This article discusses ways of keeping up to date with Office 365 changes and some suggested actions.

There are many different types of changes in Office 365, here are some examples:

  • Strategic for example through acquisition, a few examples being Sunrise, Wunderlist & Acompli
  • New products such as Microsoft Teams
  • Enhancement or refinement like Focused Inbox replacing Clutter
  • Ongoing changes, regular tweaks, UI, interface changes, the sort that might not even be that noticeable 
  • New requirements including depreciated features, unsupported clients, network or infrastructure changes
  • Bespoke and partial changes that only certain users may see at any one time, Yammer A/B testing, a partial rollout etc.
  • Apps and clients that are updated regularly, mobile apps, desktop apps as well as the Office client, Office 365 ProPlus
The impact of some changes will be unique depending on how a particular customer uses certain features, what they are integrating with etc. and won't always be easy to predict. 

This is a checklist of suggested actions for staying on top of Office 365 changes. It’s simplified, as every organisation is different, with different cultures and aptitude for embracing or simply being ready for the evergreen nature of Office 365.  

Don't underestimate the work involved but once the basics are covered, focus more on realizing the benefits that Office 365 provides.

Office 365 Change Management Process

One of the most important things an organization can do, is to have dedicated resources for managing change.  There may already be a formalized structure, where Office 365 change management can slot into but don’t skimp on people.  People, staff in other words that will have the time to truly do justice to the complexities of getting the most from Office 365.

Office 365 change management is cross organization function and needs to be well joined up. From internal comms, training, compliance, IT, champions, there are many different aspects that must come together to succeed.

Office 365 changes are all very well but it requires a process to manage them.  Often it could be a group or function such as change advisory board.  The board meets regularly to discuss notable events and proposes outcomes, also identifying risks and opportunities. Have this process well-established, with clearly defined roles and a structure that supports this function. 

1) Minimise surprises

The immediate task is staying ahead of Office 365 changes.  This is a very manageable process but does take some work.  The Message center is the primary resource, it’s personalised to each tenant and provides a constant stream of updates and informational messages.

  • Check the Message center regularly
  • Use the weekly digest emails,  which recap recent changes 
  • Triage message center posts, flag the most important or relevant messages that require more attention
  • Make use of other resources such as the Office 365 Weekly Digest Blog Series and monthly Office 365 Update video or transcripts (check the see also section for links and other resources) 
If customers aren't properly making use of the Message center, checking it regularly, triaging, escalating accordingly, they are putting themselves a distinct disadvantage. 

2) Horizon scanning

The Office 365 roadmap is a heads up on upcoming changes that can be used to anticipate changes before they happen.

While it’s going to be difficult to track the Office 365 roadmap in its entirety, using it as a resource to check areas of interest is important.  First Release is another resource to use, to receive updates sooner and having an opportunity to test them in advance

  • Use the roadmap to zero in on what’s most important
  • Refine the results with the filters option, for example to show only Yammer updates
  • Sign up to the third-party Office 365 Roadmap Watch service to get updates to the roadmap as they happen
  • Make use of First Release, nominate select people to receive updates sooner, not just IT Pros but a mix of staff that represent the business, power users for example 
  • Make use of the Office 365 ProPlus channels to receive client updates in advance of general release, again not just IT Pros but representative users across the business 
  • Have another tenant ideally to test features away from a live environment, this can be a free dev tenant (check see also section), one that comes with Visual Studio Enterprise or is bought especially for test, development or training
As well as the above, have a system, where users can give feedback regarding new features or product changes and this can be flagged accordingly.

3) Participate

Office 365 rewards active interest and development from customers.  Microsoft is constantly improving Office 365 and relies on the feedback it’s gets from customers, power-users, enthusiasts etc.

  • Sign up to the Microsoft Tech Community
  • Subscribe to the different communities of interest for the different aspects of Office 365
  • Attend events, AMA’s, webinars, on-demand presentations
  • Make use of Customer Feedback for Microsoft Office 365 (UserVoice) and Feedback options in Office 365 

See Also