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Takeaways from SharePoint TechFest Houston

I had the opportunity to attend SharePoint TechFest Houston last week and was duly impressed with the level of continued interest in SharePoint as a platform and the future of the product. Here are a few takeaways from the conference:
To kick things off, Synxi CTO Naomi Moneypenny delivered the keynote address focusing on the future of SharePoint as the SP2016 release is just over the horizon. Microsoft’s Cloud first approach has led to some interesting new solutions coming with the release of SP 2016 and Naomi did a great job of hitting the highlights by giving a mention to: Azure Rights Management, Azure AD, SSO, SQL full text search in the cloud, Delve and Office Graph. A quick demo of Delve gave some insight as to what one of these changes would look like for end users.
Next up, I attended a breakout session presented by Perficient Senior Solution Architect Joe Crabtree: “Optimize Your Hybrid Cloud Solution with Azure Powered SharePoint Site Provisioning.” This was a great deep dive in to an automated site provisioning solution based on Joe’s blog post found here.

There were more than 20 breakout sessions throughout the day, 4 at a time. All sessions had relevant and interesting topics and picking just one was difficult. Most sessions I chose happened to be catered to the business power user and not one I attended was complete without mention of the cloud. Between sessions, attendees could roam vendor booths, network with industry professionals and enter drawings to win prizes. One lucky visitor who came by Perficient’s booth 26 won a $250 gift card.
During lunch, members of the audience were treated to an open Q and A session from a panel of SharePoint Industry pros. Members of the audience had the opportunity to raise a hand and ask the panel anything. This was an interesting session as the questions seemed to cast the tone of the current SharePoint world from the perspective of the business user: Change is here, how do we deal with it? In particular one question of interest for me involved the deprecation of SharePoint Foundation in the 2016 release. A business user had large amounts of data in Foundation and was curious what the best strategy would be for moving forward. The user was interested in particular about now having to pay for license seats as well as continued support. The panel’s advice: Maintaining on premise SharePoint Foundation isn’t really free due to maintenance costs and licensing for Microsoft should be viewed holistically. SharePoint (365) is not a standalone license per se, but a subset of all the Microsoft licenses an enterprise might purchase. It also comes along for the ride with many license packages.
The opening keynote more or less set the tone for my perspective on the day. Most sessions were not about just SharePoint, but how SharePoint fits in with other tools, products and services for the business. Hybrid environments are the current hot topic, with businesses searching for the right blend of cloud and on premise environments, and how to deploy and configure such topologies.
Azure, O365, BI tools and Hybrid environments were all topics discussed throughout the day, and while SharePoint was the center piece of technology binding all these together – sessions involving JUST SharePoint were very few. From my perspective, the overall theme of SharePoint Techfest was change. As the “Ask the panel” questions seemed to reflect: Change is here, how do we deal with it? Perficent can help.

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Dale Williams

Dale Williams is a Senior Consultant at Perficient, Inc.

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