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Moving On from Legacy Tech in SharePoint Online

Michael Hepples
July 17, 2020

Organizations have embraced Microsoft solutions for their business applications. Over time, platforms are retired to make way for new technologies. Businesses are finding that those legacy platforms are retiring much sooner than they had planned, and are scrambling to find a solution.

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Over the years, Microsoft has enabled organizations to provide enhanced tools and functionality in SharePoint with tools like SharePoint Designer Forms, InfoPath, and SharePoint Workflows. In many cases, these technologies were embraced wholeheartedly, and have become ingrained over time, supporting critical business processes. More recently, Microsoft has made significant strides in the maturity of the Power Platform, the future-forward method of providing robust electronic forms and automation solutions in Microsoft 365. They have made it no secret that the Power Platform is the toolset of choice going forward, and that the aforementioned legacy tools will be retired over time.

Very often, while talking to clients that have an existing investment in a legacy technology, I hear comments along the lines of “they have said it will be supported until _____ date, I’m not too concerned.” Last week, we saw how quickly that can change, as Microsoft announced the retirement of SharePoint 2010 workflows in SharePoint Online as of November 1, 2020. We have been in high gear since then, helping clients identify workloads that will be affected, and setting a go-forward plan of attack with them to ensure continuity of service. In some cases, the prevailing opinion is to simply update these to SharePoint 2013 workflows, but the announcement also included a footnote about changes to SharePoint 2013 workflow availability in SharePoint Online (they won’t be enabled for new tenants after November 1, 2020), so it is reasonable to expected that future retirements will be coming sooner than later, and we could be having the same conversation again in a matter of months.

This follows on the surprise deprecation of creating new SharePoint Designer custom forms in SharePoint Online from a couple of months ago, which was the result of a change being made that Microsoft didn’t feel there was enough value in reversing. While this didn’t cause nearly the amount of concern as last weeks announcement, it served to illustrate very clearly that Microsoft is moving forward, and it is time for all of us to get in line.

Many may not know this, but those stated deprecation dates aren’t as solid as we may assume. A Microsoft employee recently clarified a few things on their deprecation policies:

The support cycle for InfoPath on SharePoint 2016 is that it will run until 2026. It bears repeating, however, that InfoPath is deprecated which also means that it can be removed from subsequent versions of the on premises product, vNext and beyond.

There is DIFFERENT governance for service removals in Office 365. The strict guidance is that Microsoft will give at least 30 days notice when we've indicated a replacement product; 365 days notice if there is no replacement; and that undocumented, unsupported features or risks which are found to compromise the security or platform integrity could be turned off immediately. For example, if we found a huge security loophole in the "Widget" web part, for example, we might remove that web part immediately to protect our customers while we work on the issue.

The 2026 date has no relationship to a "date" for Office 365, because we consciously haven't published a timeline for taking that out of service. That said, as we (me) also discussed at Ignite last year, we couldn't consider taking IPFS out of service in Office 365 without significant lead time. By precedent, even though we identified a replacement tech for Access Web Apps (PowerApps) we communicated that service removal 15 months in advance.

What’s the short version? If you haven’t begun identifying your legacy workloads and planning a conversion to the Power Platform, Nintex, or other solution, it’s past time to do so. The last thing anyone wants is to find out they have 4 months to replace a business-critical application. Tools like the SharePoint Modernization Scanner can help with inventorying these legacy solutions, which will have you on the right path to planning for replacement.

If the Power Platform is your intended target for converting these solutions, Blueshift can help. We work extensively with our clients to understand their solutions, and how the Power Platform fits for their organization. Whether you are getting started with the Power Platform and need help with Governance, Planning, and setting up your Citizen Developer Program for success, or you are already invested and you need help transforming your existing processes and solutions into Power Platform solutions, we have services tailored to what you need.

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