Options for External Sharing in Microsoft 365
Last Fall (2018) I started collecting information around extranets and external sharing, crafting an abstract on the topic of extranets and external sharing. For those who have been in the SharePoint community for a few years, you are well aware of the well-documented struggles of using SharePoint as an extranet solution. As a small business owner, building out a formal extranet has never made sense — but for many of my customers and partners, it is much-needed infrastructure. The broader topic of external sharing has been an interest of mine for a couple years, and one which I blogged about last year when the question of “What happens is we turn off sharing in OneDrive?” was going around the community. I was pleased to have my abstract selected by the SharePointFest team for their Seattle event in August:
PWR103 – Options for Building a Modern Extranet
Wednesday, August 21st at 1:30pm, Room 606
There are many solutions that allow for collaboration with customers, partners, and virtual teams that stretch inside and outside of your organization, but which tools work the best in different scenarios? In this session geared toward end users, we’ll discuss how the latest Office 365 tools and solutions can be leveraged for different extranet scenarios, and help you to decide which of them best fit your specific needs. Solutions to be discussed include SharePoint, Teams, Yammer, OneDrive, Stream, and more.
I’m looking forward to returning to this conference with three sessions (register here), but this topic in particular should garner a large audience. Joining me on stage to share the latest Microsoft announcements around external sharing will Mark Kashman (@mkashman), Sr. Product Manager for the SharePoint and OneDrive team, which is always fun.
On top of all of this activity, in late April I started working with fellow Office Apps & Services MVP Peter Carson (@carsonpeter), providing fractional-CMO services for his company Extranet User Manager (www.extranetusermanager.com). It’s interesting how the universe sometimes comes together, and pieces all fall in place. I call it kismet.
Of course, there has been a ton of movement on the topic over the past couple months, with some official announcements coming out during the SharePoint Conference (#SPC19) in Las Vegas last month, such as the new Request Files feature (now in preview). And then there was today’s PowerApps Portals announcement from the Microsoft Business Applications Summit taking place this week in Atlanta. The concept of external sharing is simple enough: you have content that you want to be able to securely share with (or request from) partners and customers outside of your organization. You should not be burdened with overly complex and rigid permissions management, and you definitely should not have to extend and maintain company licenses to enable basic collaboration functionality around this content. Some collaboration requirements are simple — all you need is a OneDrive link shared via email with a single user. Other times, the right solution may be to create an external group in Yammer, or provide external access via an existing workgroup in Teams to serve your needs. But more often-than-not, organizations need a persistent extranet site that business users can quickly create and/or leverage without huge IT overhead. These are not the dark days of trying to stand up a SharePoint 2010 extranet and manage a separate AD instance. There are now more options than ever before from Microsoft, and through the partner community.
While at SPC last month, Peter sat down with Mark and Stephen Rice, a Program Manager also focusing on SharePoint and OneDrive, to discuss some of the recent announcements on external sharing. The video was highlighted on the EUM blog, which outlines many of the major announcements shared at SPC, or you can watch the entire interview here, which focuses specifically on external sharing:
It’s a lot of information jam-packed into a relatively short discussion. If you’d like more of a deep-dive, Peter will be walking through some of these latest Microsoft features and updates in a webinar this week, entitled Unstructured vs. Structured Extranets in Office 365 taking place Tuesday, June 11th at noon EDT. If you would like to learn more on this topic, be sure to register for this event or watch the on-demand recording. The EUM team does a great job of explaining the current capabilities of Office 365 and the Azure B2B platform, as well as how their solution can greatly improve the admin and user management experiences within your extranet, including features like self-registration, approval processes, and streamlined onboarding. You can register here for the webinar.
Over the next few weeks in the run up to SPFest Seattle, I’ll be writing more on this topic and further exploring Microsoft’s out-of-the-box capabilities, and will record several videos with Peter and his team to expand on each. So keep watching this space!