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Cary Siemers
Super Contributor

Why does it take so long for Governement to get new features?

For example Sway was announced in Oct 2014, and Planner in Dec 2015 and neither is in my tenant.

18 Replies
Hello Cary - this is to ensure that the new features/services/workload are in compliant with their commitments for government cloud requirements/certifications
Dux is exactly right. The US Government offerings are predicated on compliance commitments - FedRAMP Moderate, CJIS, IRS 1075, US data residency, and US citizen screened personnel. New features and services are only released once that is met, and that often takes a bit of time.
But, we also take this as good feedback: Microsoft needs to be consistent and set appropriate expectations so that you know when the new services will be available to you. We're working to improve this experience in a few ways, and part of this is a major upgrade to our roadmap system. Over the coming months, we'll have the infrastructure in place to be much more transparent.
Can you go into more detail on how First Release impacts this? We are not on First Release right now, but depending on certain features we are looking at (such as Planner) it might be worth us re-evaluating this.

Great question! I highly recommend considering First Release, which can be applied on a per user basis. It's a great way to let IT Pros, Help Desk, or Power Users get earlier access to new stuff.

 

As it relates to the US Gov subscriptions, we implement blocks by application at the license level, and turning on First Release will not override this. So in the context of Planner, you won't have access to the non-compliant feature; however, First Release will give you things like the Message Center Digest, which is currently in FR and meets compliance requirements.

 

You can enable First Release on a per user basis in the Org Profile section of the Admin Center (under Settings).

Myself and two others in my organization are on First Release. We don't get the features any sooner than anyone else unfortunately.

It's difficult to try and sell Office365 to my users when they see some feature announced, and I have to tell them, "sorry, we are Government, it might be years before we get that feature."

Most recently we saw where Teams would have solved a Business Problem for us, but we can't use it as it's not available to us. Also, since there is no published date as to when it's rolled out we can't make plans so in the meantime we have to look at other products that potentially cost quite a lot of money.

To say I'm disapointed would be a great understatement.

This is important feedback, Cary. Thank you for explaining your experience. We believe that the focus and prioritizing compliance is appropriate, but this should not come at the expense of your ability to prepare and support your users. I'm going to take your example back to the broader Microsoft team to demonstrate the impact of being unpredictable.

 

Are there any particular features that stand out in the First Release scenario?

So far, the only time First Release has worked for me has been some of the SharePoint/OneDrive changes. I received the features first, was able to create communication materials, and then distribute them to users so they could have the heads up to the changes.

Solution

I agree on all of these frustrations for G-tenant releases.

While I completely understand the need to get to compliance before release, it is hard to have no sense at all of when we might get a product that is heavily promoted elsewhere. 

For us we are in the process migrating/deploying into O365 and have no idea when some features will come to us - makes it hard to write requirements or sent timelines for roll out. 

It would be ideal for there to be a release schedule for G tenants that is released at the same time as the other tenant types so we can get some sense of it. Currently we really have that "not YOU" feel when items are not released to us yet and then put in a black hole as to when. 

 

It would also be SUPER helpful in Roadmap revisions to have tags/filters specifically for G releases, so we don't have to dig around to know if this relates to us or not.

To also align the notices in the Admin center similarly would help as well. 

 

Really looking forward to some of these releases...so any help you can give is great.

Highlighted

That is exactly how it should work, and I'll make sure your feedback reaches all of my colleagues. First, let's give kudos to @Dan Holme, @Mark Kashman, @Bill Baer, and @Chris McNulty for getting it right with SharePoint.

Thanks for the "kudos".  I can speak for the SharePoint & OneDrive team to help add some clarity, FWIW:

 

  • Quite often, features released to First Release are NOT released to Government SKUs, for the reasons mentioned above (commitments to G-specific certifications).
  • Depending on the feature and how it's engineered, some features are flighted to First Release USERS (where you specify certain users to be in FR in your tenant) and some are flighted to First Release TENANT (where the entire tenant is in FR, not "users"). Some will go to users first, then tenant. Some will do only one of the two then go to "production" (all users in all tenants).  We try to communicate what's happening, so look for "First Release users" as a signal. Generally it's safe to assume if we don't say "users", it's "tenant". Unfortunately we're not always 100% clear--we're working on improving that.  Because of this, if you have "users" specified, and a feature is flighted to "tenant" (or vice versa), you might not see a feature released to the "other" until that feature hits "worldwide" (production).
  • Within a "ring" (e.g. "First Release" or "Worldwide Availability") we often flight in "traunches", e.g. 10% of FR, 50% of FR... so a feature may be released to FR, but you might not see it for a period of time.  There's usually no way to "force" a feature to show up for you.  We did allow you to "opt in" for the modern lists experience last summer by adding a parameter to your URL. That model worked well and hopefully we will have the opportunity to do more of that in the future.
  • You cannot specify different users for different features (e.g. "I want Finance users to get feature X in FR and Marketing users to get feature Y in FR") at this point in time.
  • Our SharePoint customers find that a best practice is to have a SEPARATE TENANT in First Release, purely to experience, test, and 'document' features so that they're ready to drive adoption and support those features when they hit their 'normal' tenant in production rings.

