I obviously say this because many of the innovations and announcements are well aligned to ClearPeople’s strategy and direction for Atlas and our overall intelligent workspace vision. But I also believe that many of the announcements have real positive impacts on the general end-user experience and business outcomes. At the end of the day this is what will drive adoption and engagement.
Without going into any depth, and without any particular order or priority, my 20 picks from Ignite this year are as follows:
1. Project Cortex
Project Cortex was one of the keynote announcements from Microsoft that caught a lot of attention! As Project Cortex starts coming into Office 365 as a generally available service, it is sure to impact the future of work for Knowledge Managers, and provide benefits for organisations that have valuable knowledge locked away in data (yes, that would be most organisations).
Timelines for the first wave of releases is during H1 2020, but with dependencies on a number of other capabilities being released into Office 365 during this same period (such as Modern Managed Metadata Services).
A couple of capabilities are called out below in this blog, and you can also read more about Project Cortex and the roadmap here. And feel free to check out the resource links below.
2. Automated Topics (Cards and Pages) in Project Cortex
Think of Topic Cards and Topic Pages, as the "visible end result" of a "knowledge mining" process. Manual curation may improve the content/accuracy, but in effect the Topic Cards are intended to appear when hovering over a highlighted topic and clicking through takes you to the full topic page.
The job of AI in this case is to a) mine and extract topics from content and b) to create the connections and relations (between topics, between topics and content and between people and topics).
These relations between topics, content and people are persisted in the the “Knowledge Network” (an extension to Microsoft Graph).
3. The new Content & Knowledge Centers in Project Cortex
The Content Center is the default go-to location for creating the AI models with the new AI Builder (e.g. to create the intelligent rules for forms processing) and Power Automate.
A Knowledge Center on the other hand, is the organising of Topics and Topic pages in a compartmentalised fashion, allowing knowledge to be organised and curated by the “local” experts.
4. Machine Teaching (not Machine Learning!)
Machine Teaching is a new key capabilities that should get far more headlines.
It changes the game when it comes to building AI models. The reason is that you can work off a far smaller data sets (tens of items, instead of thousands or millions), and it therefore makes it much more practical for the Knowledge Manager role.
Machine Learning on the other hand is incredibly powerful, but only when you have far larger data volumes and the capabilities to build data models and training data sets, which in turn requires data scientists and domain experts.
Powered by LUIS (Language Understanding Intelligent Services), in Microsoft’s words, Machine Learning lets “experts train the AI to recognize information in unstructured documents, such as contracts, proposals, or training materials, which might have varied content and formatting. Just as you might teach a colleague to dig through documents and tag them, now you can teach AI, creating a reusable model based on a small subset of sample documents.”
5. Teams and Private Channels
A highly anticipated feature it should have reached most, if not all, Teams users by Q1 2020.
A Private Channel offers the ability to create a secure Channel within an existing Team, locked down to specific members. A few things to keep in mind if you are new to this: Members of the Private Channel have to be members of the parent Team; A Private Channel creates a new Site Collection (in order to properly maintain separation of credentials); and once you have created a Private Channel it cannot be seen by non-members within the Team – it is completely hidden and non-members cannot even see the channel exists.
6. New file experience in Teams
Microsoft is bringing the Teams file sharing experience in line with the familiar file sharing experience already available across OneDrive, Office apps, SharePoint, Windows Explorer and Mac finder to Teams.
Within the Files tab experience in each channel, users will also soon have closer parity with the SharePoint document library experience, including the ability to change views and more.
I believe timelines for this is during H1 2020, but I am seeing slightly conflicting statements on this.
7. Task roll-up within Teams
The new Tasks experience in Teams gives a new “unified view” of your personal and assigned tasks within Teams.
The huge upside is that it consolidates your tasks across Microsoft To Do, Teams channels, Planner and Outlook.
Users will get smart views including tasks assigned to you, the priority as well as start or due date. Users can choose the view that works the best for them – list, boards, charts, schedules – to get things done.
This will become available to users during start of 2020.
8. Pop-out windows in Teams
Another highly anticipated feature, and also known as “multi-window”, provides users the option to pop out chats, meetings, calls or documents into separate windows to help you streamline their workflow. Multi-window capabilities will start rolling Q1 2020.
Be prepared for this little enhancement to make a big positive difference to end-user satisfaction (personally I cannot wait for this).
9. Email sharing from/to Teams
A couple of integrations between Outlook and Teams will make it easier to join the dots between these two applications.
Users will be able to “move” email conversations from Outlook, including attachments, into a Teams chat or channel conversation by clicking on the ‘’Share to Teams’’ in Outlook. And vice versa, users will be able to share conversations from Teams to an Outlook email by clicking on the more options (‘’…’’) icon in a conversation.
These two features will start rolling out during early 2020.
Users will also get actionable missed activity emails which make it easy to stay on top of missed conversation in Teams. The missed activity emails show the latest replies from the conversation and allow you to respond directly from within Outlook (using the Fluid development framework which is mentioned further down in this blog).
