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How to stay up to date in regards of Office 365 changes from a business point of view

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Juan Carlos González Martín
MVP

One of my customers asked yesterday an interesting question: Is there any document / place where I can stay up to date in regards of Office 365 but from a business point of view? Obviously, the Office 365 Roadamp is not what my customer is looking for..he is looking for a kind of resource where he can watch from time to time what's coming to Office 365 and the business value...any ideas cc @Brian Levenson @Dean Gross @Tony Redmond @Vasil Michev

41 Replies

Unfortunately, some issues exist in using blogs.office.com as a source of authentic knowledge.

 

First, it's a marketing forum. It can take months afterwards for something described to appear in the service and when it does, the functionality might differ (because it has been tested and changed in First Release).

 

Second, there's no filtering on blogs.office.com to break down functionality for a specific tenant. You have to know what plans you have and then interpret the content to understand whether you will get the described functionality.

 

Third, it's marketing... But I said that before.

 

The only authorititive source of what's coming is the Office 365 Message Center for a tenant because the items that appear there are filtered for the tenant and are close to appearance. 

 

The roadmap is good as a heads-up mechanism, but suffers because some things are on the roadmap for months (even years, it might seem) without appearing. Recovery of deleted groups is an example - this received major attention at the Ignite conference in September 2016 and now, six months later, we still wait.

 

So it's a problematic question to answer.... One that I spend a lot of time considering because knowing when new stuff arrives is ultra-important for the Office 365 for IT Pros ebook team...

Have you seen https://docs.com/jim-naroski/6956/office-365-update-series, these are 10-15 minute long videos along with  a text transcription file that can be used for customizing communications.

Thanks Dean, interesting resource I was not aware of!! Tony, I mentioned your book to my customer, but then he said he is not a technical guy and he needs something more business oriented ^-^

I'm not a technical guy either...  At least, not at the same level as some of the folks who hang around here...


@Juan Carlos González Martín wrote:
Thanks Dean, interesting resource I was not aware of!! Tony, I mentioned your book to my customer, but then he said he is not a technical guy and he needs something more business oriented ^-^

 

Your humility is refreshing, we could use some of that in our countries political leadership :)
I always forget about that resource, and it does not seem to be advertised very well.

It gets shown at the beginning of each O365 User Group meeting in Charlotte NC so it was fresh in my head :)

I tend to stay well away from politics, especially in other countries where I don't understand the subtle nuances. [Question to self: are there subtle nuances in today's politics - to debate later]

It is the same content (i.e. Jim Narosky's Office 365 Update Series) of the link I posted above.

I think the official link is the one I posted.

I miss the good old O365 community wiki that had a nice list. But I dont see anyone mentioning the blog @Thomas C. Finney is keeping on the subject: https://aka.ms/o365-planned-service-changes-2017

 

Not the Admin related stuff though, but the weekly Digests: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/skywriter/

Thanks Vasil for remembering me this source :-)...and Susan, I have already taken into account your site ;)

@Vasil Michev - Many thanks for the mention and references to my blog!  :)

 

The goal of the digest from the very beginning in 2014 (even before it was a blog) is my attempt to help customers keep up with the rapid release nature of Office 365 and consolidate content from all the various information sources...i.e. trying to be a "one-stop shop" for what is happening in Office 365. 

 

I'm so glad to hear that it is proving useful to the community!

 

Thanks again,

Thomas

Highlighted

I think you've all hit on the topics I would have mentioned (except politics, good job working that in), and here's how I think about them:

Office Blog (blogs.office.com)

Office 365 newspaper used for announcements and other media/marketing type stories. Business focused and less technical in nature. It's really not a change management tool but a vision resource to share direction and success stories.

Intended audience: CxOs, Business Decision Makers, IT Decision Makers, Power Users, Media

 

Tech Community Blogs

Discussion topics, thought pieces, and technical descriptions of new capabilities. Ranges from announcements of smaller features to deep dives and how-tos. Good way to stay up to date but also not a change management tool.

