What’s next for Microsoft’s industry leading business productivity software Office 365?  NextGen Portals are dynamic and social intranet sites that bring machine learning and content curation together, increasing document relevancy and personalization, while decreasing the potential for stale content experiences. NextGen Portals take cues from past customer custom portals built on SharePoint and land squarely within Office 365 as ‘ready to go,’ mobile-optimized destinations.

I spoke with Mark Kashman, senior product manager in the Microsoft Office 365 group (@mkashman), to gain a better understanding of the new NextGen Portals.  Mark shared his thoughts on the continuous improvement process applied by his team, covering 14 years of SharePoint customer knowledge and application development now elegantly woven into Office 365 NextGen Portals.  The full interview is available for download on SoundCloud at http://bit.ly/1Jodf6N

NextGen Portals:  Intelligent, Social, Mobile and Ready-to-Go

Innovation is the watchword at Microsoft with the recent NextGen Portals rollout, true to the Office 365 Roadmap and corresponding timeline.  Office 365 Video and Delve have already launched and Office 365 customers who opted-into the First Release program may already be seeing the new tiles in their subscription.

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NextGen portals, according to Kashman, are intelligent by design (utilizing machine learning through Office Graph), social by nature, leveraging Yammer, and accessible via mobile.  NextGen Portals are built with an intelligence layer powered by Office graph to personalize and increase document relevancy.  Future portals will offer a ‘curatorial experience’ by directing intranet content such as company news, announcements, information navigation and search.  NextGen Portals both pull and push static and dynamic content to users.  In developing NextGen Portals, Kashman and his team looked for “repeatable patterns and types of sites and templates that customers had built on top of SharePoint over the past 10 to 14 years.”  These insights and improvements are “landing inside Office 365 as NextGen Portals.”

Why reinvent the wheel?    

“The history of SharePoint,” Kashman states, “is a lot of people built a lot of things on SharePoint.  At Microsoft, we have a good lens on how people are using the product.  That has very much directed the offerings that have become part of the Office 365 service.”  Kashman’s team noted the ‘issues’ users were having in customized app development and the steep learning curve if developers weren’t in-house.  NextGen Portals are designed to reduce time-to-market for customers seeking a tailored application in less time and for less money.  The solution is tested and customized from top prior ‘builds,’ benefiting a broader user audience, so modification time is diminished.  By subscribing to Office 365, portal features are ready-to-go, allowing users to rapidly deploy and increase business productivity quickly.

First Up and Out-of-the-Box:  Office 365 Video

Office 365 Video is a secure, company-wide portal for video upload, sharing and categorizing with a brilliantly smooth playback system supported by Windows Azure Media Services (think Sochi Olympics 2014 and NBC Sports).  Drag and drop video into the upload template in a wide variety of video file types.  It’s easy to create and manage channels in Office 365 Video as well.

Most frequently used videos will move to the top of the category with a search field included.  Kashman’s team solved customer complexities such as creating channels, offering flexible upload, storage issues, view and playback features, and content commenting and sharing/embedding with the Office 365 Video creation and launch.  And the portal was fine-tuned and enterprise-tested with NBC’s Olympic Coverage and Xbox One launch.

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Let’s Delve into Office Delve

Although technically not considered a NextGen Portal by Kashman, Office Delve now also appears as an Office 365 drop-down tile for subscribers, as a core, new destination to help increase their daily productivity.  According to Kashman, Delve is “at the far, far end of everything being driven by the Office Graph algorithm, just showing dynamic content all the time targeted for the individual.”  Like electronic breadcrumbs left behind by users, Delve allows ‘information to find you.’  Delve brings the most frequent user files to the top and categorizes them.

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Delve utilizes insights through Office graph to map relationships between people, content and the activity occurring across an Office 365 site.  Additional data points will be added over the coming months to include these content sources: email attachments, OneNote and Lync.  Bookmark the Office 365 Roadmap and check back frequently to see what new features are launching.

Want to Learn More?

Feel free to contact your CDW Account Manager for purchasing information on Office 365.  Additionally, Kashman suggests attending Microsoft Ignite, located in Chicago May 4-8, 2015, where he plans to showcase new features that will play into the development of future portals.

Check these Microsoft Ignite sessions where he will be leading the NextGen Portals discussion.  Let me know what you think about Microsoft’s new portals and features in the comments section below.  And follow me on Twitter @Cloud_Kimb to stay informed on the latest Office 365 product announcements including more on NextGen Portals.

3 thoughts on “What’s Next for Office 365? A First Look at ‘NextGen Portals’

    • Hi, Eric: The Office 365 team plans to announce these at Microsoft’s Ignite Conference in Chicago May 4-8, 2015. Stay tuned for those new portal feature announcements from Mark Kashman’s team. Thank you! ~Kim

      Reply
  • Hi, Eric: Here are the Microsoft Ignite Session times featuring NextGen portals: Tuesday, May 5, 9:00-10:15 am will feature Office Graph. And Thursday, May 7, 12:05 – 12:20 Azure Media Services and Office 365 Video will be discussed in the Microsoft Theater. Hope you can make it! ~Kim

    Reply

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