We spoke to Microsoft MVPs to get their take on what’s new and next in the world of productivity according to Microsoft Ignite. They shared their top announcements, best sessions, common misconceptions, and helpful tricks—so you can make the most of your Microsoft 365.
Microsoft’s annual Microsoft Ignite conference is the tech giant’s flagship event for information technology professionals and developers—and the place to catch the latest and greatest announcements about the future of productivity.
This year, for the first time, Microsoft Ignite moved online. With more than 800 free online sessions running 24 hours a day from September 22nd through September 24th, it was a jam-packed few days!
Luckily, the ShareGate team caught up with a few of our friends in the Microsoft community to get their take on the biggest announcements, best sessions, and clues to what’s new and next in the world of Microsoft 365 productivity.
Table of contents
Rather watch our interviews with MVPs? Check out our video recap of quick Microsoft Ignite 2020 highlights and see what’s next for Microsoft 365.
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Microsoft Ignite announcements that will have the biggest impact in the coming year
What I found really interesting, and I was happy to hear, was the focus from Microsoft around the well-being of people.Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP (@jasoosterveld)
Jasper: Everybody started working from home basically from the beginning of the year, back in February or March. Now, we have online meetings. It’s just a whole different, new approach to the way you work, and how you can work, and how technology fits in. So, I really like the way they emphasized that part and the steps they’re taking to improve that and help people.
For example, they mentioned an integration with Headspace, which is a meditation app. I have the app. I don’t use it enough, unfortunately, so maybe this will help. And then there’s MyAnalytics, which has been around for a while. It monitors how many meetings you have and there’s an aspect of how you’re using focus time. And they’ll be integrated into Teams, since that’s basically the tool we work in every day.
That stood out to me more than the technology updates—their focus on making sure we stay healthy and focused. I really appreciated that.
In my world, I think Microsoft Lists. There’s so, so much in there. And for those typical business users—that’s usually who my audience is—it’s going to be huge. SharePoint lists have been around for 20 years, but they’ve really made them nice, and shiny, and pretty—and much more useful, with things like the modern calendar (finally!), and just all kinds of things like that.Laura Rogers, Microsoft MVP (@WonderLaura)
Even though there’s some really great announcements on the SharePoint front, I find what’s happening in Teams is really going to impact us the most in 2020/2021. With everything related to COVID-19, we’re all kind of looking to Teams to help us out. I’m always on Teams—we’re doing webinars on Teams, we’re doing sessions on Teams—and being able to have features like OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) and breakout rooms built-in inside of Microsoft Teams I think is going to help.Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin)
I would have to say Microsoft SharePoint Syntex. It’s the first project coming out of Project Cortex, and I think it’s a big announcement for a couple of reasons. One is that it allows organizations to leverage their existing information architecture, which allows them to build workflows in and take productivity to the next level. The other thing is the security and compliance features that they’ve built right into the Syntex engine. So, the Syntex engine and the compliance engine are integrated, which is a really good story for anybody concerned about security and compliance.Joanne C Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein)
Biggest Microsoft Ignite announcement related to…
There were so many announcements to come out of this year’s Microsoft Ignite (you can find the full list in the Microsoft Ignite 2020 Book of News) that the MVPs we talked to had trouble choosing just one!
From Microsoft Teams to new regulatory features for security and compliance, the announcements this year covered such diverse topics—and spanned so many products—it didn’t seem fair to compare them all to one another.
So, we also asked them about the biggest Microsoft Ignite announcements across categories! Here are the MVP picks for top announcements related to….
The one that will have the biggest impact, I think, (aside from the “add shortcut to OneDrive” button), is home sites. With all of these COVID changes, we moved as quickly as possible to the cloud and are starting to get a little bit more comfortable. I think now, we’re looking into how to structure this work a little bit more. So, the timeliness of the integration of home sites into Teams, the timeliness of these features in terms of how to boost news inside of the company, how to manage news inside of SharePoint and through Teams as well.Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin)
Something I find interesting around Teams is the templates. They already announced it back in May or June, but now, again, they talked about it. So, there will be the ability create your own templates for your users to create teams, and I believe they will also have industry-specific templates ready. Another thing that was really good to see was the new search experience within Teams where, if you search for something, it will basically look like SharePoint’s search. It’s so much easier to use and just more user-friendly.Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP (@jasoosterveld)
Power Platform and automation
[Microsoft] has improved Power Automate. You could always get into Power Automate flows within Teams, but they’ve drastically improved the interface with the new Power Automate app for Teams. You don’t have to go that main flow console; you can just do all of your work creating flows within Teams. And they’ve tried to make that approvals experience much easier for business users, as well. Along the same lines, there’s also a rules creator, like a rules panel, in Microsoft Lists, where you can create easy automation rules in your Lists. I feel like this rule thing is going to be much more approachable.Laura Rogers, Microsoft MVP (@WonderLaura)
Security and compliance
I work a lot with records management teams, and there’s a new announcement for something called the ‘regulatory record label‘. If you’re in records retention, you’ll know that means kind of enhanced immutability of a record. Once you declare something a regulatory record, you can’t change the document or the metadata. You can’t remove the label even if you’re an administrator. It’s a really important control [that] lots of regulatory bodies look for in any kind of records management solution.Joanne C Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein)
Favorite session of Microsoft Ignite 2020
Ben: [It’s the] little changes that I find are my biggest highlights, across the board. So, the sessions on the little OneDrive button that you can go to any folder or file across your entire Microsoft 365 environment and just say, ‘Add shortcut to my OneDrive’. That will have a huge impact on how we work and how we access our files across the company.
