Microsoft Ignite, our yearly flagship event for Microsoft products and technologies, is a 48-hour digital event experience taking place from September 22-24, 2020. Ignite, of course, is a very different event this year. On the one hand, it is a single global event where everyone gets the same news, information, content, and experience at the same time. But on the other hand, I will miss the many personal connections that take place at our in-person events. I look forward to the day when in-person events resume, but until then, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share with you now an amazing collection of video content covering the incredible work being done across Microsoft 365.
Last year, the admin track at Ignite had several breakout, theater, and learning path sessions from a variety of engineering teams, including:
- the Microsoft 365 admin center team—the team that builds the Microsoft 365 admin center and admin mobile app;
- Release and Delivery Experiences—the team that builds, among other things, Office.com and Office What’s New;
- Microsoft 365 Groups—the team that builds the Microsoft 365 Groups platform, membership service, and user experiences; and
- Microsoft 365 Complex Orgs—the team that builds features and experiences to support customer mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures, and cross-tenant collaboration.
Since last Ignite, each of these teams has been immersed in customer feedback and working hard to deliver your most-wanted admin experiences. At an in-person Ignite, they’d be up on stage telling you all about what they’ve been up to for the past year. But since we can’t do that, I am thrilled to announce that we’ve done the next best thing – a digital admin track!
The Microsoft 365 Admin Tools and Experiences track has a slew of new videos that announce new features and ways to connect with Microsoft 365 engineering teams. These videos detail the new features and experiences we have delivered and are delivering to you. They talk about what we’ve done over the past year and why we’ve done it, and they give you a glimpse into what we’re doing next and why. Watch these videos not just for the content, but also for the opportunities they give you to engage directly with these feature teams and register your interest for upcoming previews, roundtables, and other product team engagements.
There are 18 across three broad themes:
This post covers Modern Cloud Management. Prior to the pandemic, the modern workplace was already evolving at lightning speed, with distributed teams, brand-new business models, and complex security issues. It’s undergoing transition—a digital transformation, if you will—where your organization, your users, and your customers are more connected and mobile than ever. Successfully navigating this digital transformation is likely one of your highest priorities.
Modern cloud management embraces your users’ needs and the changing environment. Modern cloud management is the foundation of the modern workplace, and by adopting new approaches to IT management, including cloud technologies, you can simplify management, improve security, and provide better user experiences while lowering TCO.
NOTE: The video links below will be active starting September 22.
Microsoft 365 admins at Microsoft Ignite – https://aka.ms/Admin10052
Calling all Microsoft 365 admins and IT Pros! This Ignite session describes the slew of new learning videos that discuss new and recent improvements to the Microsoft 365 admin center, Microsoft 365 Groups, and the investments we’re making in complex organization/multiple tenant scenarios.
Managing Remote Work with Microsoft 365 – https://aka.ms/Admin1030
Like Microsoft, organizations around the world are putting the safety of their employees, customers and communities first. In fact, we’ve all had to adjust to a new remote world this year.
Even as things settle down, a degree of remote work will remain. In time, as employees begin to return to the workplace, remote security, productivity, and management will continue to be a primary focus. Working remotely can push the boundaries of security, and the stakes are incredibly high for organizations working through today’s new remote reality that includes remote buying and selling, remote learning, telemedicine, remote teamwork and development, and remote management.
Enabling remote work raises some important questions, such as:
- How can we work better remotely?
- How can we maintain security?
- And how can we simplify operations?
These questions can be particularly difficult to answer for small and medium-sized businesses. In a brand-new video, Paty Carlos and Ishaan Agarwal, program managers on the Amplify team, help you answer those questions about how to run your small or medium business remotely.
Paty and Ishaan start with details on how to setup and manage Microsoft Teams using the Microsoft 365 admin center, including Microsoft 365 Business Voice. Next, they walk you through how to configure policies for Teams in the Teams admin center using policy packages. A policy package is a collection of predefined policies and settings that can be customized and applied to a group of users that have similar roles within your organization. You’ll see how to use an app setup policy that includes the apps for a business voice experience for users.
