SharePoint Conference 2014 (#SPC14) Wrap Up

SharePoint Conference 2014; connect, reimagine, transform

Wow. Whew. The 2014 episode of the Microsoft SharePoint Conference aka #SPC14 is a wrap. What an amazing experience.

It seems obligatory for anyone who has more than two eyeballs on their blog to do a wrap up post after a conference like this, and I didn’t want to be the exception. So here you go…

This was what used to be called a “non-release” year. That meant that there wasn’t a new, three-year epic release coming out with the attendant marketing push from Microsoft. Now that we are living in the bold new world of Office365 with its nearly weekly updates, there’s really no such thing as a “release year” anymore. Sure, we’ve been promised a new on premises release in 2015, but odds are that it will contain the incremental improvements that we’ve been seeing on Office365 – as we recently saw with the Service Pack 1 release – and some shiny new things, but the SharePoint Product Group is all about continuous improvement now. There will still be splashes, but they won’t be as big. (Joel Oleson (@joeloleson) did a post a while back that explains how this all is going to work in great detail, if you’d like to understand more about it.)

image The keynote was a big one. Former US President Bill Clinton was the featured speaker. While he didn’t wow me with his messages, it was impressive (and no doubt expensive) for Microsoft to have him speak. From the Microsoft angle we heard from Jared Spatero (@jared_spatero – the emcee of sorts), Jeff Teper (@jeffteper), Julia White (@julwhite), Arpan Shah (@arpanshah), and Michal Gideoni.

While there were fewer “big splash” announcements, the things that were announced may prove to be impressive enhancements to the SharePoint platform once they are ready for prime time.

One big theme I was happy to see throughout the developer-focused sessions: embracing JavaScript. It’s wonderful to see the community embracing JavaScript as never before. What a difference a little time passing makes. Just a few years ago, my forays into the JavaScript world with SPServices and other methods were considered child’s play. Now many of those same naysayers have embraced the technology and new, highly useful development patterns for SharePoint pop up all the time. (Props specifically to Scot Hillier (@scothillier)here. I’ll go to one of his sessions every time I have the opportunity.)

Perhaps this change of heart is due to the splendid frameworks which have been evolving over the last few years. This isn’t your father’s JavaScript. Development approaches are evolving rapidly, with frameworks rising and falling in popularity.

Perhaps the most important session I attended from a strategic standpoint was SPC348 – Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms. Greg Lindhorst from the Access team and Sonya Koptyev – my new pal on the Product Group team; bless her if she’s been assigned to keep me in line – led the session.The content was extremely important to many of us in the SharePoint community. However, how the session was set up and went is even more important. Rather than simply demoing something shiny with a high wow factor and leaving it at that, the session was truly interactive.

There was an acknowledgement that progress isn’t always easy. I loved the up-front quote from Charles Kettering:

2014-03-09 19-23 page #0Greg and Sonya showed us a real timeline, with rough dates and planned enhancements.

Streamlined technical product roadmap

Streamlined technical product roadmap

As you can see, there are four planned areas of focus:

  • Excel Surveys
  • List Forms (FoSL, or Forms on SharePoint Lists)
  • Structured Documents – Maybe this will be where Word plays a role
  • App Forms – aka Access Services

Note the timeframes in the slide. (Is this really Microsoft talking?) They aren’t carved in stone, but they ought to be directionally correct. Behind those timelines, though, was a true request for all of us to participate in the journey. The Product Group doesn’t always have all the answers, and they are saying that out loud now. They want our feedback and wish list items and have set up a new User Voice to capture them at

http://officeforms.uservoice.com

Don’t think this is just some exercise to placate us by letting us make suggestions we’ll never see. The User Voice platform is already driving enhancements making it into Office365 and seems to be the main feedback mechanisms where you can make your needs known.

The reason I think that SPC348 – Update on InfoPath and SharePoint Forms was so important wasn’t about the content. It was about *how* the content was presented. To me, this is the Microsoft I’ve been trying to find: open, honest, and wanting to collaborate to attain a higher goal. That’s what I always wanted to do when I became an MVP, and it looks like they are finally catching up to me. I’m going to be all over Sonya if this Great New Attitude flags. I’ve warned her. (For an excellent, detailed write up on this session, see Nik Patel’s (@nikxpatel) post Future of InfoPath – SPC14 Notes from Office and SharePoint Forms Roadmap Update.)

Oh, and the conference was in Las Vegas, so there was some shenanigans. I managed to come out reasonably unscathed on the gambling front – merely a flesh wound! – and the parties were tadifa. From the opening attendee reception to Club SPC to the Attendee Party at the Las Vegas Motor Speeedway, there was no lack of ways for attendees to entertain themselves. Of course, this is the biggest SharePoint conference in the world (at least so far) and it’s the only time so many of us in the community manage to get together to cause trouble. This was social business at its finest.

