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Preparing for change - how, why, and when?

Brian Levenson
Microsoft

Seeking best practices, feedback, suggestions, and questions!

 

When Microsoft thinks about releasing new services, apps, features, or functionality, we seek to provide advance notice, clear information, and seamless deployment.  Ultimately, we want to make it as simple as possible for your organization and users to adopt new collaboration and productivity tools.  To continue making this experience easier, less disruptive, and more pleasant, our team wants to be deeply in tune with your processes, policies, pains, and successes. (Yes, we have a lot of opinions and assumptions, and we've been listening to feedback for a long time.  We also want ongoing feedback and dialogue.)

 

A few questions to initiate conversation:

 

  • Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?
  • Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?
  • What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?
  • How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?
  • Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?
  • Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?
9 Replies

Hi

 

This question was asked on correct time. I am the one who is struggling to build a plan how can i can keep my staff, management and Helpdesk aware of the Microsoft releasing new services, apps, features, or functionality.

I did added myself and my team to first release so that we can be the pilot users to play around and know more about new releases. However Message center only provides a subset of information and not complete information. Let me help with you an example.

 

We have been waiting on Planner to hit out tentant however it is still not available. I understand that MS is rolling out these features to all customers in phased manner. Since we have now added ourself to First Release now we can see the planner. We have already started playing around this.

 

This is actually giving us lot of time to test and train our staff as well as prepare documentation. But the question is i dont see a mechanism from Microsoft where it can push a message to my message center saying. Planner or any app will be rolled out to your Tenant  (xxxxx..yyyy.com) on so and so date. Get ready.

This will give us a granular control to create Change Record and get it approved by our management and also to send a coroporate communication email to all users about new release.

 

Since there is no confirmed schedule when the new apps/service/feature is going to hit the tenant we are like completely blind and we dont know what to answer users when they hear about this new apps from other media. So we need a communication method explictly for tenant owners.

 

I really think MS should work on this.

 

Hi Brian,

 

Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?

We do have a change management process and change boards, they focus on validation of testing and scheduling of changes. Before we take a change for Office 365 we have agreed it at our EUC Steering Group.


Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?

For the Steering Group we are planning mainly how we will communicate and support the adoption of new features. Some smaller things we just inform people through Yammer, for larger we run news stories on our homepage, arrange training and drop in at our 'Connect Bar' etc.


What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?

As a retailer we freeze all changes from October to February, but other than that we are trying to create a consistent and clear schedule of releasing information for new features through a series of campaigns.


How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?

Typically 3-6 months between First Release Select Users and roll out.


Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?

Remedy


Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?

Not much, it's used as a prompt to go and look to see when things are released, but the only way seems to be manually checking daily for months to see if something has arrived. Our standing agreement is to turn off new features when we can, then release to our Early Adopters Trial group, then get approval for communications and general release. For example we're jsut gearing up to launch Planner at the moment.

For us (~100 users) knowing too far in advance of actual roll out to our tenant doesn't help at all. We should be notified a month or two at most ahead of time. That way we have time to evaluate the new features and decide if they meet a business need of our organization.

And I don't mean a month or two when rollouts start, but a month or two before MY TENANT receives the new feature.

Too often I've been excited for a new feature, told some of the users, hey this great new feature is coming and will solve X for you, but then it takes a year or more to actually arrive. That doesn't help with my reliability in the eyes of my users.

We don't have a testing group as only e-mail is considered mission critical. All the other features in Office 365 are "nice", and would be inconveinent if they weren't working, but not a show stopper for us. So new features only get an IT review so we know what the feature will have to offer our users. 

The way a new feature is used if there's a business case for using it. We typically don't roll out features willy nilly. 

 

  • Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?

Yes we have a Change Advisory Board (CAB) that meets every week to discuss planned change.

 

  • Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?

We look at the following;

1. How many users will be affected

2. Complexity of the implemenation

3. Is an Outage required

4. Do we need to update our Knowledge Base or provide any training

 

  • What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?

This is tough to answer, but it would really depend in our buiness needs.

 

  • How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?