They also show you how you can enable additional security for remote work in the Microsoft 365 admin center, including a new Remote Work Essentials page that is coming soon. You can use this single page to set up all the recommended essential remote work features. The page includes a collection of actions you can take to help your organization stay safe, secure, and productive, such as protecting your organization using security defaults, or enabling self-service password reset, or protecting data in mobile apps.
Finally, Paty and Ishaan will show you how to simplify your operations by doing things like promoting OneDrive, Teams and Office use through recommendations and Microsoft curated content.
This video is packed with demos and ways for small and medium businesses to modernize cloud management, so be sure to check it out.
Transform change management by syncing Message Center posts to Planner – https://aka.ms/Admin1019
The Message Center in the Microsoft 365 admin center is designed to help you keep track of upcoming changes to Microsoft 365, including new and changed features, planned maintenance, and other important announcements. Each post provides you with a high-level overview of planned changes along with links to detailed information to help you prepare for and manage the change. Organizations typically see an average of 140 messages per month.
Customers have given us feedback on the challenges they face with the Message Center. You’ve told us that:
- It’s not easy to triage message center posts; and
- There’s no way to assign posts for action and accountability; and
- That you spend your time managing content, instead of change.
To help you navigate the myriad of information that arrives in the Message Center, to help you decide whether or not to act on that information, and to help you manage change and not content, we’ve introduced the ability to sync Message Center posts to Microsoft Planner.
In a brand-new video, Paolo Ciccu, a program manager on the Release and Delivery Experiences team, talks about this new feature and how to use it to manage change instead of content. Paolo also provides tips and tricks for maximizing the use of this new feature that came directly from customers in the preview program.
Paolo starts by discussing the feedback we heard from customers, and the challenges they face. He then describes our solution—the ability to sync Message Center to Planner, as well as why we chose to use Planner as our change management platform. He also talks about the particular challenges around change management and provides Microsoft’s best practices for change management in Microsoft 365.
Paolo also demonstrates how to setup the Planner sync feature, how it works, and how to configure and organize Planner to meet your needs.
Finally, Paolo details how you can connect with the feature team for deeper interaction and for providing feedback. We’d love to hear directly from you on how we can enhance and improve this feature, not just to meet your needs, but to make your life easier.
Effective controls for Microsoft 365 Apps in the Microsoft 365 admin center – https://aka.ms/Admin1120
Microsoft’s vision when it comes to helping you deploy and manage Microsoft 365 Apps, is to empower admins to make informed decisions. We want to help accelerate your modernization, build your confidence and trust, and increase your satisfaction and productivity. Earlier this year, we released Office What’s New Management in the Microsoft 365 admin center and the Office 365 Client Configuration Service (config.office.com) that allows admins to choose which new features are shown to or hidden from end users in the Help area of the Office desktop apps.
Next is channel management for Microsoft 365 Apps. That means choosing the right update channel that best fits the needs of your organization. You can control how often users in your organization get updates to Microsoft 365 Apps by specifying which update channel to use. There are three primary update channels: Current, Monthly Enterprise, and Semi-Annual Enterprise.
Generally, we recommend the Current Channel, especially for small and medium businesses and education customers, because it provides your users with the newest Office features as soon as they are ready. If you want predictability of when the features are available to your users, we recommend the new Monthly Enterprise Channel. In cases where you require extensive testing before deploying new features, we recommend the Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel.
In a brand-new recording, Patrice Mélékian, Principal Program Manager on the Release and Delivery Experiences teams, describe Microsoft’s vision for deploying and managing Microsoft 365 apps. He talks about channel management, and how to choose the right channel for your organization. He also describes the new Monthly Enterprise Channel and the new installation option controls that allow you to roll back to your previous version of Office or skip an upcoming update to the next version.
Patrice talks about the Office What’s New Management feature and how to manage new feature communication and end-user education for your organization, as well as the Office What’s New management card you can add to the home page of the Microsoft 365 admin center. In case you haven’t seen it, we added release dates to the card to ensure that you have visibility into when each version is released across all channels.
Be sure to check out this video for all this great stuff, as well as opportunities to directly engage with the team by email and to join a customer panel.
New admin capabilities to modernizing servicing of the Office client – https://aka.ms/Admin1016
One of the benefits of cloud-based software is that users always have the latest version. But we know for software that is deployed to clients, such as Microsoft 365 Apps, a lot of organizations struggle to keep their Office clients up to date. Many are unable to update within 30 days of release.
