As ILTACON 2015 came to a close, the “Latest SharePoint® Updates and Features” session assembled a panel to discuss the features for on-premise SharePoint®, Office 365TM and SharePoint® 2016. The panel endeavored to surface what’s new in SharePoint® and relevant to law firms.

In 2016, SharePoint® is renewing investment in its core: files, content management, sites and portals. These features are the reason many firms invested in SharePoint® in the first place, and Microsoft® intends to continue to make improvements in the core feature set. In addition, they will continue innovating in the integration space between cloud, on-premise and hybrid installs of SharePoint®. Another major focal point will be to strengthen the developer ecosystem for partners and extended solutions; this means more support for new applications and integrations.

Office 365

Law firms have been slow to adopt Office 365 TM, but many say they have plans to adopt at least some of the features over the next two years. Those who have adopted it already tend to use the platform for specific purposes, such as client extranets. The cost of Office 365 TM is fairly low, so why haven’t more firms adopted it? There’s been a fear of security and availability of the service, which Microsoft® is seeking to address in 2016 with the introduction of new OneDrive® security. Firms may be more attracted to Office 365 TM this year with the addition of new apps, the ease of maintenance and service, and recent security enhancements. Integrating Office 365 TM into every experience is part of the core strategy for Microsoft®, so we’re sure to see improvements as time goes on.

The Evolution of Portals

As Microsoft® looks forward to the future of portals, they have decided to focus on three core items: user experience, management and extensibility. User experience is extremely important because it impacts every part of a SharePoint® deployment, effecting adoption and usability. Microsoft® is introducing custom navigation and design options, allowing firms to better fit the solution to their needs: making the navigation more intelligent, social and mobile. Management is also critical to modern SharePoint® deployment as cycling content cannot be too cumbersome or the portal will go unused. Microsoft® is introducing a simplified administration interface for content re-use and publishing, allowing for better management of content on the portal. As for their extensibility strategy, they’ve enhanced their SharePoint® master pages and CSS, and updated SharePoint® and Office 365 TM APIs to allow for more custom application design.

The Evolution of Enterprise Search

Microsoft® has invested heavily in its enterprise search, enhancing the user experience, management and extensibility. They’ve created an enterprise search center which takes into consideration who the users are and what content they’ve been viewing to provide a better search experience. They’ve created a management interface with a search driven experience. Additional governance controls are being added to improve management usability. This saves time over a traditional menu-based experience, allowing management professionals to find and publish content more quickly than before. To improve extensibility of the enterprise search, they’re introducing office graph APIs and hybrid support.

 Overall, Microsoft® has shown their commitment to the SharePoint® platform, improving existing interfaces and making future implementations more extensible. Integration with Office 365 TM shows promise, but we have yet to see widespread adoption in the legal market. Next year should be an interesting one for SharePoint® in the legal market, and we’ll return to see what’s trending then.