Today we have the honour to welcome the one and only Mr. Christian Buckley (Office 365 MVP) as our guest author. Christian will talk about how to keep up with the high pace of new features in the Office 365 cloud environment.
Wherever I travel in the world, one of the questions asked by Microsoft partners and customers alike is ‘How do I keep up with the rapid pace of change happening to Office 365?’
Staying on top of the new feature release cadence coming out of Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington campus is a full-time job in itself. The move to an online-first, mobile-first delivery model has increased the complexity of the release process – both inside Microsoft, and outside. In a presentation in late 2013 to a group of partners, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner listened to feedback from some very passionate audience members who were frustrated by the lack of visibility being provided by Microsoft. He responded by telling the audience that with these changes, Microsoft was erring on the side of speed over communication, and that while communication with partners might suffer initially, it would improve as they (Microsoft) adjusted internally.
I thought Turner’s response was appropriate, and very honest. In the time since that meeting, Microsoft has provided an Office 365 roadmap website (which has gone through some iterations, and will continue to do so) and refined its communications through several specific channels, which I’ve outlined below.
I have been repeatedly impressed with how quickly Microsoft personnel have responded to inquiries from the community, whether through official channels or community blogs and social media. This is not to say that it’s a perfect system — I think there is a lot of room for improvement (specifically, in the level of detail provided around roadmaps), but partners have many ways through which they can find the information they need about what Microsoft has released, or will soon release.
My guidance to partners and customers is simple: stay informed, and get involved. To stay on top of the latest Office 365 features, here is what I recommend:
- Start out by following the Office Blog, which is usually the first place you’ll hear about new features or Microsoft plans. Of course, if you are an administrator for your organization, you can find out about updates through the Office 365 Message Center within your O365 subscription, as well.
- Bookmark the Office 365 Roadmap site, which is a quick way to see what is currently available, what will soon be released to a tenant near you, what is in development, and any features that have been cancelled or delayed.
- Join the Office 365 Network on Yammer. With almost 44,000 members on the network, this can be a fantastic resource for asking questions and getting answers, both from the community and from the various Microsoft product, marketing, and sales personnel who always seem to be online. Of course, how to make yourself productive on Yammer is another topic.
- If you want to stay on the cutting edge of Microsoft releases and be able to provide feedback as new features and capabilities are released, join the Office 365 First Release program. While new features are still rolled out to various O365 tenants in waves, participants in this program can see these updates weeks before the general populace, giving you time to try them out and provide feedback to Microsoft.
- On the topic of feedback, one other important site for you to remember is Microsoft Connect, which allows you to report any issues you might be experiencing.
- From a developer perspective, one other important resources for providing feedback to Microsoft is UserVoice, which allows people to add ideas and provide feedback, and then have other developers from the community vote for your idea. It’s a great way for Microsoft to get a sense of the potential interest in and impact of the ideas shared.
- While there are a number of Q&A sites out on the web, the site most used by the community (and by Microsoft teams) for SharePoint, Office 365 and the rest of the Office offerings is Stack Overflow, which allows you to search by keyword, post your questions, answer questions from other users, or vote answers up or down. The site includes gamification capabilities (user profiles, badges, statistics) and can be a great way to crowd-source solutions to problems.
Within Stack Overflow is a SharePoint-specific community called SharePoint Stack Exchange, which is just one of the many communities available through the main site, providing a filtered view into the questions and answers around SharePoint, specifically. A quick search provides Q&A around other Office 365 topics, such as Delve, Yammer, Groups, and other core capabilities. Of course, other options include Microsoft’s Q&A site at Answers.Microsoft.com, DevCenter on MSDN, and the ever-popular Reddit, with many searchable communities and conversations across the Microsoft stack.
Why share so many sites and resources? Because each of these sites (especially the Q&A sites) contain their own sub-communities, and the help and resources you need could be happening in one location and not the others. However, Microsoft is consolidating its messaging, with announcements going to the Office blog first, followed by Yammer and, as appropriate, to the Office 365 roadmap site. Whether or not you get involved in the more developer-centric conversations happening across the Q&A sites, every Office 365 stakeholder should bookmark the first three sites on this list and make them a regular part of their regular technology information consumption.
Hopefully you find this list of resources helpful. As always, I encourage everyone to provide feedback on these sites — or resources you feel are missing from the community — directly to Microsoft. Microsoft has committed to continual improvement of their communication model, and they are most definitely listening to your feedback. However, they cannot make changes if they do not know, so open up the lines of communication and share your feedback!
About the author
Christian Buckley is Managing Director, Americas for GTconsult, a consulting and managed services provider with offices in the US and South Africa that specializes in „Everything SharePoint.“ Over the last several years, he was instrumental in the acquisitions of two SharePoint ISVs (echoTechnology in 2010, and Axceler in 2013) and helped build some of the most recognized product brands as Chief Evangelist at Axceler and Metalogix. He previously worked at Microsoft as part of the enterprise hosted SharePoint platform team (now part of Office365), and led an engineering team in advertising operations. Christian has co-authored five books and regularly writes for ITUnity, CMSWire, AIIM.org, TechRepublic, B2C, Wired.com, and other site, and can be found online at www.buckleyplanet.com and www.twitter.com/buckleyplanet