Microsoft 365 Admin Guide to Ignite 2020 (Part 1) - IT Efficiency and Agility
Published Sep 15 2020 09:50 AM 9,841 Views

Microsoft Ignite, our yearly flagship event for Microsoft products and technologies, is a 48-hour digital event experience taking place from September 22-24, 2020. Ignite, of course, is a very different event this year. On the one hand, it is a single global event where everyone gets the same news, information, content, and experience at the same time. But on the other hand, I will miss the many personal connections that take place at our in-person events. I look forward to the day when in-person events resume, but until then, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share with you now an amazing collection of video content covering the incredible work being done across Microsoft 365.


Last year, the admin track at Ignite had several breakout, theater, and learning path sessions from several engineering teams, such as:

  • the Microsoft 365 admin center team—the team that builds the Microsoft 365 admin center and admin mobile app;
  • Release and Delivery Experiences—the team that builds, among other things, and Office What’s New;
  • Microsoft 365 Groups—the team that builds the Microsoft 365 Groups platform, membership service, and user experiences; and
  • Microsoft 365 Complex Orgs—the team that builds features and experiences to support customer mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures, and cross-tenant collaboration.

Since last Ignite, each of these teams has been immersed in customer feedback and working hard to deliver your most-wanted admin experiences. At an in-person Ignite, they’d be up on stage telling you all about what they’ve been up to for the past year. But since we can’t do that, I am thrilled to announce that we’ve done the next best thing – a digital admin track!


The Microsoft 365 Admin Tools and Experiences track has a slew of new videos that announce new features and ways to connect with Microsoft 365 engineering teams. These videos detail the new features and experiences we have delivered and are delivering to you. They highlight what we’ve done over the past year and why we’ve done it, and they give you a glimpse into what we’re doing next and why. Watch these videos not just for the content, but also for the opportunities they give you to engage directly with these feature teams and register your interest for upcoming previews, roundtables, and other product team engagements.


There are 18 across three broad themes:

This post covers IT efficiency and agility. Improved IT efficiency and agility means, in part, helping you to become a more efficient admin by allowing you to do things like delegate tasks, to increase the speed of task completion, and to improve your productivity. It also means greater flexibility for you in your work. It means giving you rich admin experiences when you’re on the go. It means having insight into the health of your organization. And it means using that insight to improve productivity.


Meet the Speakers

Let's meet the speakers first!



Microsoft 365 admins at Microsoft Ignite - 

Calling all Microsoft 365 admins and IT Pros! This Ignite session describes the slew of new learning videos that discuss new and recent improvements to the Microsoft 365 admin center, Microsoft 365 Groups, and the investments we're making in complex organization/multiple tenant scenarios.


Improve IT efficiency and agility and stay informed as you enable self-service tasks –

Earlier this year, we did a survey to find out how IT departments are being affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, besides the obvious effect of organizations shifting to a remote workforce. 2/3 of respondents told us that their IT budget was decreasing. Yet at the same time, years of digital transformation are taking place in a timespan of months. Many organizations also told us that they see an opportunity to consolidate onto Microsoft products; but it’s difficult to find the time to plan these moves. They told us that their time is split between many things today: managing their tenant, providing end-user support, troubleshooting and resolving issues, managing change, and discovering features.


We want to help you spend more time on high value projects. So, we are building features that increase efficiency across every part of your admin journey. We’re focusing on delegation, speed, and flexibility.


In a brand-new video, Karissa Larson, a senior program manager on the Microsoft 365 admin center team, talks about how you can improve IT efficiency and agility and maintain visibility through delegation. For example, you can empower users by enabling features such as self-service password reset (SSPR). We’ve been promoting SSPR for a while because we know it saves time and money for every organization that enables it. In fact, it can potentially save your organization a lot of time and money. That’s just one form of delegation that makes an admin’s life easier.


In addition to delegation, we’re focused on reducing the amount of time it takes you to perform every day and not so everyday actions. You told us that you spend a lot of time in the Microsoft 365 admin center looking for things instead of doing things. So we built a whole new search experience that shows you not just new results such as navigation items in the admin center, but also relevant and recommended documentation related to your search. Karissa describes the new search experience and gives a look at what’s coming for search by the end of 2020. Karissa also talks about the work we’re doing to enable you to monitor VIP, or priority accounts, and to help you with domain and DNS records management.


Flexibility is all about seamless integration with tools you use today. Karissa describes integrations that provide you with quick admin access across Azure, Teams, and Exchange through Microsoft Cloud Shell, the ability to sync message center posts to Microsoft Planner, and service incident integration with ServiceNow.


I don’t want to steal any thunder from Karissa and team, so go watch the video, which is packed with demos on everything I’ve mentioned. It also includes a survey you can fill out to give us feedback and help us prioritize our work, and a link to register your interest in joining a virtual roundtable session that will take place in October.


Making IT more efficient with improvements to Microsoft 365 Groups –

Karissa’s video also includes details on what we’re doing to eliminate the pain of ownerless groups, but we’re also doing a lot more with Groups to make admins more efficient. In case you aren’t aware, Microsoft 365 Groups is a platform and membership service that powers collaboration and drives teamwork across Microsoft 365. With Groups, you can give a team of people access to a collection of resources to share, such as a mailbox, calendar, document library, notebook, and more. The best part is, you don't have to manually assign permissions to each of these resources because adding people to the group automatically gives them access.


Admins have a variety of controls for managing Groups, but they are wanting greater efficiency with Groups and visibility into how Groups are being used.


In a brand-new video, Mike McLean and Ramya Rajasekhar, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, talk about the many improvements we’ve made to Microsoft 365 Groups that span the Microsoft 365 admin center, Azure Active Directory, Yammer, and more. For example, we’ve enabled key scenarios in the admin center, such as the ability to export Groups with a simple button click, and you can restore deleted Groups and edit Group email addresses in the admin center. You can also manage ownerless Groups and Teamify a Group in the admin center, including Groups created in Outlook.


Mike and Ramya discuss the admin experiences for Groups, including new capabilities around group-driven membership. They describe the improvements we’ve made around exporting Group membership from Azure AD, and how you can now validate dynamic Groups rules. In addition, Groups can now be assigned roles in Azure AD, allowing you to manage roles at scale.


In the video, Ramya also talks about Groups improvements in Yammer. As of last month, the All Company community experience in Yammer is now backed by Groups. All Company is the default community that is created in Yammer, and it contains all users in the organization. All Company is now a Microsoft 365 Group, which enables new capabilities, such as editing the Group name, description, avatar, and so forth. Posts can be restricted to admins only, and admins can promote others to be admins. And now you can host Live Events from the All Company community.


Finally, the video covers Group Driven Membership (sometimes referred to as nested groups), which is one of our top requested features. Customers want to nest security groups in Microsoft 365 groups, and Ramya talks about a new open source Group Membership Management tool that is now available to manage nested groups. The tool is based on .NET and uses Azure functions and Azure table storage, and the Microsoft Graph API as a data source. We’ve been using this tool at Microsoft for over a year where we currently manage more than a hundred of these Groups, some of which have tens of thousands of members. You can send an email to request the tool from Microsoft.


The video includes details on the other Groups improvements for IT efficiency.


Role-based access control in Microsoft 365​ –

As you may know, Microsoft 365 uses a role-based access control permissions model.  Referred to as RBAC, it is a conceptual model for admin permissions in which access is granted by assigning a role to an object.  This model is used by the various workloads across Microsoft 365.  For example, Exchange Online includes a large set of predefined roles which you can use to easily grant permissions to admins and users. Each admin role maps to common business functions and gives people in your organization permissions to do specific tasks.


When it comes to assigning roles and permissions, we have published some best practices. Because admins have access to sensitive data and files, we recommend that you follow these best practices to keep your organization's data more secure. If you are new to managing Microsoft 365, be sure to review the most commonly used Microsoft 365 admin center roles, and if you are working with a Microsoft partner, be sure to check out the section on delegated administration.


In a brand-new video, Tim Heeney, a Principal Program Manager on the Amplify team, talks about Microsoft’s North Star vision for RBAC in Microsoft 365, which is based on feedback we’ve received from admins.  The vision includes enabling customers to administer with the least privilege, and to reduce the number of permanent global admins within the organization.


