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Simplifying the Office 365 admin experience

Lawrence Chiu is a senior product marketing manager for the admin experience on Office 365.

As an Office 365 IT admin, you are front and center in managing your Office 365 environment. With cloud-based services such as Office 365, your environment is always up to date. Not only do you always have the latest fixes, you also always have access to the latest innovations, such as Office Groups and Office Graph, and the latest productivity tools, including Office for iPad.

With all the new features and functionality offered by Office 365, managing the service can become more complex. This could make managing more difficult, especially if you’re an admin who doesn’t specialize in IT. We’re making sure, however, that you can manage your service easily. To ensure that admins at all organizations, big and small, get the most from Office 365, we’ve started on a journey to simplify the Office 365 admin experience.

Starting this month, we’re rolling out three new capabilities that will help you manage your service more simply. With these updates, you can:

  • Have Office 365 proactively check your DNS records to find and fix DNS issues.
  • Manage more efficiently with streamlined common admin tasks.
  • Get to what you need faster with commonly used settings in the admin center.

Let’s take a look at how these new capabilities can help you manage your service more efficiently.

Have Office 365 proactively check your DNS records to find and fix DNS issues

Configuring and troubleshooting DNS records can be a confusing experience. Some common causes of problems include missing or incorrect DNS records or DNS changes as a result of service updates. The consequences of these issues are significant, because your users may not be able to send or receive email, or customers may not be able to visit your company’s public website.

To help ensure that you have the correct configuration, we’re rolling out a solution to provide you with the ability to have your DNS records proactively checked by Office 365. If your DNS records do not match what we expect for your environment, you will receive a notification when you are logged into your Office 365 admin center. We will then provide you with proposed actions to fix your potential DNS records issue. If your domain is hosted by GoDaddy, you will have the option to either have the DNS records automatically updated or manually configure them yourself by following our instructions. For all other domain hosts, you will be provided with instructions on how to correct your DNS records issues. Once the DNS records have been correctly updated, you will see a confirmation screen.

For admins with more advanced setups, this proactive DNS records check can be turned off to prevent unnecessary DNS records error notifications.

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Manage more efficiently with streamlined common admin tasks

You know how busy admins are. If you’re a small business admin, managing Office 365 may be only one of your functions in a long list of job duties, so keeping the experience simple is key. If you’re an admin at a larger organization, you’re constantly bombarded with tasks to complete and efficiency may be the most important aspect of managing your Office 365 service. Fortunately, simplicity and efficiency go hand in hand and efficiency is a key focus in our journey to simplifying the administration of Office 365.

With the updates rolling out this month, we’ve started streamlining common admin tasks. One common admin task is adding new users to your Office 365 environment. We’ve reduced the number of steps required to create new users by adding the ability to automatically assign your available Office 365 licenses. We’ve streamlined the task of managing users, too. The updated user detail panel now contains more user information, such as the assigned Office 365 license and associated email addresses. The updated user detail panel also provides a more obvious way to reset passwords. And to simplify password management further, you now have the option to manually set passwords rather than have Office 365 generate a random one.

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Get to what you need faster with commonly used settings in the admin center

We’re focusing on simplifying the Office 365 admin center navigation experience by improving discoverability. We’re doing this by adding to the Office 365 admin center settings commonly used with Office 365 that previously were found only in other admin portals (Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync).

The first settings we added, the ones rolling out this month, are the external collaboration settings. Three commonly used external collaboration settings are now grouped together in the External Sharing tab on the Office 365 admin center left navigation menu. By enabling these settings, you can give your users the ability to share access to their SharePoint sites and documents and Exchange calendars, so they can collaborate more easily with people in external organizations. By enabling the Lync collaboration setting, you can give your users the ability to communicate with people outside of your organization. With these commonly used settings right at your fingertips in the Office 365 admin center, you no longer have to go into a different admin portal just to enable/disable them.

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Stay informed with the Office 365 message center

Remember to check the Message Center regularly to stay in the loop and up to date with what is going on in your Office 365 environment. We’ll post messages to you about any potential issues with your environment, notify you of changes to your service, and more.

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This is only the start of the journey of improving the Office 365 admin experience. We’re continuously looking for ways to improve your admin experience and value your feedback. Stay tuned to this blog for more updates!

—Lawrence Chiu

Join the conversation

14 comments
  1. Thanks for trying to make it easier for us. The new message center is an improvement, but I am VERY disappointed and frustrated that changes continue to roll out without any warning. We recently started to see styling changes in the Office Suite Bar that have made it impossible to change the settings in some sites because the Gear is no longer visible. MS deployed changes that break the standard themes provided by MS are completely unacceptable and the fact that these types of changes were not announced is a direct contradiction to the communication goals stated above and at the recent SharePoint Conference.
    Also, please add a section to the Message Center for Expired messages, it can be very helpful to review previously implemented changes

    • Thanks for your feedback.

      Please bear with us as we are continue to refine our change management process internally so that we can provide you with the most accurate information possible.

      Regarding the Office 365 Suite nav, I am trying to understand the issue you are experiencing. I know for some Office 365 services e.g. Sites, the Settings (Gear) icon is greyed out. However, it should still be clickable. Please let us know otherwise. As a FYI, we are working on enhancing your experience with the Office 365 suite nav bar. Please stay tuned to the blog for an update.

      Thanks for your Message Center suggestion. We will consider this in our planning.

      • Here are some screen shots that show how bad the new styling looks, http://1drv.ms/SrH1PB. In some themes, the contrast is so bad that it is almost impossible to see the information.

        • Thanks for your screenshots.

          I have passed your comments to the relevant teams.

  2. In your efforts to make it easier for us, please focus on making the UI consistent. When I do a search for a User in the Users and Groups tabs, each search box functions slightly differently. When performing the same task in any of the O365 Admin pages, the UI should work and look identically
    I’d like to add some screen shots, but this comment box won’t let me.

    • This is definitely only the start of the simplification journey and we are looking at ways to improve consistency.

      Are you able to upload your screenshots to OneDrive and post the link? I don’t quite see the UI inconsistency that you are mentioning.

  3. We see some new functionality in the SharePoint Admin Center, Settings page. Where is the announcement about these new features? I can’t find anything on this site or in the Office 365 forums.

    • Hi DL,

      You may be asking about the new “Top Navigation Bar User Experience” &/or the ability to switch between a simple and advanced SPO-admin center experience [simple shows mainly site collection management, ODB, user profile management and access to "settings"].

      We published this information and how to article for the top nav: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepoint-help/customize-the-navigation-bar-in-sharepoint-online-HA104205096.aspx?CTT=1

      Can you share if you meant changes other than above? And if you can share your insights as to what level of granularity you would expect in a blog post on blogs.office.com – aka, if it’s a smaller feature/adjustment would you expect a full blog post on it? My plans have been to provide a roll up of several new SPO-admin features to announce a broader view into SPO-admin enhancements. The catch is not all features release at once.

      Thanks in advance for your feedback,
      Mark

  4. Hi there…when can we expect to see any of these new features?

    • Thanks for your question.

      The rollout for these enhancements have started. If you do not see them already, expect to see them within the next month or two as we complete the rollout.

      • I have a company portal and a test portal. The new test portal is showing the “external sharing” feature but the company portal is not. Is there a roll out methodology whereby my pre-existing company portal doesn’t receive the new feature roll outs before my new test portal?

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