When it comes to Microsoft 365 apps, customers have told us that they want the ability to easily stay current, that they want to reduce the burden on admins, and that they don’t want on-premises infrastructure to be required for deployment.
Microsoft’s vision for enterprise health with respect to the deployment and management of Microsoft 365 Apps is to provide admins with intelligent insights and controls, predictable and automated servicing, and optimal app health and performance.
In a brand-new video, Amesh Mansukhani, a principal program manager on the Office Engineering team, provides details on that vision. Amesh talks about the challenges around staying current, as well as the reasons for staying current. He also describes the fundamentals of our update experience, which include delivery optimization, network optimization, and experiences that minimize disruptions.
Amesh also describes the intelligent insights and controls we are delivering, such as Office inventory, which allows you to drill into detailed views of Device and Add-in information. He also debuts a new dashboard showing your organization’s security update status across all app update channels.
Amesh then talks about how we’re delivering predictable and automated servicing. This includes the new Office Apps Servicing Profile, which automatically delivers updates based on your needs.
Finally, Amesh describes the new insights and alerting we are delivering that provide Office app health at a glance.
Each of these new features will enter public preview starting next month, so be sure to check out the video to get the details on these new features and the previews.
Microsoft 365 Groups overview and architecture deep dive – https://aka.ms/Admin1017
Microsoft 365 Groups is the membership service that powers collaboration across Microsoft 365. There are more than 20 Office apps that leverage groups inside their experiences for capabilities such as sharing, and there is a thriving partner ecosystem with apps that provide additional governance tools on top of what we provide. Easily the most common question we get from customers is how does the Group creation and provisioning process work. A related and often asked question is why do we see Outlook Groups in Teams but not in Yammer?
In a brand-new video, Arunkumaran Varadharajan, a Principal PM Manager on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, answers these common questions and more. Arun provides an overview of Groups, and dives deep into the internal architecture of Groups in both the enterprise and consumer spaces. Next, he covers the Group creation and provisioning process to help you better understand what happens when you create a Group in, say for example, Outlook, versus Teams or Yammer. Arun walks through the lifecycle and flow for Groups, including creation and naming policies, using sensitivity labels with Groups, and data residency considerations.
Arun then discusses Group activity tracking, Group deletion, and deleted Group restoration and retention, as well as the differences between soft-delete and hard-delete. Next, Arun shares what happens when someone joins a Group from both inside and outside your organization. Finally, Arun discusses Groups governance, including both app-specific policies across Exchange, Teams, and SharePoint, and tenant-wide policies, such as naming, creation, and expiry, and security and compliance across the suite.
Governance and management best practices for Microsoft 365 Groups – https://aka.ms/Admin1018
Microsoft 365 Groups include a variety of governance controls to help you manage Groups in your organization, including as I mentioned, expiration policies, naming conventions, blocked words policies, and self-service capabilities.
Groups can be created by users from a variety of endpoints, such as Outlook, Teams, and SharePoint. You can control who can create groups but be aware that limiting group creation can hinder productivity because many Microsoft 365 services require Groups to function. Other governance options include limiting group creation to members of a dynamic security group containing, for example, all full-time employees. In this scenario, you may also want to consider requiring users to complete training on your organization’s policies for Groups before they can become members of the security group.
To limit group sprawl, you can use expiration policies to automatically delete groups that are not being used. You can specify an expiration period begins when the group is created, or on the date it was last renewed, and any group that reaches the end of that period, and is not renewed, will be deleted. Note that any group that is deleted can be restored within 30 days by the group owners or an admin.
In a brand-new video, Vinay Jagannatha Rao, a program manager on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, provides Microsoft’s recommended guidance and best practices for managing and governing the Groups lifecycle. In it, Vinay talks about a variety of governance tools and our latest best practices.
Support for sensitivity labels on Groups, which we announced at Ignite last year, is now generally available, and Vinay talks about the benefits of using labels on Groups and how it can help you protect high value information. Vinay also provides guidance for migrating any existing Azure Information Protection labels to sensitivity labels, and details how to restrict who can create public or external groups.
