How Office 365 release model helps Digital Workplace project planning

    Office 365 offers plenty advantages that resolve common frustrations in the digital workplace. One of those is the fast-paced rolling release model.

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    In a previous post, we highlighted Microsoft Office 365 as a SAAS solution. Office 365 offers a number of advantages that resolve common frustrations in the digital workplace: integration of applications, collaboration with coworkers and sharing files with external partners. The platform also presents new possibilities in contextualization with Delve.

    Another major benefit of using Office 365 is the fast-paced rolling release model. In this post, we will dig a little deeper into this subject.

    What is a fast paced rolling release model?

    Using a rolling release model means that features and fixes are rolled out incrementally to everyone as soon as they are ready. That means that businesses and their users will always have the latest and newest products and features, which is a big advantage.

    Another major benefit of using Office 365 is the fast-paced rolling release model

    For example:

    • Office recently launched a new, more advanced encryption algorithm for SharePoint and OneDrive files;
    • Number of possible eDiscovery queries is doubled;
    • Pagination is added to Word Online, and so on.

    This shows only some of the updates that happened in the last month, one more significant than the others. It is not desirable for a business to have to plan a release schedule for all these updates because the cost would sometimes outrun the advantages of the updates. On the other side, there is great benefit in having all of these small updates in order to make the product more stable and mature.

    The introduction of that rolling release model, however, brought with it another challenge: updates were rolling in without control - which meant that you could be using a different looking program on Monday morning than you were using on the previous Friday evening.

    To counteract that, Microsoft created the First Release Program.

    First release program: at least 2 weeks to test, assess and plan

    In Microsoft's First Release Program, an announcement is made on the Office Blog before significant service updates are rolled out. An anticipated public release date is announced through the Office 365 Message Center. The roll-out of those updates is unstoppable - but subscribers to the First Release Program can at least anticipate changes.

    Subscribers to the First Release Program get updates a week or more after the public announcement. Those who are still on the Standard Release Cycle will receive the updates three weeks after the announcement, at the earliest.

    That gives administrators and developers at least two weeks to test the changes, assess the impact on their business or customizations and plan accordingly. For example, an updated training for some key users can be planned.

     

    In Microsoft's First Release Program, an announcement is made on the Office Blog before significant service updates are rolled out

    How the First Release Program can help business planning

    With the First Release Program, business users can anticipate changes and the impact they will have on their business processes.

    Some examples will make clear why this is such a big deal:

    • Users on an Enterprise plan used to get 25GB storage on their OneDrive, that storage amount was then increased to 1TB. In the near future, users will get unlimited storage. As a company, you need to know when these changes will happen so you can plan how to educate your employees on using that amount of storage space;
    • Navigation changes are quite common within Office 365 - those changes might confuse your users. Recently, they changed from a classical horizontal navigation to an “App Launcher”. If this change had happened without notification, you might spend some days explaining the change. With the First Release Program, training for key users can be planned beforehand;
    • Office is removing the Office-On-Demand feature. This feature provided users the option to download and temporarily install the Office desktop applications, such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This option could be used in scenarios where users want to access Office applications on a kiosk or desktop where the latest version of Office is unavailable. As a replacement Office offers three alternatives: Office Online, shared computer activation and Microsoft Azure RemoteApp. With this in mind, you, as a company, can start educating the users on the alternatives and start pilot groups to use the new ways of working introduced by Microsoft (ref : http://community.office365.com/en-us/f/172/t/259931.aspx) working introduced by Microsoft. (ref : http://community.office365.com/en-us/f/172/t/259931.aspx)

    Roadmap provides further guidance to administrators

    An additional helpful feature for administrators is that they can now follow the public Roadmap for Office 365 to see which new features are in the works across the platform.

    However, small improvements or security fixes will not show up in that roadmap. IT Pros were always asking for information about product updates to plan their new project. And nobody wants to spend money and then realize their final project is running on a now outdated version. Microsoft finally gets the value of disclosing this kind of information.

    Administrators can now follow the public Roadmap for Office 365

    Conclusion

    Microsoft has been taking huge steps forward in improving the experience and convenience for its users and enterprises with Microsoft Office 365. The platform can accompany users on-the-go as well as supporting enterprises.

    Published on 22/01/15    Last updated on 01/08/18

    #Digital Workplace, #Office 365, #Collaboration

    About the author

    Stijn Brouwers is Consultant at AMPLEXOR, specialized in SharePoint. He is based in Belgium.

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