However your weekend went, it's probably not as bad as folk's who leaked the "announcement" about Skype becoming part of Microsoft Teams ahead of a big show in just few weeks. But, is that news surprising? Hardly, if you take a closer look at how Teams evolved, which in one way or another, relates to Slack. So, what else is cooking?
First, Microsoft Teams
Since the day Teams were introduced, the app was widely recognized as Microsoft's answer to Slack, which slowly but surely, over years, started to dominate the collaboration market.
One of the key features of Slack, apart from it's intuitive and natural chat workspace, is the ability to make phone calls to anyone you're chatting with. As Microsoft added this feature to Teams, it started not only to duplicate Skype but also make Skype appear as a redundant and out-of-date application (not even an app in a modern sense). Chat conversations in Teams are persisted and you can always go back to them or anything else that was shared during the chat.
Skype on the other hand, largely stayed the same, despite going through numerous name changes.
So here we are. We're expecting to hear a lot more from Microsoft in coming week(s) to clarify their messaging and announce more complete transition roadmap.
What we believe is going to happen, is that Skype to remain (re-branded or not) as-is for on-prem customers. This will eliminate any complex change management for large customers. It will also, and yet again, position Office 365 as more obvious vNext for many customers currently still on-prem.
Delve, SharePoint Newsfeed and Yammer
Next item we see for potential amalgamation/deprecation is SharePoint Newsfeed. Here's why?
- There were some updates to SharePoint Newsfeed but features seems to largely overlap with Delve.
- Delve is integrated with Yammer even tighter as you can see in the image here where you can comment in Yammer right from Delve home.
- Yammer is now a full citizen of SharePoint Online with way more features than Newsfeed.
- Delve API has been recently redesigned to allow for more holistic integration.
- Microsoft is dedicating a lot of content this year about Yammer at Ignite (over 50 sessions) and much of it showcasing the value of Yammer. This can't be said about other native social features in SharePoint.
The biggest issue of course, and the most obvious one, is on-prem deployments. We suspect that Newsfeed will be left to fizzle out with minimal maintenance. With that we recommend our customers to keep integration and customization with SP Newsfeed limited or none.
Microsoft Forms and PowerApps
This is still an early proposition but we believe that these two may merge within the next 2 years. Why 2 years? Microsoft Forms has been launched a year ago and more widely launched just few months ago. From the feature comparison, the functionality is very similar to Google Forms.
One of the biggest advantages is that the Forms app is web based and this is more attractive to many users. The problem is that things you can do with the resulting forms are still incredibly basic. There is no real comparison between forms and PowerApps. Here are some pro's and con's to illustrate the point.
Microsoft Forms - pros
- Web based form authoring and filling
- Final forms are very close to how they looked in InfoPath so naturally more atractive to existing users, functionality notwithstanding
- Will work for mobile and desktop scenarios
- Some Flow integration available
PowerApps - pros
- Supports mobile native device features
- Advanced Flow and API integration available
- More controls to build more complex forms
- Offline support to save data entered while device is not connected to the internet
With that we believe that Microsoft will wait around for another year before making any decisions. Of course, both products could stay separate to fill their own particular market niche, which brings us to the next point ...
Other apps in Office 365 ecosystem
Looking at some of the other apps in Office 365 ecosystem you may assume that perhaps Outlook Tasks and Project To-Do's are also up for merger. What about Planner and Project Online? Sway and PowerPoint Online?
It's hard not to get carried away thinking about some potential takeovers and changes but here are two guiding principles:
- Just because there are similarities in two Microsoft products, it doesn't mean one of them will take over the other. Look at Microsoft Forms again, clear competitor of Google Forms, it's an app that was created for a particular segment to start with, an education sector. Over time Forms were introduced to the rest of the ecosystem with hopes of wider adoption. It's not up to the ecosystem to react. Microsoft may hope for particular reactions but not know for sure until the product is out in the wild.
- Design your solutions to solve users' needs and not to introduce a cool new feature.
Focus on service design and not feature design (aka design by features)
There is a lot more I can say here about design thinking since it's a significant area of my work. In summary, the key is to always build according to roadmap of what users need. With that mindset, the right solution will emerge both as a clear and viable option as opposed to myriad of options available in the ecosystem, each with their own risks.
I'll be sure to post more on the service design and how to realize it in practice.
More announcements at MSIgnite
Microsoft Ignite will most certainly hold a lot more announcements in store, although some of those have been spoiled, rest assured, there is still more to come.
Just as last year, I've got an agenda packed with meetings and interviews with experts and customer champions. Can't wait to share their reflective stories in a series of interviews coming up soon. Stay tuned for upcoming videos and posts!
Yaroslav Pentsarskyy is a founder of OrigamiConnect, rapidly growing service and product offering which enables organizations to get the intranet that's designed for them, without starting from a blank page. He's also 8 time Microsoft MVP, speaker at many local and worldwide tech events, and a published author of several SharePoint related books.@spentsarsky