SharePoint Specialist

The Future of Office 365/SharePoint Part 3: Heather Newman

We recently sat down with expert panelists Heather Newman, Andrew Connell and Nick Bratolli for a webinar we hosted about the future of SharePoint and Office 365 (You can find that webinar here).Their answers were so good we had to share them again! Here is what SharePoint specialist Heather Newman had to say about the future of SharePoint/Office 365 from an end user/adoption perspective. And check out other blog posts with Andrew and Nick’s answers.

Let’s start off with a fun question to break the ice. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

I think telepathy, probably would be mine. I kind of actually have that already so how about invisibility?

What is your angle when approaching SharePoint? What do you bring to the table?

I was around when SharePoint was called Tahoe back in 2001. And I joined the Microsoft SharePoint brigade when SharePoint was a startup, when we were building the brand and building the partner eco system. Then I had the pleasure of starting the SharePoint conference. That was my baby long ago. So I come at this from a longtime history of being a Microsoft employee, vendor and partner. I’ve been on the inside and on the outside. I’ve also worked as SVP of Global Marketing at AvePoint.
Now I’m with Content Panda which has been in the market place a couple years and is an in context, on demand, help and training app for Office 365 and SharePoint. I speak around the world about SharePoint and women in tech. I’ve been fortunate to work with some awesome women in this space and to help other women in the space look for mentors and hone careers. I’ve been lucky to be in this community for a such long time. I absolutely love it.
So back to your question, my take is to continue to put SharePoint out there to the world. It’s a powerful piece of software that’s been around for a long time and does a lot of good. We have a strong community that we need to continue to push forward with.

If you could take your mind forward 10 years, how do you imagine SharePoint/Office 365 could work? What’s the ultimate goal? What’s the future?

I feel like ten years is a long time. But then you blink and ten years has passed, right?  I think that SharePoint is a product that is going to be there but is going to shrink and become more specialized. We’re seeing collaboration features stepping out of the SharePoint container and being their own product.
I’ve been doing a planner session at all the SharePoint Saturdays talking about Planner; looking at, tasks, players, libraries, video assets, Flow and PowerApps. I think enterprises are going to continue to demand enterprise level control and power, but I feel like we’re evolving and some of the features are maybe becoming more custom. That’s what I would like to see. I feel like we’ll still have that strong enterprise play but again people have all kinds of choices these days.
I have marketing clients in technology and when I’m working with them they say they are using Dropbox or they’re using this or they’re using that; whatever is available to them. It’s sort of that Frankenstein approach but we still need that one place to get together and do collaboration. The more hooks we can give out to those kind of places, the better. It’s going to be extremely powerful and SharePoint will be able to continue and expand.

What are your recommendations on the best way to structure governance around SharePoint/Office 365 in a large, global organization. How big of a role should IT play? What role should communications play?

Governance is about having everybody from all the different departments be involved. You can’t just do it in a silo, out of IT, or without marketing or human resources. It has to come with a campaign or a plan that includes somebody from each of the different departments. That’s the place that you can absolutely start.
In terms of resources about how to structure governance, there are lots of great people out in the community that are experts at governance and put out a lot of helpful information. Lots of people have templates other people are using, like our product Content Panda. There are tons of checklists you can use too. You can follow a good checklist as a starting place. Something like that keeps you from being all over the place and will help bring governance into your organization.

With all the frustrations and the pain points, I guess the question would be why use it?

For me, the top reason is still collaboration and the ability to collaborate on documents. What I do a lot of the times with organizations is keep pulling people back to SharePoint and forcing document uploads so they’re not just using it as a file share. Although, sometimes that’s what it is relegated to even though it’s a collaboration tool for discussing this and discussing that. But the collaboration is still the most powerful piece. Then if you can add in that governance element underneath that collaboration, it makes it super powerful for the enterprise and the small and medium business too. The price point is good too for people to be able to afford SharePoint and avoid having to be in fifteen different places.

Is Microsoft serious about the other parts of Office 365,  PowerApps, Flow, etc. or will this go the way of Silverlight or InfoPath?

Flow is the new area of investment for sure. We’re seeing a lot of movement there. Also, Azure is looking to PowerApps for that new experience that I think they’ll invest more in. And then InfoPath I believe will remain supportive of the form engine for probably the next, I don’t know, 5 years from what I can tell. But there are no investments being made there and that was announced over a year ago. PowerApps is also the modern replacement for InfoPath and has ongoing investment. What’s cool about that is there’s the ability to do mobile ready apps that can be offered by the non-developer. They have the power to connect out to Azure and have the stuff you need for heavy lifting.

Is there a cheat sheet or a website where you can begin training if you are new to Office 365 and SharePoint and need some basics. Which is the best way to learn and to catch up?

The community of SharePoint and Office 365 is such a huge place. There are SharePoint Saturdays that are still going strong. That’s a great place to dip in and meet the community. There are the big SharePoint shows. There’s SPTechCon. You have all these things that are out there in the world and great people who are doing events regionally so I would definitely dip into those. I write a blog as well on the Content Panda site, which is way more end user focused and adoption focused. Then also just straight up Office blogs. If you’re not connected and reading those and getting those sent to you, that’s something you need to get on. Those are coming straight from the product team so you’re getting great things from Jeff Teper, Bill Baer and Mark Kashman. There are lots of people putting out information all the time.
Also for straight up training there are companies out there for if you want to get on demand training or computer based training. It does depend on what you’re trying to do and what your focus is. But dip in to those in person events. That’s a great place to get your feet wet for sure and start figuring out who’s doing what and where.
Heather Newman is the CMO at Content Panda and founder of Creative Maven Inc., a marketing strategy consultancy for Enterprise businesses. She speaks around the world about SharePoint and women in technology and is passionate about employee growth and improving your bottom line. Connect with her on LinkedIn or find her on Twitter and her motivational blog

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