In the video, Tim describes our continuing journey to this North Star, which includes providing fine-grained delegation of administration, a single point of management integrated with governance, and a system designed to intelligently guide you to least privilege use.  As we have said before, we will continue to add roles to the admin center, and Tim talks about recently added roles, roles that are coming soon, and custom roles. He also talks about upcoming integration between the Microsoft 365 admin center and Azure Active Directory Administrative Units. Administrative Units are a common way to define structure and scope resources across Microsoft 365 services, and gain clarity into who is managing what resources.


The admin center already supports administrative unit-scoped management of user properties, passwords, licenses, and administrative unit-scoped blocking and unblocking of user sign-ins. Tim’s video goes into detail about what’s coming next and how you can help prioritize our work in this area.

Tim also talks about Azure AD Privileged Identity Management integration that’s coming soon to the Microsoft 365 admin center, as well as our plans for unified role management within the admin center. Finally, Tim covers the intelligence built into the admin center that compares access granted with access used and suggests changes that can improve the security posture of your organization.


Microsoft 365 admin mobile app: administration on-the-go with productivity with flexibility -

Are you an admin who is always on the go?  Even if you aren’t, there may be times when you need to manage Microsoft 365 from your phone or tablet. That’s why there’s the free Microsoft 365 admin mobile app, the perfect companion to the web-based admin center. Our goal is to empower Microsoft 365 admins of tenants of all sizes to be productive and happy through mobile experiences.

We’ve made a lot of improvements to the mobile app, which you can use to perform more than 90 tasks to help you manage Microsoft 365. You can customize your dashboard and get the information you need to maintain service quality for your users delivered directly to your device. You can manage users, groups, and passwords, and create service requests. You can unblock users and protect sensitive data with on-the-go access to common tasks such as adding users, resetting passwords, removing company data, assigning product licenses, and more. And now, you can even view Intune-enrolled mobile devices, view billing related alerts, and report incidents.


And if you're responsible for more than one tenant, you can sign into multiple tenants and quickly switch between them. The app isn’t just mobile; it’s also global. It supports all 39 languages that are supported by the Microsoft 365 admin center.


In a brand-new video, Harish Kumar Agarwal, Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, talks about the latest innovations in the Microsoft 365 admin mobile app, including support for Intune’s mobile application management and conditional access policies, and notifications related to service health, message center posts, and billing notices.


Harish describes our focus on three areas:

  1. Start the day tasks, which include views of key aspects of your tenant to help you plan your day ahead;
  2. Save the day tasks, which enable you to perform urgent actions that address blocked productivity or security risks; and
  3. Notifications to help you stay informed about information and events across your tenant and organization.

Harish explains why we’re investing in mobile admin scenarios, and he demos several “start the day” and “save the day” tasks.


Finally, Harish gives you a glimpse into the roadmap for the Microsoft 365 admin mobile app, including work items currently under development, and items under consideration. Be sure to check out the video, as it provides details on how you can share your input with the team and help us prioritize our roadmap.


Drive external collaboration for your organization using Microsoft 365 Groups –

Guest access for Microsoft 365 Groups is enabled for all tenants by default. As an admin, you can control whether to allow guest access to groups for your entire organization or a selective subset. When enabled, group members can invite guest users to a Microsoft 365 group. Invitations are sent to the group owner for approval, and once approved, the guest user is added to the directory and the group. Guest access in groups is often used as part of a broader scenario that includes SharePoint or Teams, and those services have their own guest sharing settings.


Within Microsoft 365, we see millions of guests have been provisioned through Microsoft 365 Groups. And we know that the need for cross-organization collaboration is increasing. But it can be a bit of a challenge for admins to achieve the right balance between preventing unauthorized access and allowing unfettered collaboration. But there are several benefits to be gained by enabling guest access. For example, guest access enables safe teamwork outside your organization’s firewall. It works with any email address, and it’s based on the Azure B2B platform.


