Ever sat down to complete a piece of work, opened one of your regular applications, only to notice something has changed? It might be as simple as an update to the graphical user interface, or maybe a piece of functionality has been added, changed, or removed. Amplify this confusion across your workforce and calculate the impact of this disruption. It is clear you need to do something to keep up with the rate of technological change that seems to be getting faster and faster.
In the not-too-distant past it was not uncommon for software developers to release new versions of their applications and services every two or more years, and along the way, between major versions, smaller updates addressing issues or to apply minor updates.
Organisations had control of the software version and update cycle, meaning change was delivered at a slower pace, sometimes to the detriment of new features which have the power to assist productivity. This long-labored approach to delivering updates is no more with most productivity tools moving to the cloud, whereby new features are delivered at a regular fast past as determined by the software vendor. Microsoft 365 is no exception, and this increased rate of change helps deliver more features in a 6-month period than we used to see in a year or more.
If Microsoft 365 changes so fast, how can I keep up?
Microsoft provides several well-curated resources will the sole intention of keeping their customers up to date with upcoming changes to assist with the planning and rollout process. Some of the places you will find this information is:
- Microsoft 365 Roadmap
- Microsoft 365 Message Center
- Microsoft Tech Community
- Social media platforms
Microsoft 365 Roadmap
Preparing for change requires you to understand a product’s roadmap, when the change will occur, and the status of the change. The roadmap includes many Microsoft 365 applications and services, and for each change provides:
- Description of the change
- Status of the change, whether “In development,” “Rolling out,” or “Launched”
- Expected release date
The roadmap had the following tools to assist people to refine their search results to identify changes most important to them:
- Search for product, release, or specific update
- Product filters
- Release phase, including “insider,” “preview,” or “semi-annual update schedules”
- Platform, including “Desktop”, “mobile”, or “web”
- Cloud instance
You can find the roadmap at the following location:
Microsoft 365 Message Center
Whilst the Microsoft 365 roadmap delivers a high-level overview of planned, upcoming, and completed changes, the message center provides more in-depth information regarding the change. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the message center and multiple messages or updates to messages are posted each week.
Each message in the message center provides information such as:
- Summary of the change
- When the change will be completed by
- How the change will affect your organisation
- What you need to do to prepare for the change
- Links to additional information
To assist with finding information for the changes that will affect you, the message center allows filtering based on:
- Service, including “Exchange Online” or “Microsoft 365 Apps”
- Tag, including “admin impact,” “data privacy,” “feature update,” or “major update”
- Message state, including “read” and “updated”
Once you sign in to your Office 365 Admin portal, you can find the Microsoft 365 Message Center at the following location:
Microsoft 365 Tech Community
The Microsoft 365 tech community provides many functions, including a blog section where Microsoft and non-Microsoft contributors deliver information for features in a preview or those recently moved to general availability. The blog format delivers a user-friendly message, and in many instances, details examples of the change, such as screen captures and configuration settings.
Microsoft has categorised the blogs to assist those wanting to focus their attention on specific products or services, and this includes blogs for Azure services, security, and compliance, or a Microsoft 365 application.
You can keep up to date with new blogs via an RSS feed, or my favourite option is to navigate to the blog page, scroll through the recent blog article to find what takes my interest.
You can find the Microsoft 365 Tech Community at the following location:
Social media is a great tool for finding and following people or organisations broadcasting updates. Following accounts who have the same interest is a great way to find out what they know about upcoming changes, or they may post their own experience with the change and a piece of knowledge that will assist you.
Two places I recommend are LinkedIn and Twitter, and a good approach is to search these platforms for the topics that interest you and then either connect with or follow the people who are delivering good content. In addition, I recommend connecting with or following accounts that have many connections as they will like and comment on other high-value accounts and vice versa, and this will exponentially start to expand your network and connections with more information trickling in from a wider audience.