A quick lap around the new SharePoint Admin Center preview

At the SharePoint Virtual Summit in May 2017, Microsoft unveiled a new admin center for SharePoint Online promising to bring a simpler, more intuitive experience via a new modern user interface. After a private preview, Microsoft has started rolling out this preview to all targeted release tenants. Naturally, we have been keen to see what the new admin center can offer and here are our first thoughts.

First off, the new experience does not load by default. Instead the “classic” SharePoint admin center UI loads and there is a link in the top right of the screen that provides the link through to the new environment. This is also a good way of knowing if your tenant has been enabled for the preview; in short, no link no preview.

When launched, the landing page for the new admin center starts by providing an overview of what is going on in your SharePoint Online environment.

Screenshot of SharePoint admin center preview home

Firstly, there are 2 activity charts that show file activity (i.e. number of documents viewed/edited, synced, shared internally, shared externally) and site activity (i.e. total number of sites and active sites) in the last 30 days.  The Message Center rolls up SharePoint & OneDrive specific articles from the main Message Center in the Office 365 Admin Portal and the Service Health widget shows any incidents that are currently affecting your SharePoint tenant.  All in all, this is a useful landing page for anyone responsible for monitoring the SharePoint Online environment, especially in larger organisations where administrative responsibilities for SharePoint Online are assigned to a designated team.  From here, there are 4 main tabs within the admin center.

The Site Management tab represents the greatest amount of change over the previous (now referred to as “classic”) SharePoint Admin Center.  The UI is a major step forward and fully embraces the modern look and feel as well as the sorting and filtering functionality seen elsewhere in SharePoint, however, in this release it is not without its limitations.  On one hand, it is great that we can finally see all SharePoint site collections listed (i.e. including “Group” Team sites & Communications sites) but not being able to take any meaningful action on a selected site is disappointing.  For example, I would have hoped to have been able to select a site and change the sharing settings but at the moment, all you can do is see details about the selected site and email the administrators of the site.

Ultimately, I expect these sorts of features to come across to the new experience but for now it is still a case of either making the changes to the sites that are listed in the classic admin center or reverting back to PowerShell for those that are not listed (which in any organisation embracing modern workplace initiatives is very much a growing list).

That said, there are some useful features available in the new experience.  As expected, new sites can be provisioned from the new admin center via a user interface consistent with that which is already available on the SharePoint Home page with the additional ability to provision “Classic sites” (i.e. sites based on site templates that originally shipped with previous versions of SharePoint).

The admin center makes the following site properties available for use in views:

  • Site name
  • Storage used
  • Primary admin
  • Template
  • Last activity
  • Created on
  • URL
  • External sharing
  • Office 365 group
  • Files viewed or edited
  • Page views
  • Files

The following built-in views are provided:

  • All sites
  • Largest sites
  • Least active sites
  • Most popular shared sites

All the views support the familiar sorting and filtering capabilities found in regular SharePoint lists as shown below:

Sadly, it is not currently possible to save a new view with the applied settings.  There are hints that this functionality might follow (e.g. when a view is modified a * symbol is shown next to the name in the same way it does for regular SharePoint lists highlighting that there are unsaved changes) but we have not heard anything definitive at this time.

The Recycle Bin tab is essentially a visual update to the existing functionality that is consistent with the rest of the modern user interface.

The Settings tab is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the preview at this time as very few settings have been ported to the new interface.  At present, the settings are limited to controlling whether the modern SharePoint list and libraries user interface is on or off by default and similarly for controlling notifications to Office mobile apps.  Therefore, on a day-to-day basis, it is likely that SharePoint admins may find themselves switching regularly between the experiences.  Ultimately, the preview demonstrates that the foundations of the new experience are solid and from here on in I expect a rapid expansion of functionality being released on an iterative basis.  I also have my suspicions that not all functionality will be ported across from the classic SharePoint Admin Center, especially for any configuration settings that relate to deprecated features like InfoPath, thus increasing the likelihood that the classic SharePoint admin center may be around for some time to come.

The API Management tab was one not previously shown or discussed when the new admin center was announced.  This is an entirely new piece of administrative functionality that will allow SharePoint admins to control the approval of third-party APIs that can be called by apps and custom scripts in SharePoint sites and is related to the new extensibility model for SharePoint called the SharePoint Framework.

In summary, I am encouraged by the preview of the new SharePoint Admin Center. There is certainly a lot to like about the new admin center and it certainly bodes well for the future, but it is ultimately deficient in so many areas that its usefulness is limited at this time.   I therefore expect most SharePoint admins to continue using a combination of the existing functionality and PowerShell to perform administrative tasks on their SharePoint Online environments for the foreseeable future.

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Simon Chalfont
I have played a pivotal role in the development of Intelogy, a leading Microsoft Partner specialising in Office 365, SharePoint & .NET Development, since its formation in 1995. I engage with both business stakeholders and technical professionals to ensure successful delivery of high quality software solutions. I love new technology and continue to set new targets for the development of the company.
Published On: March 2nd, 2018 Categories: Modern IT

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