In a brand-new video, Salil Kakkar and Nandini Bhavasar, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, provide Microsoft’s latest guidance on enabling guess access for external collaboration, managing the lifecycle of external collaboration, and best practices for managing guest access at scale. They discuss the benefits of enabling guest access and how to enable guest it, as well as our best practices for governing guest access, including best practices around granting permissions and restricting domains.


Salil and Nandini show you how to track guest user activity using audit logs and guest access reviews, and how to use guest policies effectively in your organization. They walk you through the process of entitlement management, where guests can be automatically invited after being approved, provisioned with time-limited access across Groups, Teams, sites, and apps, and automatically removed when access is no longer needed.  They also talk about the guest lifecycle and adoption.

Finally, the video also briefly covers how we manage guest access here at Microsoft. Be sure to check out this video and start enabling safe and secure guest access for your organization.


Leveraging user feedback about Microsoft 365 in your organization –

Did you know that you can directly influence change at Microsoft by providing feedback and by participating in our surveys and other connection points? We have built several collection and response experiences, including the ability to collect ad hoc feedback, as well as systems that enable user-initiated feedback and system-initiated user feedback. We also have send-a-smile, which allows you to tell us if you like something, or if you don’t.


Each month we collect ~5 million feedback signals through these main systems, and another ~7 million feedback signals through support, forums, and other feedback channels. While we can't respond to every suggestion, we are committed to reading everything.


Microsoft 365 admins have also given us feedback on feedback. You’ve told us that you want visibility into and transparency around the feedback provided to us by your users, and that you want to use feedback to gain insight into product satisfaction within your organization. You’ve let us know that you want to leverage user feedback to understand and improve the health of your organization.


In a brand-new video, Reshma Kapoor, a Senior Program Manager on the Release and Delivery Experiences team, provides details on the investments we are making around customer feedback in Microsoft 365 that provide admins with more control: control over the feedback process, control over feedback data, and control over communications within their tenant. Reshma also talks about work we are doing to enable admins to view data, status, and insights from feedback, and what admins can to do take action on feedback provided by their users.


Finally, Reshma describes the private preview that is launching in late 2020 where customers can co-build feedback controls and systems directly with Microsoft.  This will initially start as a small program, with perhaps 20-30 customers, so go watch the recording, and follow the instructions to indicate your interest in the preview program.

Next Steps

Now that we’ve covered how you can increase IT efficiency and agility by enabling self-service, leveraging the improvements in the Microsoft 365 admin center and Microsoft 365 Groups, and by using feedback within your organization to measure and manage health, check out the great content we have for Modern Cloud Management and Investments in Complex Organizations.


Here’s the complete list of available videos and their URLs. We hope you enjoy them!


Improved IT Efficiency and Agility

Role-based Access Control in Microsoft 365

Microsoft 365 admin mobile app: administration on-the-go with productivity with flexibility

Improve IT efficiency and agility and stay informed as you enable self-service tasks

Making IT more efficient with improvements to Microsoft 365 Groups

Leveraging user feedback about Microsoft 365 in your organization

Drive external collaboration for your organization using Microsoft 365 Groups

Modern Cloud Management

How to manage Microsoft 365 in a remote work world

Transform change management by syncing Message Center posts to Planner

Managing updates of Microsoft 365 Apps using servicing automation

Microsoft 365 Groups roadmap updates

Microsoft 365 Groups architecture overview and deep dive

Governance and management best practices for Microsoft 365 Groups

Effective controls for Microsoft 365 Apps in the Microsoft 365 admin center

Managing work and life with Microsoft 365 Groups

How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees

Investments in Complex Organizations

Multi-tenant management in the Microsoft 365 admin center

Supporting Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divestitures in Microsoft 365

Aggregated views of Service Health and Message Center for admins that manage multiple tenants


One last takeaway: Your call to action.  Please remember that we don’t just want you to watch our videos; we want you to use the new features, we want to engage with you; we want your feedback, and your help to prioritize our work. Although these teams work on different features and functionality, all of them have the same goals: to bring you features and experiences that delight you, and to make the Microsoft 365 admin experience the most-loved cloud admin experience in the industry. We can’t do that without your help, so please engage with us and let’s get to work!

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