We have decided not to bring all of the new features that are being release by Microsoft to CAB.  We have a assigned someone to review all the new features that are being released.  (In this case I am that person).  I have to judge the impact, and usablity of the new functionality.  From there I make a judgement call on how handle the change.  For example we released Planner to our user base.  I provided communication of it release to our business, and then let them run with the with, but I did not presented it to our CAB.   However, we are reviewing Azure Mutifactor Authentication which was a feature that was presented to our CAB.  So basically if it simply a new tool that a user has the option to use we don't take it CAB, and just release it.  However, is a release requires some sort of configuration required it will go to CAB.

 

We have made the decision not to micromanage all of the Office 365 releases, which for IT can be some what difficult.

 

  • Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?

Service Now

 

  • Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?

It helps keep us informed.

This feedback and insight is fantastic!  Thank you so much, and please keep it coming!

 

Based on these processes and approaches, is Microsoft meeting your needs? For organizations that prefer a few months to prepare, are you able to find documentation early and with details?  For groups that prefer communications closer to the time of release, are you finding the Message Center to be useful?

Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?

Yes, meets weekly.

Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?

Yes

What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?

Impact on customer and security concerns.

How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?

Depends on the scope and scale of the service

Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?

Yes, use TeamDynamix

Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?

Yes
  • Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?
    • Yes, we have a change board for IT functions. For O365 we have a working group that meets weekly to discuss upcoming Microsoft changes. As we don't control decisions of timing of those changes, it is limited to the O365 team to assess, understand, and communicate.
  • Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?
    • For the IT change board, yes.
  • What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?
    • From the O365 perspective new tiles are assessed based on the existing internal road map and associated planning and resources. In addition we consider the outstanding needs of the organization that a tile might/might not meet. Some tiles are released without support for the end users to use as they wish to (Sway). Others are held because they have more structured rollout needs (Project Online).
  • How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?
    • Not sure there is a standard time.
  • Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?
    • Not sure what the IT change board uses.
  • Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?
    • For O365, yes. Both play a huge role. We review the O365 Roadmap to get an idea of what is coming and then lean on notifications regarding its actual arrival. And then the missing piece is technical description of the impact, adjustments, features, etc. that are involved within the change itself.

Based on these processes and approaches, is Microsoft meeting your needs? For organizations that prefer a few months to prepare, are you able to find documentation early and with details?  For groups that prefer communications closer to the time of release, are you finding the Message Center to be useful?

 

To date I would say that the information available within the O365 Roadmap is not necessarily technical in nature, nor is the published approach in the blog. While that is fine, I have not located a source for technical documentation regarding changes that would help us to assess the impact. We try to get ahead of it with our FR tenant and FR users in Prod tenant. But that is limited to our testing, our understanding, and the feedback of the community to fill in the technical details.

 

Message Center communication is really more about the "it is here" moment vs. what is actually coming. We would like to leverage both tools.

Does your organization have a change advisory board or similar function?

Yes they meet weekly. 

 

Is there a consistent set of questions that must be answered during each review?

Yes. We use a template to define what we need to know. (see example image)

 

What variables most frequently lead to acceptance or rejection of a new technology?

Common areas for rejection:

  • Unacceptable business impact i.e. downtime
  • Lack of adminstrative controls that without which lead to wild-west conditions, risks of information leakage etc.
  • Lack of vendor clarity as to their roadmap, licensing model or security
  • Licensing costs

Common areas for acceptance:

  • Clear business benefit offered
  • The price is right

 

How much time do you spend evaluating each new service?

This is driven by scope, scale and feature availability e.g. a new ERP would be evaluated for an extended period as it is business critical, costs a lot of money etc. whilst a new widget in SharePoint might get 10 minutes just to ensure we can control it appropriately or do not fall foul of per unit licensing etc.

 

Do you have a change management system (ie. Remedy)?

We use ServiceNow and our change management processes are based on ITIL.service now change.pngstandard change template 

 

Does the Message Center notifications or Office 365 Roadmap play a role?

Significant role as a key source of information and early warning. We also get notifications from Premier Support. However, one of the key sources is the Change Management group in the Office 365 Network (I do hope the group can continue to flourish in its new home). It's amazing how thousands of extra eyes can help spot issues etc. before they arrive in your own tenancy or the group members can explain what is happening before a Message Centre, Support Ticket or Microsoft blog post does. Earlier this year I summarised what we do day to day for Office 365 this blog post.

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