Managing Major Changes to Office 365

Admins are expected to keep tabs on major changes to the service and understand how those could impact uptime, or just good ole’ fashioned end user experience. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of items coming down the pipe that may or may not be relevant to every organization and it’s difficult to follow it all.

The first part of making that manageable is understanding how Microsoft’s release options work. Updates are released to different update ‘Rings’ as the updates become more mature. The first three rings are Microsoft release teams where Microsoft consumes the updates first, prior to being formally released to the rest of the world.


After that, you can select to add friendlies to the targeted release group. These would typically be IT groups or power users who will be a little more adaptive to change. Here are a few of the benefits of making sure you have decision makers in the targeted release group:

  • Test and validate new updates before they are released to all the users in the organization.

  • Prepare user notification and documentation before updates are released worldwide.

  • Prepare internal help-desk for upcoming changes.

  • Go through compliance and security reviews.
  • Use feature controls, where applicable, to control the release of updates to end users.

Here’s how you can add individuals to targeted release.

Handy, right? Super common use case here; Teams were released about a year ago and most customers had no idea exactly how it would impact them or how their users would cope. The feature was added to enterprise licensing and enabled by default upon standard release. The trouble? End users were able to go to and create a new one with any name and any picture which shows up in the address book with (at the time) no central management and can potentially be shared with the wide world of the internet. Mayyyybe you might want to review that feature to make sure you have controls in place that match your organization’s goals.


In addition to release options you’ll want make sure that your team is managing the message center for major updates.


Updates in the service come at you pretty fast, but Microsoft does a pretty decent job of providing information and allowing you to plan for them. Make sure you keep an eye on the roadmap, the message center, and of course make use of targeted release to find out how those changes will impact your users!

Now don’t mind me while I go drown myself in meaningless college football games!


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