By Debbie Ireland

There have a been a number of posts, which I reference at the end, that explain many of the changes announced at the Future of SharePoint event last week. I want to touch on the “WIIFM” (What’s In It For Me) angle, how it impacts users and what plans we should be making for training and change management. Note: I am talking only about Office 365 and SharePoint Online (not 2016 on premise).

Some of the key changes coming are:

Change name from Sites to SharePoint

Changing the naming of Sites to SharePoint on the app launcher is, to me, an obvious and good move. We have had to explain endlessly that the Sites tab, is in fact just like a “favourites” tab; a way of easily finding the SharePoint sites you have followed or bookmarked. I think this change makes life a little easier in the Office 365 world, as people have struggled to see HOW SharePoint fits in, when in fact it was there all the time! The change will however STILL need to be communicated.

Mobile App

This has been much-needed and will be a welcome addition to most companies – the big thing will be ensuring the users understand how to find what they need – helping people to align their understanding of the desktop and the mobile versions.


The change is mainly a visual one with views, again focusing on consistent navigation. This includes removing the ribbon and top navigation but keeps key commands visible.  Group By and other view settings are also very easy for end users to make use of. This is something to look out for in training, as we provide MORE options for the average user, which perhaps were more hidden previously.

Microsoft Flow

Microsoft Flow uses the out-of-the-box workflows as well as integrating other data sources, and brings building workflows to the hands of the users! Looks super cool, but I am yet to be convinced 🙂  There is a lot to consider here given the number of factors and variations, meaning users would need to be well-trained in what to expect, and how it works.

Modern Pages / New Team Site

This all appears to be focusing on a better and simpler user experience, as well as an easier one.

New team site


Instead of the ribbon, all the usual editing, formatting, and inserting tools are available right on the page. Documents can be embedded directly on page and web parts are easier to edit with the settings all accessible and changeable on the page. AND – it automatically looks great in the SharePoint Mobile app!




The New Look Document Library

This is a classic example of the rapid change we can expect within Office 365… big improvements, but some BIG changes that will stun most users. There needs to be some careful thought put in, as to how to roll this out.

  • We lose the top navigation, so the quick launch will need to be carefully planned (as does branding).
  • The ribbon disappears! This simply means training users to use the other ways of getting to key actions. It introduces different (albeit easier) ways of creating and using views and seeing document information.
  • The thumbnail view is a more visual way to view documents, which can also be pinned to the top of the page.
  • Other things like adding a link within the library or columns directly on the page, can be done with current versions; but it has now been simplified. Adding metadata has improved; however, Quick Edit has disappeared! Ahh… how do we update metadata in bulk?
  • Being able to move docs from OneDrive, or between libraries, solves lots of issues and is another awesome improvement.

Note: at the library settings level, you can choose to use the New Experience or Default to other options – good to know when rolling it out.


Using SharePoint has always meant a change in the way we work. I always stress to clients when implementing SharePoint that it is important not to think of replicating existing processes (e.g. a file share) – SharePoint is INTENDED to be different! And our users need to realise and embrace this.

I guess Facebook changes daily, and we all seem to adapt to that – the world is changing in this regard, and the structured controlled way of SHARING and ADAPTING to changes has completely changed… we are more open (in regard to sharing) and more versatile (in regard to change). The constant and very frequent changes appearing in Office 365 mean that WE also need to adapt, and fast. This doesn’t preclude the need for communication and training. It does however, require a change in the approach.

Specific Things You Can Do

1.     First Release

Be part of this program – you can opt in under Service Settings > Updates in the Admin Portal and choose whether the entire organisation, or only a select group, get to see the updates.

Give the new features a try and be sure to take note of the first impressions. What confuses you as a user and the differences it highlights make good tips for newbies later! Try the changes out on a few key users, to see their reactions and help to develop any rollout material.

2.     Stay Informed

Keep an eye on the Message Center for updates, especially those to “stay informed” and “plan for change” – these are also available on the mobile admin app and have good information with links to relevant information.

Message center




I also like to read the viewpoints of others, and following some good bloggers enables me to do that. A list of resources at the end of this post may help with that. Also, joining Yammer Groups (ours is or the main Office 365 one – can help you keep up-to-date with different perspectives.

3.     Provide Guidance and Training Around “When to Use What”

While some of this is being addressed by the changes in technology (e.g. a group is created when a team site is created and vice versa), the questions will still be asked and the PEOPLE side of process and change is the most important.  The videos and announcements still leave a LOT of open questions regarding the use of some of the tools.

  • Task List or Planner?
  • Yammer or Group Conversation or a Discussion List?
  • Group Calendar or Team Site Calendar?
  • Group Files in OneDrive or Team Site library with Metadata?
  • Discover from OneDrive or Delve?
  • OneDrive or SharePoint Site?
Replacing the Ribbon
  • Use of the ellipses, in many places
  • Right-click with the new menu structure
  • The information (i) icon and new previews available.

4.     Think of new ways to communicate and train people in the changes

With rapid change, people require a robust and easy way to stay informed with what is important in their role. They need to understand what is coming (and when) and know where to go to get help. A few ideas when planning:

  • A dedicated Discussion Forum, Yammer Group or Community Site for Help / Tips and Tricks – that includes changes. People can contribute, ask questions and share knowledge… and it is all searchable!
  • How-to guides for those who need the detail
  • Communicate through all-team meetings
  • Drop-in sessions, both online and in person
  • Training sessions on specific areas for key staff and power users, so they can help others
  • Train up Help Desk staff first, so they are aware and informed.


Thank you. I can be reached on
Our next event is the Digital Workplace Conference in Auckland – August 9-10! See you there!


Blogs from a few of my favourite SharePoint Colleagues:

Marc Anderson –
Waldeck –
Wictor –
Andrew Connell –
Doug Ware –
Mikael Svenson –
Paul Schaeflein –
Chris O’Brien –
Rebecca Jackson –
Benjamin Niaulin –
Christian Buckley –
Michael Sampson –


From the Office Blog:

I think the best video to see some of these above changes is this one –

The SharePoint Framework—an open and connected platform

Open and Connected Platform: The SharePoint Framework (video)

SharePoint: the Future Starts Now – video

Satya Nadella welcomes the future of SharePoint (video)

The Future of SharePoint

SharePoint Server 2016—your foundation for the future

Foundation for the Future: SharePoint Server 2016 (video)

Accelerating Innovation with Hybrid: SharePoint Server 2016 and Office 365 (video)

Effortless File Sharing on Any Device: OneDrive for Business and SharePoint (video)

SharePoint—the mobile and intelligent intranet

The Mobile and Intelligent Intranet: SharePoint sites and PowerApps (video)

Your Intranet in Your Pocket: The SharePoint mobile app

Security, Privacy and Compliance for SharePoint and OneDrive for Business (video)

Debbie Ireland

Debbie IrelandDebbie is the Managing Director of ShareThePoint Ltd, a New Zealand company which specialises in SharePoint training and consulting. Debbie also organises the Digital Workplace (formerly SharePoint) Conferences in New Zealand, Australia, Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. She has been an MVP since 2009. Debbie’s focus is in helping people understand the business capability and productivity gains that SharePoint can provide.

Twitter: @debbieireland