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More services join First Release

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Editor’s Note 2/9/2016:
Based on customer feedback, we’ve changed how we refer to our update branches. The name changes are as follows:

  • Current Branch is now called Current Channel
  • Current Branch for Business is now called Deferred Channel
  • First Release for Current Branch is now called First Release for Current Channel
  • First Release for Current Branch for Business is now called First Release for Deferred Channel

Only the names are changing. The servicing model for each of these channels remains the same. We are in the process of updating our content, so you will continue to see the previous naming during this transition.

Frequent updates are a core benefit of Office 365, helping you provide the latest releases of your favorite apps and services to your organization. With First Release, you can opt in to receive updates earlier than the Standard Release. In May, we enhanced First Release based on your feedback, adding First Release Select People. This enables you to select a subset of your users to receive updates early to vet and prepare before they are broadly rolled out in your environment.

Your response to these improvements has been very positive, based on feedback we’ve received in the Office 365 Network Change Alerts group, during the Microsoft Ignite conference and through the Office 365 Admin Center feedback tool. Two themes also stood out in your feedback: expand First Release to apply to more Office 365 services and make it easier to stay informed with Message Center.

In response to these requested improvements, we have two change management updates to share:

  • More services now have First Release options—SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business have added support for First Release Select People. Office 365 ProPlus and Office 365 Business subscriptions now have First Release builds of the Office client, equivalent to Office Insider for consumers.
  • Improved service update communications—The Office 365 Admin Center Preview now includes a newly revamped Message Center, the Office 365 Admin app is adding push notifications for Message Center posts and the Office 365 for business roadmap (roadmap.office.com) includes new filters and tags.

More services now support First Release

SharePoint and OneDrive for Business updates are available through First Release Select People—We appreciate the critical role First Release has played in your change management processes. Since initially launching First Release in June 2014, we’ve added the Select People option for Exchange Online and the Office 365 suite UI. And the response has been great, with a large number of you taking advantage of this option.

Update on customer requested change management improvements 1

However, switching to First Release Select People was not an option for many of you without SharePoint and OneDrive for Business. To make First Release even more appealing, we are announcing that SharePoint and OneDrive for Business updates are now available through First Release Select People. We hope this additional support makes it easier for you to learn about updates before they roll out to your entire organization.

First Release should be an important part of Office 365 change management process. We encourage all customers to take advantage of these release options to stay better informed about new updates. Learn more about these latest enhancements and how to enable First Release here.

First Release for Office 365 ProPlus subscriptions—On September 22, the new Office was released, and Office 365 subscribers can try Office 2016 today. Office 365 ProPlus is now released monthly with two different release options, Current Branch and Current Branch for Business. But did you know that each branch also has an equivalent First Release option?

Office 365 ProPlus servicing model-1

By choosing First Release builds, you can have users test the latest Office client updates in your organization to fully prepare before they roll out broadly. First Release Current Branch for Business gives you four months to test the next Current Branch for Business release with your line-of-business apps. Learn more about different update branches and see what updates are in each build here.

Today you’ll need to use the Office Deployment Tool for Office 2016 to choose which version of Office you install. Early next year, we’re adding an option for admins to make First Release builds available through a user’s software download page.

Improved service update communications

New Message Center experience in Admin Center Preview—The Message Center has been added to Office 365 Admin Center Preview. The new, simplified Admin Center experience is helping admins do common tasks, like resetting passwords, faster and more easily. Part of that experience is making it easier for admins to stay informed about updates and changes to their service. Now, from the Admin Center home, you can click to view a message in context, rate the message and provide feedback on its effectiveness and quality.

This will be a multi-step journey. Below is a glimpse of planned improvements we’re working on—based on your feedback. On our roadmap you’ll find planned enhancements that include read/unread status to messages and the ability to dismiss messages.

The Admin Center Preview is gradually rolling out to customers with First Release enabled and will continue to roll out over the next six months as we iterate and incorporate your input.

Office 365 Admin app push notifications for Message Center posts—One of the most requested features for the Office 365 Admin app has been support for push notifications. Push notifications were released in June for Service Incident alerts, providing real-time updates to the health of your service. Today we are expanding push notification options and adding support for Message Center posts.

To enable and configure push notifications, go to your app settings, as shown below. Early next year we’ll add filters, so you can choose which types of messages you want push notifications for—similar to how you can choose which service incident alerts you want today.

Download the Office 365 Admin app for your mobile device.

New filters for the Office 365 Roadmap—Your first and best way to learn about upcoming updates to your service experience is the Office 365 for business roadmap (roadmap.office.com). We updated the Office 365 Roadmap with a much-requested feature—filters and tags that let you filter roadmap items based on selected apps, services and/or platform.

These new filters make finding the information you’re looking for easier and faster than before, hopefully making the Office 365 for business roadmap an even more useful change management planning resource.

Start using these change management improvements today and keep providing feedback

Get started today by turning on First Release. If you haven’t already, download the latest Office 365 Admin app update and turn on push notifications.

To learn more about managing Office 365, visit the recently launched fasttrack.office.com/manage, where you’ll find a growing library of service management resources and advice to effectively manage Office 365 service updates and service health.

Also, check out these Microsoft Cloud Roadshow videos:

Your feedback and use have helped prioritize these improvements to First Release and our communication experiences across the web and mobile app. We continue to iterate on these experiences with a deep commitment to make Office 365 service updates a seamless and manageable experience across Office 365.

Join the conversation in the Change Alerts Yammer group and let us know how these improvements are helping and what else would make your experience even better.

—Andy O’Donald, senior product marketing manager; Sean Squires, senior program manager; Karan Singh Rekhi, senior program manager; Amesh Mansukhani, senior program manager; and Matt Lopez, program manager for the Office 365 team

Frequently asked questions

Q. Do all updates go through First Release?

A. Not all updates are able to be rolled out through First Release. There are usually two categories of changes that cannot go through First Release: updates that are part of the cloud fabric, such as IP range changes, and security patches.

Q. What types of SharePoint and OneDrive changes will go through First Release?

A. Many updates to SharePoint and OneDrive will go through First Release. This includes UI changes, workflow optimizations and bug fixes. Some changes, such as storage increases, can be rolled out only to an entire organization and are not eligible for First Release Select People. Some updates, such as infrastructure and security patches, do not use First Release.

Q. How do I get the Office Insider’s build of Office if I have a subscription for Office 365 ProPlus or Office 365 Business?

A. You’ll need to use the Office Deployment Tool for Office 2016 to choose which version of Office you install. Follow the steps at the bottom of this page.

Q. I have First Release Entire Organization enabled. Why don’t I see the Admin Center Preview?

A. Currently the Admin Center Preview is rolled out to a smaller percentage of First Release customers while we iterate, make improvements and incorporate feedback. As the experience continues to mature, we will begin to roll it out more broadly over the next six months.

Q. What type of push notifications can I get today?

A. We are enabling push notifications for Prevent/Fix Issue Message Center posts at this time. These are the most critical updates and require immediate admin action. We plan to add the option for additional Message Center post notifications in the future.

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2 comments
  1. Still no information on how an organisation can skip a feature release while maintaining monthly security fixes as advertised as possible on TechNet in the overview of update branches

    • As the diagram shows above, if you take the CCB build it will only include feature updates 3 times a year. The remaining monthly updates will be security patches and hotfixes only.

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