Next, Vinay talks about support for Information Barriers that allow you to create ethical walls and block communication and collaboration as needed to prevent any conflicts of interest within your organization. Vinay also talks about a survey we are conducting around your information barrier needs.
Vinay provides a sneak peek at Ownership Governance, a new feature in development and expected in early 2021, and he shows you how you can sign up for the preview program.
If you are wondering how to effectively govern groups, or how to manage groups at scale, or whether you should enable groups self-service, this video is for you!
Microsoft 365 Groups roadmap updates – https://aka.ms/Admin1013
Last year at Ignite 2019 and on the Ignite Tour, we spoke about the Office 365 Groups platform and how it powered collaboration across Microsoft 365. We showed you how Groups can help you share knowledge and information using email, calendaring, documents, among other things. We described the Groups lifecycle that moves from exploration to pilot and from pilot to a controlled rollout. We explained how to deploy groups at scale, how to empower end users, and how to control who can create Groups.
Finally, we talked about the roadmap for Groups. We provided a progress report over where we were since Ignite 2018, and we described how upcoming investments would help you drive new levels of collaboration. Since we were covering roughly a year’s worth of work, we discussed a lot of innovation that had taken place between 2018 and 2019. The session was packed with demos and information, which is why it was one of only five sessions in the admin track on the Ignite tour.
Well buckle up because it’s back again this year! And with a new name! To reflect the fact that Office 365 Groups power collaboration across Microsoft 365, Office 365 Groups became Microsoft 365 Groups.
And in a brand-new recording covering Groups roadmap updates, Venkat Ayyadevara and Mike McLean, program managers on the Groups team, provide the team’s yearly roadmap update that includes various usage metrics, and details on the evolution of the Groups platform, which now crosses work and life.
Once again, it’s been a busy year for Microsoft 365 Groups. In addition to rebranding, Venkat and Mike recap their roadmap update from Ignite 2019, and then they cover the abundance of Groups innovations we’ve made since then across three areas: governance, management at scale, and work and life. These improvements include general availability of support for sensitivity labels, Microsoft 365 admin center support for exporting groups, managing Group email addresses, support for application authentication in Microsoft Graph, and support for Teams for personal use, to name a few.
As always, Venkat and Mike’s roadmap update is packed with information and demos, so be sure to check it out, and give us your input and feedback on how we’re doing. Do you like what we’ve done since last year? Do you like where we’re headed with Groups? Watch the video and let us know what you think.
Managing work and life with Microsoft 365 Groups – https://aka.ms/Admin1022
If this year has done anything, it’s blurred the lines between work and life like never before. We’ve now reached an inflection point. As the global response to COVID-19 evolves, communities around the world have moved from an era of “remote everything” into a more hybrid model of work, learning, and life. We’ve always known that technology isn’t only for work. Technology can help you stay connected to friends and family even when you’re apart. It can help you make the most of your time so you can focus on what matters. You can’t create more hours in the day, but you can make the most of your time.
In a brand-new video, Sandra Vargas and Rahul Rai, program managers on the Microsoft 365 Groups team, explain our vision for a unified Groups platform across Microsoft 365 for enterprises, businesses, family, and home. For Enterprises, Microsoft 365 Groups is a true membership service built on Azure Active Directory that powers all teamwork scenarios in Microsoft 365. In the consumer world, Groups is an identity and membership service built on top of the Microsoft Account experience (MSA) that aims to powers all Group scenarios in Microsoft consumer apps, like Outlook.com. So just like in the enterprise world, on the consumer side, Microsoft 365 Groups power intelligent apps that bring together groups of people with the resources they need to achieve amazing outcomes. These Groups can be used by families, social and professional groups, and self-directed workers, such as contractors.
In the video, Sandra and Rahul explain why we have extended the Groups platform, and how this extension can help you find new balance in this blending of work and life. They’ll introduce you to Alex, a persona we created to illustrate the new normal. Alex is the IT admin for Contoso. She’s also a wife and the mother of 2 children. As the admin at work, Alex uses the Microsoft 365 admin center to manage features such as Groups and Teams. She also uses Outlook, Teams, and Groups extensively. Alex is also the IT admin at home where she manages her family’s devices, apps, and calendar.