10. Yammer App in Teams
With the new Yammer app within Teams, the aim is to make Yammer communities, conversations, and live events accessible from within Teams. IT admins and end users can also pin the app on the left “navigation rail” (that’s the left hand vertical navigation icons) in Teams to have easy access to Yammer. This will start to roll out early 2020.
11. Yammer Compliance with eDiscovery
eDiscovery searches in Office 365 will now include Yammer conversations, communities, and files - unlocking new opportunities for organisations that require greater compliance controls.
The eDiscovery search will cover the full conversation and down to a per-message view. You will therefore be able to place a legal hold on all messages and files in your Yammer network.
12. Yammer Compliance with Data Governance
The “Native Mode” Yammer capabilities will now allow admins to manage the Yammer policy through Azure Active Directory and the O365 Admin Center (without entering into Yammer itself) to manage things like group membership, group privacy and data classification. In “Native Mode”, Yammer will enforce Office 365 group creation policies and all communities (what was “Yammer Groups”) are Office 365 connected with *all files* stored in SharePoint. In other words, any files that are uploaded into Yammer will automatically adhere to your existing policy and governance settings.
13. Yammer SharePoint web part
New styling and functionality is coming to the Yammer conversations web part for SharePoint. Including support for file attachments, rich text, and Q&A.
14. Yammer for multi-tenant organisations
Information is scarce on this topic but keep an eye out for capabilities around Yammer networks spanning multiple Office 365 tenants. This could potentially provide a lot of business benefit for organisations frustrated about the lack of general multi-tenant support.
15. Microsoft Search / “Universal Search” vision
Microsoft’s (re)launched their vision of one cohesive and universal search experience.
One search across all workloads, apps and services, with one capability. This is backed up by some of the new features that have recently been released or are about to be released, such as Acronym Search, Semantic Search and People Search.
Specifically a few of the features that are new/next in Search:
- Intelligent Profile cards and suggestions (e.g. suggesting Topics) to improve your profile
- Semantic search and contextualising to content
- Spelling suggestions
- Search scoping controls in SharePoint
- Support for classic Sites in SharePoint
- Location floor and building maps can now be configured in Search and tied to profiles.
16. Microsoft Search API
The Microsoft Search API has been evolving fast with the new Graph API. For developers and ISVs this is a big thing. Samples are now released on GitHub. Some of the key capabilities coming during 2020 include:
- API specific:
- A new endpoint https://graph.microsoft.com/beta/search/query
- Scoped by entity
- Results are Graph entities
- Support KQL Filtering
- Areas that can be customised:
- Customise verticals for SharePoint content
- Custom refiners
- Custom result type and layouts for SP content
- Custom query suggestions in the search box via SPFx
17. Connectors for Microsoft Search
The “Connector eco-system” is one of the most important changes to Microsoft’s universal search vision. With the new Search API (see above) Microsoft have opened the door for thirdparties to much more effectively create Connectors between narrow / Line-of-Business systems and the generalised Microsoft Search experience. This is a big opportunity for the ISV market, and a great advantage for end-customers as they can focus on investing in specific connectors, rather than a full-stack enterprise search platform in addition to their Office 365 investments.
At this year’s Ignite, Microsoft announced over 100 connectors already live or soon-to-be live for Microsoft Search that will allow customer to ingest information into Microsoft Search. These include connectors for ServiceNow, Salesforce, SAP, Documentum and OpenText.
18. Modern Managed Metadata Service (MMS)
This is the first major change announced to MMS since the release of SharePoint 2010. Apart from the managed UI being modernised, and being made available via the global tenant administration, Microsoft also announced that the modern MMS will be “Office 365 wide” in scope. So, we can expect to be able to tag content straight from within Word and from within a Team.
This is a big one to keep an eye on for the “information architects” and Knowledge Managers out there. It is obviously also a major component of Project Cortex.
Timelines for initial public preview is H1 2020.
19. SharePoint (SPFx) framework (and version 1.10)
If you are a developer and reading this, you will know that SPFx is “An application framework used to build and extend modern experiences in SharePoint.”
At Ignite the following 1.10 features were announced for release.
- Extensions: Pre-allocated placeholders
- SPFx for Teams –personal apps support
- SPFx for Teams – support for mobile app
- List notification API moved to GA
Version 1.10 was released on Jan 7, 2020.
20. Fluid Framework
The Fluid Framework is a technology platform focused on collaboration scenarios to provide (near) real-time updates across apps. You might for instance get an extract from an Excel sheet within a Teams chat, or a paragraph from Word for editing within an email. Imagine being able to edit and approve a change to a paragraph while on the move without having to access the full document.
Jared Spataro, Head of Microsoft 365, in an interview with The Verge said: “Fluid is a way for us to innovate in collaboration ….”
So, while the Fluid Framework was announced a while back, the reinforcement of Fluid at Ignite and a number of recent updates to the framework and features means this is one to watch (and get stuck into if you are so inclined).
For further reading here are a few good resources: