WHAT’S NEW IN OFFICE 365 (DECEMBER 2018)

December is upon us – the lights, the music, the shopping; but don’t let that distract you from the exciting things happening in the world of Office 365! There is something for everyone – new options for site branding in SharePoint, the ability to manage MS Teams in the Teams & Skype Admin Center, new MS Teams Administrator roles, licensing updates for PowerApps/MS Flow, and a way to restrict users from creating Office 365 groups.

New Options for Site Branding in SharePoint

For those of you who have customized your Modern SharePoint experience or are interested in doing so, this one is very exciting! Although, Microsoft says this is in rollout and will be available worldwide by the end of December, we have yet to see it in our tenant; but we are eternally hopeful that it will show up any day. In the meantime, here are the details so you can wait with bated breath along with us.

The “change the look” panel will soon be updated with settings that will make it easy to customize the site header, footer and navigation layout. Site owners will be able to switch the site header layout to two other layouts, each changing the position or displaying of header elements. There is a new mega menu navigation layout that is only available for horizontally-oriented navigations and allows for a panel display of links up to three levels. Lastly, the footer setting will initially only be available for communication sites and will display a footer that can host a logo, links, and label. In addition to these updates, the Content Bar (or “social bar”) that contains the Like, Comment, View and Save for Later icons will be docked permanently on top of the Comments section of all modern pages. To get a sneak peak of these and other planned customization options, check out the Build your modern intranet with SharePoint in Office 365 blog post by Mark Kashman.

 

Manage Teams in the Teams & Skype Admin Center

While the Teams Dashboard is still not available in the Admin Center, we are a step closer with the ability to manage teams. This is great news for IT Pros and Admins as it will make managing teams much easier. When you click on “Teams” in the left navigation of the Teams & Skype Admin Center and select “Manage Teams”, you will see a list of all teams in your organization. From this page you have the ability to add and edit teams.

Create and Manage Teams

Select a team and choose “Edit”, and you will have the option to manage team members, channels and settings for the selected team.

Create and Manage Teams2

New Teams Admin Roles

Another great addition in Teams is the new Teams Administrator Roles. These roles can be assigned to users in the Azure Admin Portal. There are four new administrator roles available:

  • Teams Service Administrator: can manage everything in the Microsoft Teams & Skype for Business Admin Center
  • Teams Communications Administrator: can manage calling and meetings features
  • Teams Communications Support Engineer: can troubleshoot communications issues by using advanced tools (access to user profile page for troubleshooting calls in Call Analytics, can view full call record information)
  • Teams Communications Support Specialist: can troubleshoot communications issues by using basic tools (access to user profile page for troubleshooting calls in Call Analytics, can only view user information for the specific user being searched for)

There are also PowerShell cmdlets available for each role. Most of these cmdlets live in the Skype for Business PowerShell module, and some control shared settings that also control Skype for Business Online. To learn more about what’s new in Teams, check out Jace Moreno’s blog post titled New! Provide a great Teams experience with improved manageability and automation.

 

Licensing Updates for PowerApps & Flow

This announcement isn’t so much exciting as it is important to be aware of, since it could have an impact on your organization’s bottom line. Microsoft is simplifying the distinction between their PowerApps and Microsoft Flow for Office 365 plans and the standalone PowerApps and Microsoft Flow plans. Starting February 1, 2019, the following capabilities will require a PowerApps or Microsoft Flow Plan 1 or Plan 2 license:

  • Integration of on-premises data through the on-premises data gateway
  • Creation and publication of custom connectors in PowerApps and Microsoft Flow
  • HTTP triggers and actions inside Microsoft Flow.

Chris McNulty’s blog post Updates to Microsoft Flow and PowerApps for Office 365 has more information for those who are interested.

How does this affect me?

If your organization is using PowerApps for Office 365 and Microsoft Flow for Office 365 and one or more of the capabilities listed above, your organization will not be affected by this change on February 1, 2019 and will benefit from an extension until January 31, 2020 or the expiration of your current Office 365 subscription term, whichever is longer. Until the end of the extension, your users will continue to have access to the capabilities listed above and will not be impacted by the change on February 1, 2019. After the extension ends, your users will require a PowerApps or Flow Plan 1 or Plan 2 license to run PowerApps apps and Microsoft Flow using the capabilities listed above.

We can be thankful for the big heads up from Microsoft (more than a year of notice). However, considering the standalone plans cost $12 per month per user, that time may be much needed by some organizations to adjust budgets to handle the heft.

What do I need to do to prepare for this change?

Your organization will continue to have access to the capabilities listed above until January 31, 2020 or the expiration of your current Office 365 subscription term, whichever is longer.

 

Restricting Users from Creating Office 365 Groups

Microsoft is very permissive when it comes to creating Office 365 groups. The default is that everyone can create Office 365 groups. Users can create groups from several different applications, and each user can create up to 250 groups. With this kind of freedom, things can get out of control quickly. Before you know it, your environment can have a plethora of Office 365 Groups that may not be useful or even used. Sometimes the adage is true – just because they can, doesn’t always mean they should.

This is where restricting users from creating Office 365 groups comes in. You might decide that it would be better if not all your users had the ability to create Office 365 groups. Before you make this decision, there are a few things of which you need to be aware. The restriction will remove the ability to create groups in:

  • Outlook
  • SharePoint
  • Yammer
  • MS Teams (admins & users will not be able to create teams)
  • StaffHub (admins & users will not be able to create teams)
  • Planner (users will not be able to create a plan)
  • Power BI

Users with the restriction will still be able to create Team and Communication Sites; however, the Team Sites will not have an Office 365 group associated with them.

If after reviewing the consequences you decide this is the route you want to take, it is relatively simple to accomplish. Check out our blog post for step by step instructions and a few other things to consider when making this change.

As always, please check in on the Rolling Out and In Development sections of the Microsoft 365 Roadmap regularly to get an idea of what new features, updates and enhancements are in the pipeline. Should you have any questions, comments or concerns related to Office 365 please feel free to connect with us. Have a safe and happy holiday season!

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