 

Hope some of these things help!!

Thanks for the kind words @Brian Levenson.  Dan summarizes our release planning well - and if you want even more on the topic, I did a session at Ignite last year with @Lincoln DeMaris and Zohar Raz.

 

https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/t5/Microsoft-Ignite-Content-2016/BRK2297-Discover-how-we-run-Mic...

 

We still have a lot of work to do getting our customers the kind of release mamagaement I think we all want.  One thing to keep in mind is that although we;d liek to beging with FIrst Release Users, not all features lend themselves to that methodology.  FOr example, the impending release of cusotmer controlled encryption keys is a service level offering - there can only be one "master" key, and we couldnt mix or match encryption schemas at rest based on user-by-user file access.

 

Another note for first release. I completely understand the reasoning for Microsoft not to release new products to G customers for compliance and other reasons. However, in Florida, Microsoft hasn't even been approved for CJIS compliance because of the lack of a lead agency, but we went ahead and deployed O365 with the understanding that no CJI or PII information would be emailed or saved in the cloud. Therefore, we have a hybrid setup and are extremely happy to use MS cloud offerings for everything we can...as long as there is no CJI and PII, we are golden. We just recently passed our audit with flying colors. My point being that even if Microsoft were to release things like Planner (which I desperately would like to see), G agencies know the risk of not having certain apps CJIS compliant and work with them accordingly so as not to put their agency in danger of non-compliance. We would jump on Planner train immediately knowing that we weren't going to store CJI or PII in that app. I would love to see Microsoft release apps and provide the caveat that it is not compliant in certain areas, giving agencies the choice of whether or not to utilize. I am a big fan of the MS cloud offerings and would love to get my hands on the new features sooner! Has anyone at Microsoft considered it from that point of view?

Hi Laurie,

 

We're working hard to deliver the new capabilities into the US Government offerings, but we really can't release non-compliant services. The US Gov products are predicated and differentiated by the compliance. Advertising and positioning a product based on compliance and then introducing applications that takes a user's data outside the compliance boundary is a liability for our customers and for Microsoft.

 

We are evaluating different models that would allow us to release services and apps before they're compliant with big disclaimers and potentially contract amendments, but the north star is to really provide the full suite of productivity services and tools with compliance. Doing awkward things in the meantime distracts and delays delivery of the compliant versions. It's a balance that we're trying to find.

 

If the Florida CJIS agreement was in place and services are appropriately accredited, would you prefer to move the rest of the content and users to the cloud? Or do you foresee an indefinite on-premises presence with hardware and software your org would manage?

Brian, any updates on the Roadmap improvements for visibility into Gov tenant release times?

Hate sounding like a broken rercord but it is hard to have releases be so open ended for products that are available to others.

Thanks!

Although I hate to resurrect an old thread, this topic is still an ongoing issue. When will G-Tenant stuff be available? In this case I want to be specific, SharePoint Online modern Team sites/pages. 

 

SP Online already has the option for the "new" lists and Libraries. OneDrive also has the modern look and feel. I find it difficult that the changes in "modernity" for the new Team sites require YEARS of approval.

 

Can ANYONE tell me/us anything about when and if this is even on a timeline anywhere? Otherwise you might as well just add "teleportation" or "terminators" to the Road Map as well because they'll be here....eventually.

 

Thanks. End Rant.

 

David.

David,

I know that in our G-tenant, we have modern sites/pages and have had them a while - but they are not default.

If I create a new site collection, it is typically a classic page default. I go in and build a new page and I get a Modern page that I then configure, save, publish, and set as the new Homepage.

For new sites from the "+ Create site" option in the SharePoint app tile, it gives me modern sites from the start. Same for O365 Group SP sites.

I need to look around my SP Admin settings to see if there is a setting there that is helping with making these available, but it is definitely avail in the G-tenants.

Hope this helps some. If I can find any settings in the admin config that might help further, will post.

-kathy

FYI - there is a User Voice item requesting a Government tenant Roadmap with dates for product releases to the Gov tenants:

https://office365.uservoice.com/forums/264636-general/suggestions/33313249-release-dates-for-governm...

 

Please consider adding your voice to help this item get traction!

-kathy