Intended audience: IT Pros, Power Users

 

Office 365 Roadmap (roadmap.office.com)

Detailed list of features and functionality that are in development and released. Great way for IT Pros to identify whether needed features and capabilities are being addressed by Office 365 teams.

Intended audience: IT Pros, Power Users

 

Office 365 Message Center (in Admin Center)

Direct to admin communications relevant to specific tenant with information on new features and capabilities, as well as when action is required. This is the primary change management tool for IT Pros.

Intended audience: IT Pros / Tenant Admins

 

All of these channels funnel into outputs such as the video series shared below, Microsoft Mechanics, Microsoft Virtual Academy, and other resources. Based on the context of this question - business team wanting to understand existing or upcoming capabilities in a non technical explanation - I would recommend the Office Blog.

 

This is also a great resource for training end users on Office 365 capabilities:

https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=54088

Thanks Brian and also for remembering me the Office 365 BoM...just downloaded the lates version...by the way, I know there are many places to look for information, but It could be great to have a central location where consolidate this info.

This is a good - and also common - request that we've been evaluating for a while. Ultimately, we keep landing on the idea that different channels should have various information sets based on the audience. For example, we should be providing deep technical documentation but not to business decision makers. That's why we've ended up with multiple communications that often overlap...

 

The north star direction is to have identical information across the Roadmap and Message Center, with the difference being that Message Center communications are timed and tailored to your tenant. From a change management perspective, our intention is to make the Message Center the single source of information.

The most authentic and updated resource is the Message Center which can be accessed through Office 365 Admin Center. It has all the features that are yet to be released in Office 365.

I think if the user just wants a time to time update on what's happened and what's ahead, I'd recommend the Weekly Roundup on this community. It's shared each Friday and sums up all of the news that hits Office Blogs.

 

The other side of this coin is the roadmap site, which isn't updating as frequently but gives a longer line of sight to what we are working on. 

Dean you mention a O365 group in CLT, is there a website that I can check out for more information? I'm in CLT each month and might be interested in attending depending on dates. Thank you in advance.

@Brian Levenson,

It would be great if we could give certain business users read access to Message Center.  There's a UserVoice suggestion for that, http://bit.ly/JRA2MC (Just Read Access To Message Center) that has gone from 30 votes to 80+ votes in the last month.

 

 

There are Office 365 meetups worldwide.  In Chicago, the one I co-run is online at http://bit.ly/O365AUGChiMU

One way of sharing what's in Message Center with business users is to use PowerShell to export Message Center Messages to a spreadsheet.  See this post for the script.

 

 

Hey Michael! We're actively evaluating options to provide Message Center content to non-admins, and a read-only role is certainly one of the considerations.

 

Do you think the "Service Admin" role would suffice? Or is that still too much access since it's read-only visibility to the whole portal?

 

Admin Center permissions and roles are defined here:

https://support.office.com/en-us/article/About-Office-365-admin-roles-da585eea-f576-4f55-a1e0-87090b...

 

(cc: @Anne Michels)

That would be a nice addition.

 

Another way to surface those MC announcements is via the new weekly digest emails, that is tenant specific and also the weekly digest posts, though not tenant specific.  Having a role that can interact with MC via the portal would be useful.

It is almost like we need an interface between the O365 Roadmap and the O365 Admin Message Center.

 

The Roadmap gives you a "feel" for what "may" be coming, but with very little accuracy or business value.

The O365 Message Center does give you some accuracy, but with very little time (warning) for business value.

 

Both of them are great resources for the tech admins to stay on top of. Would be interesting to see if someone could cobble together a PowerApp tool that could combine these two "lists" and then apply some business categories to them.

Great feedback, and that's the balance we're trying to find. I suspect it will vary based on the topic and type of new feature, but what is the ideal amount of time for your organization? Any suggestions as to how we should think about it?
+1 to this update mentioned by Brian!
Your blog is fantastic, how have I never stumbled upon it before?

There's so much good information hiding away on TechNet - Microsoft should apply some 'Delve' to it in order to surface information one may find relevant or interesting.

Hi Sue - I just read your blog post "It takes a village: Change management with Office 365"

First - great write-up!

