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!