Mixed Reality Portals: SharePoint Spaces

Written by Industry, Misc

Last week at the 2018 SharePoint Conference North America in Las Vegas, Microsoft announced SharePoint Spaces – an entirely new way to interact with your portals and content.   Combining the growing world of mixed & virtual reality with enterprise portals, certainly marks an interesting path for the future of SharePoint, but I suspect that we’re still a ways off from seeing such a capability be utilized on a mainstream-basis.

When we set out to design intuitive and immersive portal experiences, it’s not about showing users blobs of data – its about crafting highly contextualized ways for users to easily make sense of the ‘right’ information. When done well, it allows people throughout an organization to digest the actionable bits & pieces in the context of whatever they had set out to do. With SharePoint Spaces, we have a completely new way to connect people to the information & data that they work with, but just like with portals, it won’t be a game of blindly taking portal data & presenting it in a VR space, rather, coming up with how such a capability will BETTER connect people to the data that they need to make better decisions – faster & more effectively. Really exciting stuff.

 

 

The demonstrations were slick, but this is something that will require real customer investment (3d model generation, VR hardware deployment, etc).  I believe that the success of such an endeavor will be dependant on 2 critical points:

  1. The publishing of multiple, practical applications & use-cases
  2. The mainstream adoption of mixed/augmented/virtual reality hardware

(1) Real-world use-cases are going to be key to helping enterprise customers connect the dots.  Mixed reality is still young enough that many CxO’s will struggle to see how such a thing can truly benefit them.  I mean, on face-value, its something that may be received as sounding “cool” or “forward-leaning”, but when it comes to making the necessary investments to make this a reality for an organization, I suspect we’ll (collectively) have to put our heads together to dream up as many value-adding scenarios as we can – and get them published.   We need to take some of the creative burden off of the consultants on the ground – or at least help them have more successful conversations with their customers. Where we can – and where a concept is general enough, we should also be looking to Microsoft to fold whatever the community comes up into the templates that are provided OOTB. I don’t think this is the sort of thing that we (the community or Microsoft) can just put out there and hope that the world just runs with it. Potentially more so than with almost anything else, we’ll need a vast library of case studies, all served up for org leadership to see (in literal ways) why such a thing applies to them.

(2) For the second point, I believe that there plenty of customers out there with existing scenarios that would make this a very real & very practical solution.  However, until we begin to see the large-scale productionalized deployment of VR headsets in enterprise environments, I think we’re looking at a pretty niche concept.  That said, this is the sort of thing that can help nudge things along if we can really hit point 1 successfully.  Nobody has really painted a compelling picture yet as to why an organization should take the leap into VR – this gives us that opportunity.  There are plenty of (relatively) affordable VR kits out there that are both good and powerful, but larger (non-tech focused) organizations will still need help making the case.

Hololens is still the closest thing to magic that I’ve ever witnessed, if that takes hold (for the practically unlimited use-cases that it represents), SharePoint Spaces would fundamentally change portals forever.

Depending upon how successful we are in dreaming up practical applications and serving them up for decision makers to really get their hands around, that alone may drive the hardware portion. This certainly has the potential to drive adoption of VR/AR devices in the enterprise – more so than anything else so far.

To get a sense of where SharePoint Spaces might fit into your world, have a look at the video below:

 

My initial reaction was a jaded one – having seen how hard it has been over the last decade to convince customers to invest in things as simple as adequate governance planning, let alone to run out and buy a bunch of VR headsets. But in the days following, I couldn’t help but be inspired into imagining some interesting & compelling practical applications. In the next couple months, I’ll take a stab at a few very specific scenarios where SharePoint Spaces could be leveraged to enhance user experiences and I can’t wait to see what the community comes up with. 

In the meantime, check out Jeff Teper’s announcement post.

Last modified: May 31, 2018