 

Last year, when my clients started getting caught off guard by changes, they asked "where do we go to stay current." I provided them guidance very similar to what you provided in your article.

They then asked me, "we don't have time for that! Can you do it for us and give us a summarized report?"

We are now offering this 'change management as a service' to several clients where we have business level conversations with their CIO / IT Directors about changes that they should be aware of.

 

In summary, clients need to either assign the task of staying current to one of their existing employees (probably 0.25 headcount per month) or they can hire a professional services firm to do this for them. Otherwise they risk outages. For example, on October 31st 2017, any client who still has Outlook 2007 will no longer be able to connect to Exchange Online, when they retire RPC over HTTP (replacing it with MAPI over HTTP). The CIO's job may be at stake if they don't recognize the impact to their organization not being able to send/receive email on that day. This is just one example of several that happen every year that require attention to this very important topic.

 

-Joe

 

 


We are now offering this 'change management as a service' to several clients where we have business level conversations with their CIO / IT Directors about changes that they should be aware of. 

 


Or they could just buy a copy of "Office 365 for IT Pros" for $39.95 and track our weekly change log http://wp.me/pSH8B-1kg to decide what is new or different enough for the tenant to be worried about. We don't catch everything, but over the last year we have made literally hundreds of changes to track what's been happening across Office 365 (see http://wp.me/pSH8B-1pK for a June-December analysis).

 

I seriously think that a heads-up service for companies who don't have the time or technical inclination to monitor the many diverse sources of information about new developments inside Office 365 is a great idea... If exhausting at the same time.

Service Admin is defined as "Opens support requests with Microsoft, and views the service dashboard and message center. They have “view only” permissions except for opening support tickets and reading them."

 

From a governance and user roles perspective, the change manager who needs read access to message center is very different from the helpdesk or IT support person that would be dealing with support tickets.

 

I would want to give a business person just Read Access to Message center and nothing more.  It would be great if there was a "Message Center Reader" admin role.  

 

Since this is something you are considering, could you update the User Voice suggestion at http://bit.ly/JRA2MC as "Thinking about it"?

Another way to get the Message Center content to the right audiences in a flexible way would be to have a trigger available in Flow that is activated whenever a new message arrives in one's tenant.

 

This way, the Global Tenant Admin could set up a Flow to distribute new Message Center Messages in a variety of ways.  For example, pipe it to a SharePoint list.  There you could have people review it and comment on it and track the change management status of it.  Or pipe it to a Yammer discussion group for a variation on that idea.

 

I added a User Voice suggestion for it here.  If you agree this makes sense, vote it up:

https://flow.uservoice.com/forums/9564-general/suggestions/18907885-create-a-flow-trigger-for-when-a...

 

 

Is there a way to schedule when the weekly digest emails arrive? I would want them to arrive on Monday because I have to submit change requests to the change control board by Wednesday...

 

On the other hand, I've started putting them in a spreadsheet, which makes them more actionable because I can track the change management status of each message.  For example, tracking if a message requires follow up and if that follow up has been completed.

 

If I'm consistently generating that spreadsheet weekly, I don't need to get the digest email.

We just published a blog article related to this topic and sample code to take advantage of the Service Communication API. Check it out and let us know what you think!

 

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Office-365-Blog/Office-365-Monitoring-Leveraging-the-Office-3...

Thought you might be interested to read this post - Found a HBR article from 1985 about the principles of change management and it turns out not much has changed!


@Daniel Kharman wrote:
Your blog is fantastic, how have I never stumbled upon it before?

There's so much good information hiding away on TechNet - Microsoft should apply some 'Delve' to it in order to surface information one may find relevant or interesting.

Many thanks for the feedback, @Daniel Kharman!  It is starting to get a little more exposure - folks are seeing posts here in the Microsoft Tech Community and links are being shared out on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  The Twitter traffic is mostly thanks to the Microsoft Tech and Office 365 communities as well as fellow community members like @Cian Allner and @Deleted  :)

 

Thanks again,

Thomas

 

 

 

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