Disclaimer: While the author is a Microsoft MVP in the Office Servers & Services category, this article is provided based on information publicly available at https://products.office.com/en-US/business/office-365-roadmap?filters=#abc No spoilers here, sorry!
The official Microsoft roadmaps are moving targets. They give us some indication of what to expect in the Microsoft products and when to expect them, but any release dates aren’t set in concrete. The good news is that features only make it to this list if they are a sure thing. Let’s look at some of the things currently in development for Office 365.
Microsoft Teams – The favorite child?
Out of the 131 items with a status of “In development” and tagged with any availability date in 2018, 41 of those items were Microsoft Teams features. In addition to that number, other products are also being updated because of Microsoft Teams. For example, StaffHub is adopting the Microsoft Teams chat experience, allowing users to communicate across both services and Planner will support viewing all your own tasks across different plans, but within the Microsoft Teams UI.
By far the most common reason for new Microsoft Teams features is “This is one of the Skype for Business capabilities”, whether that’s calling, meeting or IT pro functionality (like user-level meeting policies & meeting eDiscovery enhancements). This follows the Microsoft Ignite 2017 announcement that Teams will evolve to replace the Skype for Business client “over time.” For now, most of the SfB-like features are tagged CY 2018, meaning sometime this calendar year. Microsoft hates the risk of missing a date, so they don’t hand them out until they are pretty sure those dates are achievable.
We do have January CY2018 dates for anonymous meeting join, give & take control in desktop sharing and meeting lobby support. Data location is also a priority, with US Government support & India data residency in Q1 2018, with Australia & Canada data residency to follow sometime this year. And we’ll get a new bot – WhoBot, to be exact, helping users discover experts and contacts in their organization with natural language queries.
Not forgetting Yammer
Yammer’s getting some messaging enhancements, including GIF integrations, celebrating first posts & typing indicators (including on mobile). The Android and iOS apps will allow users to enter alt text descriptions when they upload a photo. In Q1 CY2018, we can expect to see a new Live Broadcasting capability, using Skype Meeting Broadcast directly onto Yammer’s feed and also visible via StaffHub.
OneDrive for Business
Users gain the ability to self-recover files from OneDrive for Business from disastrous events such as mass deletes, corruption, and other data loss scenarios. File and folder activities get more visibility with a Details pane, a “Shared by Me” view on the web, and file collaboration activity details on the mobile apps. The iOS app also gains more Apple-like features, supporting drag-ndrop from other apps and integrating with the iOS Files app.
A new SharePoint Online Admin Center experience is being rolled out to First Release customers, starting in Jan 2018. SharePoint Online gets new Hub sites, but even more exciting is the news that admins will be able to connect an existing SharePoint Online site to an Office 365 Group.
StaffHub’s first birthday
Launched worldwide in Jan 2017, the frontline worker scheduling app celebrates its first birthday with a small but useful list of usability enhancements. Staff will see a “Today” page and can broadcast open shifts that still need filling. Managers will be able to assign and track tasks for multiple users and broadcast content based on a role, shift or need. IT Pros should also know that StaffHub will be added to the Office 365 app launcher, and will also have usage data reports.
Two minor improvements on the roadmap so far, allowing you to customize the time increments of your appointment times and support for all-day and multi-day appointments.
For the IT Pro
Be warned, a new start experience is coming for Office 365 web applications, to “improve discoverability of existing documents and make it easier to collaborate with others in the cloud.” Translation: We’re changing the user experience. No word on when the new sign-in experience will be enforced, but we’re still all being prompted to try it.
Attack Simulator for Office 365 Threat Intelligence is a new feature that enables admins to send simulated attacks (phishing, brute force cracking etc) to their end users, to see how they fare. You’ll need Office 365 Threat Intelligence, but the results might make for some interesting reading. Attack Simulator hits public preview in January.
After the successful launch of Centralized Deployment of Word Excel and PowerPoint add-ins in June 2017, Outlook add-ins are next. This will allow you to assign Outlook add-ins to the entire organization, selected users or to a distribution group, security group or Office 365 group.
eDiscovery gains an option for all content to be exported to an archive zip file. This prevents the necessity of truncating file paths when the file paths would exceed 260 characters.
Advanced Data Governance Events Based Retention will allow you to create events that will trigger content retention periods. For example, set the retention period of contract document to begin after the project completion date.
Office 365 Cloud App Security adds app permission alerts, letting you know when a user has granted an application permission to their Office 365 information. Take that, Shadow IT!
Multi-Geo Capabilities enable a single Office 365 tenant to span across multiple Office 365 datacenter geographies, storing data at-rest on a per-user basis in the customer’s chosen geos. This is a big win for multi-national corporations battling different local data residency requirements.
FastTrack adds Dropbox to OneDrive for Business Migration, but you’ll still need 150+ seats of eligible Office 365 plans to qualify.
And the Office 365 Service Health Dashboard adds a few nice features, including the ability to grant a user read access to the dashboard (without any other tenant admin features), an option to report an outage that isn’t listed and the ability to notify users about outages from within the affected products.
Other things that caught my eye
Excel is getting Bitcoin Currency Format Support, so you can track, calculate and analyse your BTC fortune in your favorite spreadsheet tool, with the correct native Bitcoin number formatting options.
Microsoft Planner is getting a timeline view. You may be surprised that it doesn’t have this already, but Kanban was cooler. Let’s see if Gant charts are next!
Microsoft Planner also gets Guest Access, supporting task assignment and collaboration with team members who are not a part of the tenant. This is a great move, recognizing we don’t just work with people in our own organization, which is a big driver for choosing other third party solutions instead.
Outlook for iOS will allow you to sync drafts. Another feature that you can’t believe doesn’t exist already, but now you can start an email on your phone and finish and send it on your PC (and vice versa).
What you need to do
To keep pace with the announcements, features and releases in 2018:
- View the Office 365 Roadmap here: https://products.office.com/en-US/business/office-365-roadmap?filters=#abc
- Stay tuned to the Message Center in your own Office 365 tenant for announcements applicable to you.
- Visit the Microsoft Tech Community https://techcommunity.microsoft.com/ for news and discussions.
- Check out the Office 365 User Voice https://office365.uservoice.com/ to submit, vote and see updates on your favorite requested features.
And stay with us at 24×7 IT Connection as we cut through the noise and give you our views on the latest from Microsoft.