I’m including a few of the photos I took during the conference in the slideshow below. Enjoy!

10 Comments

  1. Great recap and I agree on all points. I came back to work with a whole new viewpoint and affirmation of the javascript ‘apps’ i have been building for years. Now Microsoft is formally adopting apps and not only that but across the office platform. I can only imagine how we could leverage these API’s to make cross office apps using HTML5 and Javascript. I still only have seen the tip of the iceburg.

    As for the direction of infopath, sadly I just started LIKING infopath in 2010, it became immensely more useful and I built a number of highly complex web forms with it. At least I have time before I need to convert them.

    I wish my company could get in on the cloud mix but we are a global professional services firm and I don’t see us moving off-prem anytime soon. I am just waiting for 2013 to fully leverage REST and the CSOM and get working on some apps.

    Now… maybe I should get around to writing my own blog, I have probably forgotten half the stuff I would have written about.

    Reply
    • Bryan:

      Keep in mind that InfoPath will be supported for another *9* years – until 2023. It’s not going away by any means. Using it for new projects should be encouraged. At SPC they showed us a glimpse of where things may go, but it’ll take a while. Be sure to contribute your wish list items on the UserVoice site.

      Until you go to 2013, SPServices probably can fill in the gaps. If you abstract things correctly, when you do go to 2013 you can simply replace the calls (where appropriate) with analogous REST or CSOM calls.

      And yes to the blog thing! Write about what you solve and what you know. It’s hard to get started, but it can be a very rewarding exercise on many levels.

      M.

      Reply
  2. As much as I love javascript and jquery and especially SPServices, I feel that my .NET development in SharePoint days are numbered. I really liked building web parts and custom site and list definitions and all that jazz! I just find it so odd that I have to do 10 times the amount of work to do the same thing I could do in earlier versions! The app model hurts my head because I want to build apps that run in SharePoint host without having to go through all that hassle. Hopefully the on premise world will stay for a while!! That all being said, I do a lot of development in jQuery/Javascript, and I like the new frameworks, but just wish I did not have to separate them out and build a new UI for them! Maybe I missed a memo somewhere?!

    Reply
    • Daniel:

      Embrace your inner JavaScripter! You’re in much better shape than a lot of the other .NET folks out there, believe me. It doesn’t have to be a lot more work; it’s just different work. Everything seems more complicated until we “get” it, and you’re well on that road.

      What do you see as your biggest roadblocks to using the newer techniques?

      M.

      Reply
      • Marc:

        For me, it is all about using what is already there. An example is an app that I was asked to work on for someone and that app was going to do a lot of cool things at first. It was going to be able to look “like it belonged” in SharePoint. They wanted it to use the info that was already on their site and they wanted it to be branded the same way. They wanted to have it be part of their existing framework This is what you can do on-premise and to some extent in the cloud but not in the same sense. I can manipulate an existing site and use the UI to create all sorts of goodies, but I can not make an “app” the same way I could in the past when they were called solutions and actually solved a need for the client. I now have to build a UI and have to create everything in an APP web unless I want to go through a lot of extra stuff to make it “work” in the host web. I have to worry about how my navigation is going to work and how to carry data between pages. These things just add more overhead to the development task. Now, you know me, most of my solutions carried a lot of jQuery/Javscript with them and I believe I am still as evil as ever (ha ha), but now, I have to take longer to get to that evil hmm I mean goodness!!

        Dan

        Reply
      • Marc,

        Mainly it is about the extra effort in my opinion of getting things done that were so easy before and still are in on-premise installs. Yes, I can use the UI and create new lists and libraries and all that stuff, but the reall coolness for me has always been creating “apps” or solutions as they “used” to be called. These solutions weather being a webpart or custom list definition or whatever, solved problems and were easy to develop and code and they run “In SharePoint” with no need to “wire them up” per se. Now to create an app that doesn’t require users to sign away their first borns to approve, it has to be separated and has to NOT run “In SharePoint”. Now, you know most of my solutions still were heavy with jQuery/Javascript and a little evilness mixed in, but they worked without having to build several pages and wire up navigation and all that jazz. I like custom page layouts and master pages and loved creating them and making customers happy so maybe there is a silver lining in there somewhere, but right now, it seems to be riddled with aluminum and copper!!

        Reply
        • Daniel:

          Some things will be harder, and other things will just be different. I don’t fully understand the app model at this point, for sure, but I would have said the same thing about JavaScript a few years ago. I think it’ll simply be a matter of learning how to do things with these new techniques. IMO, many things that people got away with in managed code on the server were bad ideas, anyway. Now we’ll see bad ideas on the client side, but at least it won’t ruin farm performance.

          M.

          Reply

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