Office 365 Change Management in 2017

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Trusted Contributor

A bit of an open-ended question to start the new year and kickstart the Change Alerts space a bit - What would help you better manage change in Office 365? Where do you struggle or what would make it even smoother?

 

Here are a few ideas, some of which have been well discussed before or are already set to be improved:  

 

  • More correlation with the Message Center and the Roadmap
  • Dated added/modified timestamps for roadmap items
  • A Roadmap that is more personalized for individual tenants (almost like merge the MC and roadmap??)
  • Email notifications of changes or some sort of summary something like the ‘Azure pricing and services updates’ emails that highlight new Azure features
  • An official RSS feed for the roadmap (roadmap.com is great unofficial solution) and perhaps Message Center
  • Better distinction with tenant FR and selective FR, how new features permutate through these different releases
  • Microsoft blogs and support articles are revised when dates significantly shift
  • Easier to control new features, so you can try them out at a pace that suits the organization, with granular controls
  • Admin controls ship alongside new features or within a clear defined timescale (e.g. within 30/60/90 days)

 

More great new features, fewer surprises/undocumented changes/things flying under the radar is the gist of it. What does everyone else think?  Office 365 has come a long way but could it be even better? Thanks for any feedback, I am genuinely interested in what everyone thinks about this!

11 Replies
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I would like to see a comprehensive Change Log for each tenant that provides a complete listing of the changes that have deployed, the affected service, and applicable license.

 

PowerBI, the Office Desktop client apps, and the on-premises servers all provide something like this. We should be able to get the same thing for SPO, EXO, SFB, ODfB, Delve, CSOM, and Admin Center changes.

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It would help to know when what happens before it happens.

 

So maybe for each update made to a tenant.

 

X days in advance a message in the message center what will happen and when it will happen. Maybe X can be configurable, however this may be tricky with multiple tenants in one single farm. 

 

Then once an update is installed a message that the update is complete.

 

 

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Amen to that list, but I'm starting to lose hope to be honest. Most of these items have been mentioned repeatedly for years now, and we've hardly seen any movement in the proper direction. We've definitely seen some improvement, but nowhere near what it should be (or has been promised).

 

Most recent example - that pesky "Archive" folder in your mailbox :)

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  1. In the message center, provide detailed instructions on how you can tell if something has arrived or not in your tenant. i.e. step by step process to identify the change.
  2. Message Center to Planner link, so we can assign people to updates, track comments, move into piles of being done etc.
  3. The percentage of tenants deployed that product group people share through twitter is useful, show that in the message center
  4. Somehow link roadmap to the posts on blogs.office.com, so articles describing new features automatically create entries in the roadmap. Too often the roadmap lags.
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Earlier I forgot to mention that in the updates it should also be included why I am getting an update. Is it part of first release or not. I.e. Do I need to panic my customer or not.
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We'd love to see:

 

A Roadmap that is more personalized for individual tenants (almost like merge the MC and roadmap??)

Easier to control new features, so you can try them out at a pace that suits the organization, with granular controls.

Dated added/modified timestamps for roadmap items.

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Thanks for all the comments so far, keep them coming. I think it’s fair to say Office 365 change management is still proving a challenge for many.

 

Some examples for comparison from other Microsoft products, with how product changes are communicated compared to Office 365.  Microsoft have a Windows 10 and Windows Server 2016 update history, System Center Configuration Manager has a comprehensive product changes section, Dynamics 365 has a what's new page and there is an Azure service updates page.


In Office 365, there is the Office Blogs especially these types of posts and other resources

 

  • What’s new in Office 365 administration—December update
  • New to Office 365 in November
  • There is the Office 365 Update for December 2016 Video with nifty transcripts available (this is what I use to highlight changes in my team, as it's easy to email around)
  • Microsoft Tech Community Weekly Roundups as well, the Roadmap and Message Center

 

@Dean Gross what would a Office 365 change log look like? It would have to be specific to each tenant and provide enough detail to be meaningful, easily filterable/searchable and updated regularly like weekly? Rather than just talk about new features, it would detail what exactly has changed, tweaks, fixes, every relevant detail? More like the Office 365 client update channel releases page perhaps. As good as that sounds, I wonder if that’s realistic? This would be tough for those A/B testing changes which are sometimes user rather than tenant changes I suppose.

