You’re using Office 365, you get the deal.  You’re on a road-trip and Microsoft is telling you what kind of car you can have while letting pick if you want GPS or not.  The Office 365 suite certainly does provide tangible and measurable benefits that alleviate a lot of headaches for many organizations.  Having said that, all is not so simple or easy in Wonderland, is it?

What Is Modern SharePoint Online in Office 365?

Modern Office 365 SharePoint Team Site

Office 365 started from the humble beginnings of SharePoint on-premises.  The original interface is referred to as “classic”; still visible in many places, settings, and features all over SharePoint. Over time, the SharePoint platform could not quite keep up with the changing technology and advances in web browsers and other platforms.  

Microsoft had to make a change, keeping the future in mind, so they reinvented many features within SharePoint.  The changes were introduced as “modern” interfaces/experiences.  SharePoint sites, lists, and libraries are all still present, but you get so much more.  Sites are now more intelligent, responsive and built for current technology and the needs of today’s companies. 

If you are still using classic, you ARE getting left behind.  Eventually, more and more classic functionalities will get abandoned, and you will not be able to take advantage of the new features. Who knows, that friendly neighbor might stop waving to you, and your mom might even stop asking you over for dinner. 

SharePoint Online mobile app

"Why isn't everyone using modern?", you might ask.  Well, there are pros and cons, but the question has changed from IF you should be using modern to WHEN.  Here are 5 reasons why you should start evaluating modern if you aren’t already:

1. You Get Modern Sites and Much More

When you create a modern SharePoint Team Site, you get a responsive site loaded with features and easy to configure.  In addition, you get a suite of different tools that help build communication and foster collaboration to get work done.  Some of these tools include PowerApps, Planner, Teams, and others. 

Microsoft Teams

At the core of every modern SharePoint Team Site is an Office 365 group; similar to a security group – the actual people who will be allowed to collaborate using these tools together. 

2. Classic is Quickly Dying While Modern is Evolving

When modern experiences were initially rolled out, the features were very limited.  Over the past couple of years, modern capabilities have been quickly catching up and filling in all the gaps of missing functionality.  For example, Microsoft just released the ability to have sticky column headers and the ability to support totals in views.  Follow the SharePoint blog on the Microsoft Tech Community for new announcements.

Conversely, Microsoft is not touching any of the classic functionality unless required to fix a security bug.  What you see is what you will get until the end of time. Don't get left behind.

3. You Get All the Modern Goodies

As mentioned above, a modern SharePoint site and experience gives you many capabilities that do not exist in the classic experience: 

  • Modern View and Column formatting
  • Modern Page interface
  • Modern web parts (based on SharePoint Framework)
  • Integration with Microsoft Flow and PowerApps

The features listed above only scratch the surface of all the other features available to explore. I would encourage you to create a modern test Team site and try it out.  If you want to look even cooler to your coworkers, check out Microsoft’s SharePoint Online Provisioning Service. The SharePoint Online Provisioning Service lets you deploy sample sites and content to your environment.  The office will bow before you in awe of your SharePoint prowess. 

4. InfoPath is Dead, Get Over It (Use PowerApps)

Technically, you do not need to use modern SharePoint sites to use PowerApps, but it will be easier if you do.  I mention this here because if you use InfoPath, you will be forced to use the Classic experience for a list or library. 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved InfoPath; it was flexible and gave business-level users the ability to create robust forms. Unfortunately, Microsoft has officially killed it and wants everyone to use PowerApps.  You can start learning how!

5. Modern Sites Are Faster and More Flexible

When you create a modern team or communication site, they become their own site collection now.  Subsites are not technically dead, but they are like exclamation points in emails – they should be used sparingly and only when necessary. 

Modern sites were built to load faster and offer more flexibility in security, as well as navigation.  Since they are their own site collection, you can group modern sites together with a “Hub” site without actually moving anything.

What Are the Caveats?

Nothing is perfect, including modern SharePoint Online sites.  Let's review some potential questions you might have:

  • Are there features/functions that will not be supported?
    • Yes, but modern experiences are expanding their capabilities to reduce the impact of these old features.  You can review the differences in the experiences, and you can find a thorough list of specific features in libraries and lists. 
  • Will my templates convert and work in modern?
    • No.  Templating sites are completely different in modern.  You can read more on this new provisioning method here.
  • Will I be able to switch back and forth between modern and classic?
    • In general, no.  With SharePoint Online sites, you can (or will be able to) convert classic sites to modern, but you cannot go back to a classic site.  However, individual lists and libraries can be viewed either in classic or modern experience. 
  • What will happen to the customizations I had in classic?
    • They will not be ported over to modern.  Depending on the customization, you might be able to re-create them so that they work in modern. Otherwise, you will need to find a web part built with the modern framework. 

Whether or not you are ready for modern sites, talk to us about it! We can assist you with the critical thinking, planning, and migration that is all encompassed with it.