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Q&A with SharePoint Communication Expert Nick Lloyd-Jenkins

ICS Solutions’ Chief Technology Officer, Nick Lloyd-Jenkins shares his thoughts on SharePoint communication sites.

What are SharePoint communication sites?

Nick: Communication sites are a new Office 365 feature that allows users to create engaging and dynamic sites and pages to promote events, product launches or campaigns.

When will they be rolled out to customers?

Nick: Communication sites will begin roll out to Office 365 First Release customers in June 2017, with full worldwide rollout scheduled for later this year. This includes the five new web parts, section layouts, theming, editable navigation and the new site usage page. The same innovations will be available in SharePoint team sites, as well.

How do the communication sites integrate with products like FLEX, ICS’ Office 365 Intelligent Digital Workplace?

Nick: Communication sites are complimentary to the sites and portals built using the SharePoint publishing infrastructure as used by FLEX’s Digital Workplace. The publishing infrastructure continues to be supported both on-premises and online. Communication sites are out-of-the-box, meaning they can be used for internal campaigns, reports, product launches, and other scenarios that address broad audiences.

Communication sites are most definitely for smaller, focussed and less formal sites created and maintained by users, but without governance and consistent branding. It is important to note that- as a team site is not a document management solution, communication sites are not an intranet.

Will publishing sites remain after the full rollout of communication sites?

Nick: Publishing sites will remain and will continue to be the right choice for content management activities such as portals and Intranets, where governance and control are important.

What governance will the communication sites have?

Nick: Communication sites offer the same ungoverned experience that users currently get with out-of-the-box team sites. For larger organisations who have a vast amount of data and therefore need to organise the data to ensure its findability, communication sites will not add value.

What customisation will communication sites allow?

Nick: Communication sites are built from scratch, every time. There will be some opportunity to create layouts, but we do not have the full details yet so we have to wait and see how they will work.

What is the main difference between communication sites and a FLEX Intelligent Digital Workplace?

Nick: Communication sites are not a direct replace for a portal or intranet site. They do not provide consistent global navigation, security, permission models or content approval workflows, which are all features of FLEX, and ensure a successful intranet implementation.

What does the FLEX roadmap look like?

Nick: FLEX will continue to provide a publishing intranet site with the control, governance and workflow that our customers expect. The roadmap includes the future use the communication sites but rather than created as-is, FLEX will provide pre-built communication sites through FLEX Automation.

These communication sites will match the requirements of corporate communications and provide the governance that is expected.

FLEX will support the SharePoint Framework and will then work in the same way as the out-of-the-box Microsoft web parts in the communication site pages.

Plus, ICS will build on the editing experience and other benefits the communication sites bring and look forward to providing fully configured, controlled, communication sites for users through their FLEX Intelligent Digital Workplace.

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