 

@Pieter VeenstraThat sounds interesting, so like a message center post or other notification, informing admins you will receive x feature in 15 days on this date etc. This is similar to what happens with Dynamics 365, though this isn’t for individual updates rather major new updates (typical released twice a year). You get notifications before updates are scheduled with reminders and afterwards saying your organization has received the update.

 

This I imagine would be challenging for Microsoft with the different release cadence Office 365 has but it would certainly provide more clarity and transparency.  Distinguishing between First Release updates and standard updates would be good as well. 

 

@Vasil Michev  I don’t think it’s lost cause or anything though I understand it’s easy to lose confidence sometimes. For me, it's been the Focused Inbox for Outlook 2016 and the web update that I have lost track of.  

 

@Steven Collier I agree that there should be some way to tell if a feature has arrived or not in a tenant, taking the legwork out of it. The Planner suggestion would be something, it would really take it to the next level. The deployment percentages are useful and would be worth promoting. Linking Office blogs with roadmap and correlating features would be an interesting one.

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@Cian Allner, a good place to start would be with publically accessible version numbers for each admin page/service/feature/api.

The SP Server Central Admin site provides the ability to Check product and patch installation status. having something similar for each O365 tenant is what I am envisioning.

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What could help us better manage change?  More control over how apps are enabled.  Please don't turn apps on by default for everyone!  Let us turn them on in a manner that makes sense for our org.  

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For me I would like to see somewhere I can subscribe to targeted updates.

 

That is to say I can specify our 365 / Azure subscription(s) E1, E3, K1 etc.

Then specify the products that we are using or are interested in.

Whilst still retaining the Message center and overall roadmap for more expanded info.

 

The odd marketing email saying this is coming go check this out is ok, but do I really need all the entire environments info to go through when I'm only interested in certain workloads?

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This is one of the best summaries I've encountered! Thank you for kicking off the discussion, Cian, and for providing insightful feedback and requests, everyone! What you've described is very well aligned with our intentions. It will take me a while to address each point individually, so I'll start by sharing some high level direction and strategy.

 

I'd strongly recommend everyone watch the Office 365 Release and Change Communication session from Ignite 2016 (and get excited for Ignite 2017), where we outlined the strategy and areas of investment: Ignite Session: Office 365 Release, Change, and Communication

 

Here is how we think about releases:

 

Office 365 is a global service that is operated at hyper-scale, and the architecture is designed to enable high availability, reliable redundancy, and seamless updates.  The infrastructure is made up of tens of thousands of servers across more than a hundred data centers, and each organization’s tenant is made up of multiple active copies of content spanning multiple data centers.  This approach allows us to deliver the full value of the cloud – for example, performance is continually improved, bugs can be patched within hours, and the concept of downtime for updates has been made obsolete – and it also increases complexity in our ability to provide specific, per-tenant availability dates.

 

We communicate information that customers need to evaluate, plan, support, and adopt Office 365 services, features, and functionality through a few channels.  The Office blog is where we publish news and announcements including product strategy, executive perspectives, upcoming releases, and customer best practices.  The public roadmap website – and with greater detail in the NDA newsletter/SUM Newsletter (Premier) – delivers insight into specific features and functionality that is upcoming and broken down by release status, service, and platform.  Once the roll out begins, eligible tenants receive a notification in the Message Center, which is consumable in the Admin Center, Admin Mobile App, and Service Communication API.  The product group is monitoring releases and the associated communications in an effort to identify best practices and drive greater consistency and predictability. 

 

A few specific items that we're working on:

 

  • Weekly email digest to show Message Center notifications via email (currently in First Release)
  • Actionable Preview Period communications that highlight features in First Release
  • Configurability policy for tenant wide and per user enablement controls enforced consistently
  • Major overhaul of the backend system that powers the Office 365 roadmap for greater agility, additional filters, and new views - this is how we've started including the Feature ID across the roadmap and Message Center publications