The Azure Information Protection (AIP) Unified Labeling add-in for Office has been in-market for close to eight years. In that time, it has grown in functionality and usage, becoming deeply embedded in the information protection strategy for thousands of organizations and used daily by millions of users. Since October 2019, Microsoft 365 Apps for Enterprise has been building the same functionality into Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook and has expanded sensitivity labels across Windows, Mac, Web, and Mobile for a comprehensive, consistent, and seamless experience for end-users and admins. Microsoft 365 Apps now have most of the capabilities found in the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office, as well as advanced capabilities not possible with the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office.
We are officially announcing the retirement of the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office and starting the 12-month clock, after which it will reach retirement on April 11, 2024. All customers with Azure Information Protection service plans will also receive a Message Center post with this announcement.
In this blog post we will cover some essential information that you should know about the retirement along with resources to help the transition and ways to reach out about additional questions you may have. Read all the way to the end, and do not hesitate to reach out for help.
Q. What is the replacement for the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office apps?
Since we are talking about Office apps, we now have sensitivity labeling built directly into Office apps – with no need for an add-in on Windows. Learn more about migrating to Office built-in labeling. You will need to deploy a subscription edition of Office (now called Microsoft 365 Apps) as built-in labeling is not available with standalone editions of Office (sometimes called “Office Perpetual”).
Q. What will happen to the AIP Unified Labeling client? Will the AIP Viewer on Windows go away?
We are focused on retiring only the add-in for Office apps for Windows. As we called out in the last modernization blog post, all the other capabilities you use will continue to be supported. To be explicit, we are not retiring the AIP Viewers on Windows/iOS/Android, the AIP PowerShell extension, the right-click Classify & Protect, or the Scanner.
Once the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office has reached retirement following the 12-month period, it will be removed from the Download Center package – leaving the other components of the package as-is. Over time we will rebrand these other capabilities under Microsoft Purview, and we continue to recommend using these to cover your labeling scenarios outside of Office apps.
Q. Why are you doing this? Why now?
Those of you who have been with us since the early days of the add-in have seen this journey play out once already with the AIP Classic add-in as it was replaced with the AIP Unified Labeling add-in. The standard procedure was to have both versions available in-parallel for a while, then put one in maintenance mode while all updates went to the new version, and then eventually retire the older version.
We are now repeating that process with the AIP Unified Labeling add-in and Office built-in labeling: both have been available in-parallel for a while, we then set the AIP Unified Labeling add-in in maintenance mode on January 1, 2022, and put our energies toward Office built-in labeling, and now we are retiring the AIP Unified Labeling add-in.
We have reached a point with the Office built-in labeling where it can take over from the AIP Unified Labeling add-in, providing better performance, reliability, data classification, and other advanced feature capabilities not possible with the add-in. In most cases, customers can disable the add-in without impacting functionality, resulting in a behavior that is consistent across platforms and is geared towards the additional of advanced capabilities now and in the future.
Q. Is it as simple as turning off the AIP Unified Labeling add-in for Office?
For a lot of customers – yes, it is that simple. We have worked to provide feature parity between the add-in and Office built-in labeling. With Microsoft 365 Apps version 2302 we are also switching to built-in labeling by default, and customers must explicitly opt-out to continue using the add-in.
However, there are differences that need to be accounted for. For example, the look and feel of the labeling experience in Office is different from the labeling experience in the add-in. Your users might need to be made aware of these differences beforehand and might need additional training. All this can add calendar time to your migration even if the actual switch-over is simple.
If there are capabilities in the add-in being actively used and are not yet available in Office built-in labeling, the migration playbook will help you understand the roadmap and delivery date for these features. If you cannot find what you are looking for, reach out to your Microsoft account team or to Microsoft Support to get help.
Our recommendation is to use the self-evaluation questionnaire and the migration playbook extensively. Try out the features too. You will quickly get an idea of where you should devote your planning energy to get the best ROI.
Q. About this 12-month period – does it apply to everyone? What if I need more time? Yes - this retirement notification applies to every AIP customer. After the standard 12-month timeframe, the add-in is retired, and customers will not be able to use the add-in with sensitivity labels. We expect most of our customers to migrate to Office built-in labeling within this timeframe. However, there will be exceptions:
Customers using AIP in China are informed of their retirement date on July 25, 2023, by Message Center post. AIP UL Add-in for Office operated by 21Vianet reaches retirement on July 25, 2024. To request an extension, reach out to 21Vianet Support.
Customers with complex AIP deployments can request an extension through Microsoft Support or through their Microsoft account team. NOTE: Granting the extension is not automatic.
Q. I need more help, who can I reach out to? Depending on your size and the complexity of your environment, you have a few options: