Office 365 gives you the latest updates and features as early as possible so you can continue doing your job productively. For Office 365 services, updates are run in the background as soon as they become available, instead of bundled updates scheduled months apart.
Shifting from a static Office suite to an evergreen one that enhances user productivity, creativity, and collaboration requires us to provide visibility into the updates that are coming for your users – you need the resources to navigate and guide these changes throughout your tenant. From the Office 365 Roadmap to the Message Center, Microsoft provides the information you need to stay on top of change.
Note: While Office ProPlus client apps are updated every six months, there is also the option to sign up for earlier releases to receive them sooner. See Targeted release section for more details.
The Office 365 Roadmap gives you a snapshot of upcoming changes as early as possible. Product groups post upcoming updates for features and services on the roadmap in one of several stages: in development, rolling out, and launched. The roadmap is designed to give a wider view into the future of Office 365 changes to come, so admins can get excited for new features, plan appropriately with Targeted release, and keep on the lookout for the Message Center post as the update nears its ship date. Visit the roadmap to get the first view of exciting updates and keep up-to-date on applications and services across Office 365.
Message Center is the hub where we post official announcements about upcoming changes to your tenant as well as any actions required by admins to proactively manage the change. You can access the Message Center as a card on the admin center home dashboard or under Health in the left-hand panel.
Each post gives a summary of what’s changing, how it may affect users, and additional links to help you prepare your tenant. Message Center posts also provide important information on preventing and fixing issues in your tenant. Because not all admins may need to see all posts, each admin can set preferences to control which posts are displayed on Message Center. You can also opt in to receive a weekly digest of posts in email format delivered right to your inbox.
Change that is considered a major update is communicated at least 30 days in advance for those who have not opted in to early release opportunities. These announcements are highlighted at the top of Message Center as they are the most impactful to your organization. Major updates are defined as:
Changes to daily productivity such as inbox, meetings, delegations, sharing and access
Changes to the themes, web parts, and other components that may affect customized features
Increases or decreases to visible capacity such as storage, number of rules, items or durations
Changes to product branding that may:
Cause end user confusion,
Result in changes to help desk processes and reference material, or
Change a URL
A new service or application
Changes requiring an admin action (exclusive of prevent or fix issues)
Changes to where your data is stored
Click here for more information on Message Center and here for guidance on setting preferences in Message Center.
Targeted release is an early release ring for select users within a tenant who will receive certain changes prior to the rest of their organization. For Office 365, new releases are first tested and validated by the feature team, then by the Office 365 team, and finally, by all of Microsoft. After internal validation is complete, customers can set individuals in the organization or the entire organization to receive available updates on Targeted release to see the latest updates and help provide early product feedback.
You can manage how your organization receives updates by utilizing Targeted release in many ways. Targeted release allows admins or anyone responsible for managing Office 365 changes within an organization to prepare by letting them:
Test and validate new updates before they are released to all the users in the organization.
Prepare user notification and documentation before updates are released worldwide.
Prepare internal helpdesk for upcoming changes.
Go through compliance and security reviews.
Use feature controls, where applicable, to control the release of updates to end users.
For Office 365 ProPlus client applications, updates are deployed every January and July on the Semi-Annual Channel. However, admins can opt to deploy some of their users on Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted) for the opportunity to receive updates a few months earlier every March and September. Additionally, admins can set certain users to receive more frequent updates on the Monthly Channel to further test the newest features available before deployment on the other channels.
For more information on Office 365 ProPlus update channels, see here.
We strongly recommend enabling Targeted release for admins to manage change within their tenants. However, keep in mind that there’s an option to set specific users, as opposed to entire tenants, to Targeted release. This functionality allows administrators and selected users to experience the new change earlier than the rest of the organization, giving them enough time to prepare the tenant before the change rolls out broadly.
You must be a global admin to set yourself and other users to Targeted release. If you choose not to opt into Targeted release, you will receive updates when they are release broadly in Standard release. For more information on Targeted release and setting it up for your organization, click here.
In addition to the resources above, check out the official Microsoft 365 blog here and continue engaging here in TechCommunity. Be on the lookout for posts on the Microsoft 365 TechCommunity blog, as we will be announcing news there as well. As always, feel free to provide feedback in the admin center dashboard or in the comments below, as we love hearing from you and finding out ways to improve the Office 365 experience!