Over the last couple of years, my talks have migrated from fewer on-prem SharePoint Server talks, to more Office 365 centric talks. One of the questions I get asked more and more frequently, by admins that are trying to find their place in this new, cloudy, world is, “How can I keep up with all of the changes to Office 365?”
It’s a good question, and one a lot of people are struggling with, especially if they’re used to on-prem administration. As a SharePoint Server admin, updates came out no more frequently than once a month, and even then we were in complete control to when that update was applied to our farms. As our workloads are moving to Office 365 that is thrown completely on its ear. Now updates happen to Office 365 any day of the week. Sometimes they’re turned on for end users, sometimes they aren’t. You just never know. If you don’t know they’re coming, you can’t properly prepare yourself or your user base. Nobody likes that.
So here are a couple of ways to have a fighting chance against unexpected Office 365 updates.
1) Sign up for messages in the Message Center
You have to be a Tenant Admin for this one, but I assume most people reading my blog that aren’t my mom, are tenant admins. The Message center is a place in the Office 365 Portal where you can tell Office 365 which products you care about, and how it can tell you about changes and outages.
You can find this little gem under Health > Message center. The messages deal with outages, updated features, new features, the whole enchilada. In the upper right you can set which products you see messages for. If you’re not using Skype for Business, shut off those messages. The bottom left is where the real gold is. You can have Office 365 email you once a week with that week’s new messages. This is a great way to see what is new if you’ve forgotten to check the Message center. The link at the top middle, “Read about staying on top of Office 365 changes”, takes us to our second tip.
2) Office 365 Roadmap
For a few years the Office 365 Roadmap has been a great way to see what’s on the horizon for your favorite Office 365 property. It not only shows was coming, but what has been delivered and what has been cancelled as well.
3) Microsoft Tech Community
The more things change, the more they stay the same. When I was cutting my teeth as a SharePoint admin back at the turn the century, the place to go for answer was Usenet. Ask your grandparents about it. Today, that same need is met by online forums. The Microsoft Tech Community is the place to go with your cloudy questions. While it’s not specifically a resource for what’s new with Office 365, that does get covered there.
4) First Release
First Release isn’t really a place, First Release is more like a state of mind. First Release lets your tenant, or some of the users in your tenant, see new functionality in Office 365 before it’s released to the entire Office 365 loving world. It’s not a good idea to have your entire Production tenant in First Release, so either only include a few users, or enable it for a test tenant. It’s also important to point out that some things are only rolled out to First Release Users, or First Release Tenants, but not both. They aren’t always in step. Read more about that in Marc Anderson’s blog post.
Of course you can also follow a ton of Twitter accounts to keep up. I’d try to list them all here, but I’d just embarrass myself.
I hope this helps. Let me know if there are any other means you use to keep up with Office 365.