What’s new in Office 365 (October 2019)

Once again Microsoft has been rolling out updated and new features at neck breaking speed.  While it’s hard to argue with their numbers I cannot help but agree with some of the sentiments put forth by Andrew Connell in his SharePoint Framework Summer 2019 Wish List post on September 4th. If you’re a developer doing any work with the SharePoint Framework the article is a must read. If you’re not, just know that the gist of the article is “New stuff is great but how about we clean up what we already have rolled out”.  Again, hard to argue with Microsoft’s results but Andrew’s logic is spot on as usual.  With that diatribe out of the way here are some other notable happenings in Office 365 in the past month.

Office 2013 and Office 365 are getting divorced in a couple weeks

If your organization still has some Office 2013 installations floating around read the below announcement from Microsoft immediately…

“As previously announced via blog and MC175274 (March, 2019), Office 2013 clients’ connections to commercial Office 365 services will not be supported after October 13, 2020. After this date, ongoing investments in the Office 365 cloud services – including Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, and OneDrive for Business – will proceed based on post-Office 2013 requirements. We recommend that organizations with Office 2013 clients consider migrating to Office 365 ProPlus.”

What’s really intriguing about this and the future direction of Office is that the messaging is totally geared towards moving to Office 365 ProPlus, Office 2016 and Office 2019 are still viable options until October 2023. To be fair Microsoft does note that in the second paragraph in their announcement but the reality is that on-premises installations of Office are going away and the sooner we come to grips with it and adopt Office ProPlus the better, or at least that seems to be the messaging from Microsoft😉.

Pinned Channels in Teams

For those of us that are on too many Teams this new feature may prove to be very useful.  Essentially once this rolls out into General Availability (GA) users will be able to “Pin” channels to the Teams listing for easy access. Guessing this will be used by many users to “sort” channels vs. pinning them to the top but we shall see.

Unfortunately, we haven’t seen it in preview in our tenant yet but supposedly it will be as easy as selecting the ellipses (…) next to the channel and selecting Pin. GA rollout is scheduled to be completed by the end of October 2019 but the feature is still listed as “In development” on the roadmap as of 9/30/2019…aka we shall see if October is realistic but with Ignite coming up there is a good chance this one gets out in time.

Approving Hub Site Joins using MS Flow

Long are the days of IT Pros/Developers adding hub site owners via PowerShell and now anyone with Site Owner rights can join their sites to Hub sites.  If you’re not familiar with Hub Sites in SharePoint Online please read through the What is a SharePoint hub site? support article from Microsoft but if you don’t just know they are an essential piece of “Modern SharePoint”. In some ways this feels like another “User Empowerment” feature that is really forcing ITs hand into enabling Flow within a tenant.

The only real downside to site owners being able to join their sites to hubs is the common navigation and branding that can be applied…everything else is permission scoped so it’s not really the end of the world if they “accidently” join a site to a hub.  However, given the fact that Microsoft is giving us this Approval feature they realize not all site owners in SharePoint Online will know what a hub site is, and organizations should still be able to have some control to mitigate that risk. All they must do is utilize Microsoft Flow to do so. Also, it’s important to note that this feature is turned off in the tenant by default and isn’t in our tenant quite yet but once it is, we will be giving a test run and report back.


Sharing Reports are Coming to OneDrive and SharePoint (Sort of)

Per Microsoft’s announcement “OneDrive owners can now generate a CSV that shows how their content is being shared outside the organization.  OneDrive Owners can generate the report from the OneDrive Settings -> “More Settings” page. The report outputs a CSV file that contains a row for every unique user, permission, link, and item on that site.” There is already a Microsoft Docs resource available on this feature within SharePoint as well.

Please note that this message clearly indicates External Sharing but who knows maybe we will get a full report available for users soon. Until then, 3rd party tools and PowerShell are still the best way to get full permissions reports.

MS Teams FAQ Plus App

While this may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” it’s a worthwhile read if you are in IT and considering adding some customizations to your Office 365 environment but want to get an idea of the process.  There is a good overview of the solution available for everyone on the Teams Tech Community Blog in an article titled: Modernize employee experience with this no-code chatbot in Teams. There is  even a YouTube video demo available here. However, for the IT folks you will want to check out the GitHub repo and the Solution Overview…that’s where the details come into play.

The GitHub repo documentation gives a great overview of some of the decision points and cost considerations when it comes to custom solutions in MS Teams (really Office 365 as a whole).  This is great read or even a good “tinkering” project to help IT understand how Azure Services can play an integral part of customizing Office 365 with minimal upfront/ongoing investment.  Getting through the configuration and code aspect of the implementation requires a “techie” background but it’s well worth a looksee.

As always remember to keep an eye on the Microsoft 365 Roadmap and your Message Center to stay on top of the latest, greatest updates.

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