ESPC 2023 Highlights and Takeaways


Last week, Extranet User Manager had the privilege of being a Silver Sponsor and exhibitor at the 2023 European SharePoint Conference (ESPC). Renowned for delivering the latest insights in digital workplace transformation, ESPC provided an invaluable platform for exploring cutting-edge technologies and strategies. The event definitely did not disappoint, with ample opportunities to learn from MVPs, engage with industry peers, and explore some of the latest tech in the Microsoft 365 ecosystem. The team was grateful for the opportunity to connect with attendees, clients, and partners at the Extranet User Manager booth.

EUM Booth
Logan and Ross

In this article, we'll uncover our top takeaways from the event, from Microsoft Collaborative Apps & Platforms President Jeff Teper's keynote announcements, to sessions spanning a wide variety of topics.

Microsoft 365 Product Updates

AI and Copilot Applications at the Forefront

With over 120 sessions led by MVPs, MCTs, and Subject-Matter Experts globally, ESPC's array of choices was staggering. Key themes this year included Artificial Intelligence, Copilot applications, Microsoft Teams, Viva, and SharePoint. Following the Microsoft Ignite conference, the potential of Microsoft 365 Copilot in enhancing collaborative apps like Teams, PowerPoint, and Excel was a hot topic. Notably, the integration of Copilot in SharePoint, where over two billion documents are added daily, has transformed interactions with repository-stored content. Although many of these features were introduced during the Microsoft Ignite conference in mid-November, an entirely new Copilot capability was announced during ESPC - its ability to mimic users' tones. Now, you can ask Copilot to rephrase its responses using your tone, with the simple click of a button. This is effective when writing content in Microsoft Teams and Outlook. We're curious to see how accurately it captures an individual's essence!

Microsoft Teams: A Hub of Continuous Innovation

Jeff Teper's keynote at ESPC highlighted numerous updates to Microsoft Teams. Teams V2, now available on Windows and the web (Edge and Chrome), promises double the speed, enhancing real-time collaboration. With 320 million monthly active users, Teams performance upgrades are pivotal. Furthermore, Microsoft Mesh for Teams, available from January 2024, introduces a groundbreaking virtual collaborative experience, allowing the creation of custom immersive spaces.

SharePoint's Brand-New Brand Center

The SharePoint Brand Center, announced at ESPC, marks a significant step in empowering organizations to craft a distinct digital identity. It will allow companies to upload custom fonts and branding elements directly into their SharePoint Online environment. It elevates the capability of SharePoint beyond a mere content management system to a powerful platform for creating visually cohesive and branded digital workspaces. The Brand Center simplifies the creation of bespoke intranets, reducing the need for external solutions or developer assistance, thereby streamlining design and branding capabilities for businesses of all sizes.

SharePoint Brand Center

SharePoint Embedded for Secure Third-Party Collaboration

SharePoint Embedded, a new product revealed at ESPC, offers a streamlined version of SharePoint designed for Microsoft and third-party apps created by developers, offering high performance while being easily scalable. SharePoint Embedded allows businesses and developers to build apps with advanced Microsoft 365 content management, offering strong security and easy integration for handling enterprise data. It's useful for anyone needing secure and scalable content apps, with benefits like enhanced collaboration and compliance features. SharePoint Embedded is available for public preview, and will have general availability in mid-2024.

The following is an image of the SharePoint Embedded Architecture.

SharePoint Embedded Architecture

Session Takeaways

The Importance of Optimizing Microsoft 365 Adoption

Through attending dozens of sessions with industry leaders, we were vividly reminded of the crucial role that effective adoption of Microsoft 365 plays in maximizing organizational potential. It's not just about having these tools at our fingertips; it's about integrating them seamlessly into our workflows. When Microsoft 365 is fully embraced, we unlock a new realm of collaboration, efficiency, and innovation. This goes beyond mere usage; it's about cultivating a culture where these tools are the bedrock of our daily operations. The benefits are clear: streamlined processes, heightened productivity, and an empowered team that's well-equipped to meet the evolving demands of our digital-first world. We enjoyed Karuana Gatimu's session "Microsoft Teams Adoption and Governance", which provided insightful strategies for effectively implementing and governing Microsoft Teams; in addition, Merethe Stave and Stale Hansen's session "Get Ready for Copilot" dove deep into the essential aspects of adopting modern collaborative tools within the Microsoft 365 ecosystem.

Data Privacy in the Age of AI

Another theme that struck a chord was data privacy in the context of emerging AI tools: understanding and responsibly managing how data is used is crucial for maintaining ethical standards in technology. Sessions like "All You Need to Know About Encryption within Microsoft 365" by Albert Hoitingh and "52 Mins from Initial Access to Ransomware – Is Your Defensive Team Ready?" by Maarten Goet stressed the importance of robust data protection strategies. These discussions highlighted that safeguarding data against modern threats is not just a technical necessity but a critical ethical responsibility, especially with the rise of AI tools.

Teams-Centric Collaboration

EUM President and 13-time Office Apps & Services MVP, Peter Carson, delivered a dynamic session on "Teams First IA and Governance". His presentation was a treasure trove of practical insights for organizations at various stages of Microsoft 365 adoption. Peter covered a maturity assessment of organizational readiness for Microsoft 365, detailed strategies for gathering information pivotal for a Teams-centered IA migration, and provided a comprehensive guide for migration planning and execution. The impressive audience turnout reflected the growing interest in leveraging Microsoft Teams as the centre of organizational collaboration. To learn more, check out his session presentation.

Teams First IA Migration Steps
Teams First IA

Snippets from Peter's session on Teams First Information Architecture & Governance.

The Road Ahead: Embracing AI and Digital Collaboration

As we reflect on ESPC 2023, the emphasis on AI and digital collaboration tools like Microsoft 365 Copilot and SharePoint underscores the evolving landscape of workplace technology. The integration of AI in everyday tools is not just a trend but a transformational shift in how we work and collaborate. The future is poised for more intuitive, efficient, and personalized digital experiences, as demonstrated by the advancements in Copilot and Microsoft Teams.

In conclusion, ESPC was a testament to the rapid advancement in digital workplace technologies. Extranet User Manager's participation as a Silver Sponsor and Exhibitor was not only an opportunity to share our expertise but also to absorb invaluable insights, preparing us to navigate and contribute to the evolving digital workplace landscape.

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