Because I find it’s that pain point of: Where was that again? Was that in that site? If the files and folders are relevant to me, I can just bring them to my location, my OneDrive. That’s definitely going to be very helpful for a lot of people and I don’t think many realize it. So definitely the session on OneDrive where they cover that, the “What’s new & coming to OneDrive” session.
My favorite was Jeff Teper’s session called “Enabling collaboration, communication, and knowledge sharing with Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, Project Cortex, and more“. I love the way that he started off the session by saying SharePoint is the backbone of Teams and OneDrive and all these things are built on SharePoint. We should emphasize that because that’s a huge thing that so many of the newer people don’t even know. OneDrive is SharePoint. Teams is SharePoint.Laura Rogers, Microsoft MVP (@WonderLaura)
I don’t have one particular session, but I did like the ones that were focused around inclusive and efficient meetings. You saw a lot of interesting features, for example, Together mode. And I really liked the captioning. The idea of it is great because, especially in an international environment, it can be hard to follow people. So, it’s nice to have a transcription and captioning of what people are saying that you can also save and look up later.Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP (@jasoosterveld)
There were two that I really quite liked. “Build and launch a SharePoint home site: Tips and tricks from the product team“ was a really great short session if you want to get some ideas on what to do there in terms of actions. The other one is “SharePoint News: What’s new & what’s coming“, with all the different ways you can format a news item, what you can do with the news item, promote it, boost it. I didn’t even know you could do a boost—it’s a way you can send a new digest to people and it’s intelligent enough to know if they’ve read it or not.Joanne C Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein)
Biggest misconceptions about Microsoft 365 that you see with your clients
I think it’s a misconception that you have this big new thing you have to learn: Microsoft 365. It’s daunting, so I think people feel like it’ scary to have to learn this new technology.Laura Rogers, Microsoft MVP (@WonderLaura)
Laura: That’s interesting because it depends on whether the client is brand-new to all of this or they’re a SharePoint client moving to the cloud for the first time. I think, in both cases, it’s a misconception that you have this big new thing you have to learn: Microsoft 365. It’s daunting, so I think people feel like it’s scary to have to go learn this new technology.
But I think Microsoft is making it more seamless. They’re making everything easy and obvious. All the products seem like they’re making things easier to do. Even things like in Power Automate, that were some of the more complex things, they’re trying really hard to simplify them so there’s not this huge learning curve.
And so, I think their misconceptions are that it’s going to be scary, and big, and complicated. But I think that once people dive in and start using Teams, it pretty much makes sense. Just start using it and don’t get too caught up in ‘What am I supposed to be using?’ There [are] so many tools that they’ve provided. Just use whatever feels comfortable to you.
I find the biggest misconception, believe it not, is still the confusion around how it’s all structured. The one that I see having the most impact, really, is team versus site versus group. We’re still seeing a complete confusion of that structure behind the scenes and what’s what.Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin)
I think the biggest misconception is that it’s a ‘once and done’ activity, and that once you make that initial dollar investment and roll out the features, your work is done. Really, it’s just beginning, and on a couple fronts. There’s lots of rescaling in some cases. There is the huge security and compliance space that’s changing rapidly right now, probably because of the work from home thing that’s going on. And then, of course, it’s the people side, the changed management pace. I think a combination of all those things is what organizations struggle with, to varying degrees of success.Joanne C Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein)
Helpful tips and tricks from Microsoft Ignite 2020
The ‘move and keep sharing’ feature they’ve announced for OneDrive. Moving… messes with permissions. We’re trying to make that transition smoother, so it will automatically prompt you to retain those permissions.Joanne C Klein, Microsoft MVP (@JoanneCKlein)
Joanne: These are kind of all fancy, technical ones. One is the ‘move and keep sharing’ feature they’ve announced for OneDrive. When I look at the document lifecycles that many organizations try to define for their staff, lots of times people start in OneDrive, do their thing, and then they want to move it to a bigger, wider audience location, which could be a SharePoint site. Moving that, of course, messes with permissions—there’s likely a handful of people already collaborating in that document. We’re trying to make that transition smoother, so it will automatically prompt you to retain those permissions.
Another kind of neat feature I deal with is in PowerPoint, because I speak a lot. There’s an interesting feature where you can share just one slide of a PowerPoint with people to collaborate on. There could be changes going on around that slide and it doesn’t affect that one thing you’re linking and sharing to.
There’s actually a Microsoft support page called ‘When to use Microsoft Project, Planner, or To Do‘ that’s a really good resource. A lot of people in the Ask the Experts session I was in had questions around which one to use and how to assign tasks.Laura Rogers, Microsoft MVP (@WonderLaura)
At InSpark, we have something called ‘Inspiration Day’ once every quarter. And one element of that is sharing projects you worked on or maybe some new technology you dove into and want to show. Now, it’s a pain to set it up because it has multiple tracks, each with four speakers, and it’s a lot to organize. But if you use breakout rooms, you can just have one centralized meeting—that’s the Inspiration Day meeting—and then beforehand, you’re already setting up. It makes the whole process more efficient, and effective as well.Jasper Oosterveld, Microsoft MVP (@jasoosterveld)
Look more into Microsoft Lists. I do use, and always have used, SharePoint lists. Obviously, they’re SharePoint lists, although they’re dubbed Microsoft Lists. But I think there’s definitely more to look into there. I want to look at a list we have internally to manage things in the product team—ideas, research that we want to get started—and get a visual on it. Diving into Microsoft Lists would be my tip, and explore what you can do with it.Benjamin Niaulin, Microsoft MVP (@bniaulin)