With COVID restrictions in place, both Alex and her husband Mark have been working from home and with all the overlapping meetings, they finally decide that they need another home office. To help manage this project, they decide to use Microsoft 365 Groups, which allows them to coordinate tasks and schedules across their family, and the contractors involved in the project.
Check out the video and see for yourself how Groups can help you with work and life, providing whole day experiences that make your life easier.
How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees – https://aka.ms/Admin1003
Microsoft Core Services Engineering and Operations, or CSEO, formerly Microsoft IT, began embracing digital transformation and the culture changes that go with it a few years ago. CSEO is very much a global IT organization, with a significant amount of data, people, services, and devices to manage. Their vision for seamless teamwork is to use Microsoft 365 to create productive and aligned teams, and to engage employees with leadership and the company.
Today, nearly all our IT infrastructure is in the cloud using Azure as our primary platform, and Microsoft 365 as our platform for productivity. Microsoft’s IT environment is quite expansive, with nearly 9 petabytes of data being managed across more than 100 countries, and dozens of cloud services. We have hundreds of thousands of users, guests, mailboxes, sites, and teams, along with thousands of Yammer communities. And we have more than 350,000 Microsoft 365 Groups.
One of CSEO’s guiding principles is to enable employee self-service throughout the company. For example, any full-time employee at Microsoft can create a Microsoft 365 Group. We know firsthand that by enabling self-service we are:
- Reducing IT overhead;
- Discouraging shadow IT; and
- Discouraging large groups, which can sometimes lead to oversharing.
In a brand-new video, David Johnson, a Principal Program Manager on the CSEO team, talks about how Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees. David provides answers to the questions we get around how we empower employees, enable collaboration, and manage data. David talks about how CSEO decided to invest on container ownership, which is critical in a self-service environment, and content identification, which enables Microsoft to protect content and reduce the chances of oversharing.
David talks about Microsoft’s principles of container and content governance, which involve several important focus points to help ensure that Microsoft data is safe and secure. He also talks about group driven membership at Microsoft, as well as the Group Membership Management tool I mentioned earlier. David also talks about the custom solutions CSEO developed to protect assets and ensure employee accountability.
David’s video helps to assuage the fears often held by IT around data protection and compliance, perceived chaos and sprawl resulting from employee empowerment, content overexposure or oversharing, and employees introducing shadow IT, so be sure to check it out.
Now that we’ve covered Modern Cloud Management, check out the great content we have for IT Efficiency and Agility, and Investments in Complex Organizations.
Here’s the complete list of available videos and their URLs. We hope you enjoy them!
Improved IT Efficiency and Agility
Role-based Access Control in Microsoft 365
Microsoft 365 admin mobile app: administration on-the-go with productivity with flexibility
Improve IT efficiency and agility and stay informed as you enable self-service tasks
Making IT more efficient with improvements to Microsoft 365 Groups
Leveraging user feedback about Microsoft 365 in your organization
Drive external collaboration for your organization using Microsoft 365 Groups
Modern Cloud Management
How to manage Microsoft 365 in a remote work world
Transform change management by syncing Message Center posts to Planner
Managing updates of Microsoft 365 Apps using servicing automation
Microsoft 365 Groups roadmap updates
Microsoft 365 Groups architecture overview and deep dive
Governance and management best practices for Microsoft 365 Groups
Effective controls for Microsoft 365 Apps in the Microsoft 365 admin center
Managing work and life with Microsoft 365 Groups
How Microsoft manages Microsoft 365 Groups for its employees
Investments in Complex Organizations
Multi-tenant management in the Microsoft 365 admin center
Supporting Mergers, Acquisitions, and Divestitures in Microsoft 365
Aggregated views of Service Health and Message Center for admins that manage multiple tenants
One last takeaway: Your call to action. Please remember that we don’t just want you to watch our videos; we want you to use the new features, we want to engage with you; we want your feedback, and your help to prioritize our work. Although these teams work on different features and functionality, all of them have the same goals: to bring you features and experiences that delight you, and to make the Microsoft 365 admin experience the most-loved cloud admin experience in the industry. We can’t do that without your help, so please engage with us and let’s get to work!