option choose to create a modern Communication site or Team site.

For more information about SharePoint, get in touch with us at info@pythagoras.co.uk.

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