With the constant stream of updates meaning new features are sometimes pushed into the background as quickly as they are made available, Microsoft Office 365 sometimes sees more new features than its users get to fully appreciate. Many IT departments and consultants prefer the ability to keep software optimised and on the latest version, rather than periodically deploying updates to the static on-premises Office suite. However, these efficiencies can be lost on the people who actually use Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Indeed, the changes can be so rapid they can lead to confusion among end users.
Microsoft seems to appreciate the mixed blessing of its fast-moving cloud based infrastructure, so has published a handy guide to keeping on top of new additions and changes to Office 365 via its Tech Community blog.
Tech Community blogger Jee Soo Han highlights the Office 365 Roadmap tool as an easy to use web-based reference for finding out what changes Microsoft intends to make available. The company’s software developers will post what they have in the works, as well as what is currently being rolled out through the company’s Targeted Release program.
Microsoft also pushes out official announcements about upcoming changes through Office 365’s built-in Message Centre hub. Designed primarily for system administrators, the Message Centre warns IT departments when it may need to provide proactive management for users to get the full benefit of new features and enhancements.
A level of customisation is also offered, with admins being able to set preferences for which Message Centre posts they see, as well as receive a weekly email summary of what they may need to be aware of to keep their organisation running smoothly. Microsoft points out that major updates, such as changes to product branding which may confuse end users, are communicated at least 30 days in advance.
For those admins who wish to test certain Office 365 updates with only a select group in their organisation, Microsoft offers the aforementioned Targeted Release program. The company says it uses a similar program internally, progressively rolling out updates to an ever-widening circle of users until bug-free performance can be assured.
Admins can also leverage this feature in order to ensure updates are properly documented, meet compliance and security needs and can be fully supported by an organisation’s IT helpdesk staff. Additionally, special controls can block some changes altogether if they affect existing workflows or other frameworks.
Further flexibility is available for Office 365 ProPlus customers who, if they wish, can avoid potential deluges of new features by opting into a semi-annual channel. This means updates should only occur in January and July of each year. Microsoft still gives admins a regular heads up on what the next release will hold so they can choose to test pilot them with certain users within their organisation.
For more information on how Microsoft Office 365 can be tailored to enhance your organisation’s productivity, get in touch with our friendly customer service team at WM Reply.