Microsoft's new mobile-first, cloud-first strategy hinges largely on delivering products that can keep pace with the rapidly evolving tech marketplace, Office 365 included.
By adopting an accelerated software release and update cadence, at least compared with its packaged software past, Microsoft seeks to keep its customers, and itself, closer to the cutting edge of computing technology. It's a strategy that can potentially lead to more agile workplaces.
Unfortunately, it can also catch administrators by surprise when new features unexpectedly appear.
To remedy this, Microsoft has launched Office 365 for Business Public Roadmap, an online resource that clues customers in to planned features and upcoming updates. The roadmap, said Jake Zborowski, a group product manager for Office 365, is an effort to provide improved visibility into service updates that affect the cloud-enabled productivity suite.
"The Office 365 for business public roadmap provides you with a way to learn more about upcoming updates before the change comes to your service," stated Zborowski in a blog post. "It provides a few months' view of new features, enhancements, and major updates."
It's a one-stop shop for all things Office 365, boasted Zborowski. "The public roadmap will be your best source of truth for product enhancements coming to the service."
However, it may not provide an exhaustive list of updates. "The public roadmap will provide a great view of many updates and enhancements to the service, but it will not capture every change," stated an accompanying FAQ.
Updates are grouped into five categories: Launched, Rolling Out, In Development, Cancelled and Previous Releases. Listed under Launched, which contains features that are now generally available to customers, are 13 items currently, including Yammer's new localization options. When expanded, each entry provides a brief description and a screenshot, if available.
As of this writing, there are 10 updates in the "Rolling Out" category—features that are currently in the process of being issued to customers. Interestingly, the company lists 35 updates as "In Development." These include Oslo and the Office Graph, the OneDrive for Business cloud storage capacity upgrade, and single identity for Office 365 and Yammer, a feature aimed at streamlining access to both services from a unified account.
Also planned is data loss prevention in SharePoint Online, enabling searches for sensitive data. New custom theme support will allow organizations to deliver a branded Office 365 experience.
"All customers will now have the capability to create custom themes for their end users. This includes a clickable custom logo and customizable colors for top navigation bar, menu icons and text and the Office 365 logo," stated the roadmap.
Customers who want early access to new updates can now opt in to First Release. Appearing in the Office 365 admin center, the option delivers "significant enhancements to the Office 365 user experience, SharePoint Online, and Exchange Online" at least two weeks before they are made generally available.