Updated: Sep 6
As organizations embark on a transition to Information governance in Microsoft SharePoint online, a key step in the journey is the adoption of the SharePoint online Modern experience User interface (MUI). This has become increasingly essential for organizations to modernize their existing customizations as Microsoft is starting to switch off support for classic components. Microsoft's recent announcement to retire SharePoint 2010 workflows is not unexpected yet has taken the SharePoint expert community by surprise.
SharePoint Online with the introduction of ‘Modern user interface’, is the new collaboration standard for future proof integration with the Modern browser standards. It is also a mandatory prerequisite for customers looking to introduce Unified compliance labels (retention, sensitivity labels, etc.) to their SharePoint user community.
The SharePoint modern interface isn't just an update to the previous (classic) SharePoint interface, but its a completely new technology that is packed with new features to improve fluid integration with browsers and other Microsoft applications. It also comes with incompatibilities from its predecessor 'the classic interface' making remediation of all incompatibilities a key activity for the deployment of Unified labels to target SharePoint sites.
Every enterprise will have its own set of unique incompatibilities which makes it challenging to provide a 'one size fits all' remediation recipes for a transition to the Modern interface.
Here are my recommendations based on experience of leading various Modern user interface upgrade programs.
Plan your transition to Modern User interface: Unless you are one of the model organizations with zero configurations to SharePoint sites, lists, and libraries, there is no single switch that will guarantee 100% transition. Congratulations! you are in the planning category to carefully assess your landscape, understand the incompatibilities, and map an upgrade path for every SharePoint list and library where you want the compliance labels to show up to end-users.
Use Modern User interface compatibility checker: This is an absolute MUST in your toolkit, and Microsoft together with SharePoint experts has done really good work to continuously improve this handy utility available to freely download and enhance on GitHub. When I started my very first transition to SharePoint modern user interface, it was an early adopter project, a number of lessons learned since the first transition, I have added as much as possible for your benefit in the 'Modernize and deploy compliance label' guide available to download at the end of this article.
Automate remediation of incompatibilities: If there are customizations in your SharePoint site, not all will continue to work after the site modernization. A simple example from my first project is related to a simple SharePoint workflow that was configured to trigger an email alert based on any changes to file metadata value in a document library. The workflow required remediation because the SharePoint modern user interface saves each metadata field individually compared to a classic user interface where multiple changes were saved at once. This would have resulted in all such workflows to trigger multiple email alerts one every property change in the Modern user interface. I have outlined more such scenarios which may prove helpful to avoid pitfalls in your transition program.
Business change is an essential success factor: SharePoint modern user interface is intuitive, but it is also a significant change from the classic interface, and while overall beneficial, lack of investment in a thought-through business engagement will impact adoption. If users are not informed and trained with guidance, they have the power to switch off and stay in classic experience. I am grateful to my 'change and engage' team for all the hard work and enthusiasm, technology-led automation alone will not be sufficient.
Continuously track and report on adoption: This is not the final step, but an integral part of this transition journey. In my very first project, we had to develop custom scripts based reports to track the success of the transition, tracking the use of compliance labels in sites, and also identify where adoption was not successful resulting in users switching to the classic experience. You can now leverage improved Office 365 management API reporting available in the Compliance center (part of Advanced data governance or E5 license), and also Compliance score to track adoption of compliance labels across the SharePoint landscape. You may still need bespoke reporting to contextualize data for your enterprise or business teams.
Compliance in Microsoft Office 365 is about managing all information across content service applications consumed by business users. Today teams rely on multiple collaboration tools that combine a wide range of technologies and features in new and innovative ways. Hence, the information compliance scope will include more than implementing records management in SharePoint online.
Modernizing SharePoint online is an essential step in your compliance adoption journey, this is where the majority of the collaboration will happen especially with SharePoint’s integration going forward with all major Microsoft 365 capabilities. SharePoint has many out-of-the-box features (web parts, document sets, list field configuration etc.) which are no longer supported in the new interface. There are modern equivalents but the features vary, and in some cases with zero feature parity. In some cases, it may not be ideal but your option would be to either roll your own version based on SharePoint framework or engage with users to transition to new features.
I have included useful references to various frameworks and open source versions of classic equivalents in my deployment guide. I would greatly welcome your feedback, and any lessons learned from your experience which I should include in the guide for others' benefit.
Feel free to contact me for any follow-up questions and suggestions for improvement.