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Microsoft Previews New Office 365 Management Capabilities with December Update

Microsoft shed a bit of light on its new Office 365 management improvements late last month.

Those additions to the Office 365 Admin Center include capabilities to manage OneDrive for Business, Microsoft Teams, GigJam and the overall Office 365 service health. The new management capabilities are currently accessible at the early preview stage by way of the December Office 365 update, according an announcement late last month by Anne Michels, an Office 365 senior product marketing manager.

In many cases, organizations will need to have an Office 365 "first release" distribution option set up to start using those new capabilities. If the feature is available, it typically can be turned on from a "Services & add-ins" selection under the "Settings" menu within the Office 365 Admin Center.

In related news, a Microsoft spokesperson today confirmed that its classic administrator portal for Office 365 will be retired at the end of this month. Users of the classic portal have already been seeing a message to this effect within the portal, as noticed by a Microsoft Tech Community contributor. Next month, the Office 365 Admin Center will be the only management portal option available. Users previously had the option to switch between the two portals. Microsoft announced the "general availability" of the Office 365 Admin Center back in September.

The new OneDrive for Business management preview in the Office 365 Admin Center, as described here, is for first release Office 365 users at this point. Microsoft is planning a general availability release of this capability in "early 2017."

Microsoft Teams is yet another Microsoft collaboration tool that was launched as a preview back in November. It's still at the preview stage right now, but Office 365 Admin Center users can test the management portal capabilities for this service by enabling it. Microsoft Teams is sometimes described as a Slack competitor. There's also a debate about whether Microsoft Teams will be the death of Yammer, which is Microsoft's enterprise social networking solution. Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Jasper Oosterveld recently noted in a ShareGate blog post that Microsoft is still working on integrating Yammer with Microsoft Groups. He depicted Yammer as sort of a bulletin board for corporate announcements, while Microsoft Teams is designed for smaller group conversations. Organizations should test both of those services to figure out if that's how they work for them, he indicated, adding "Good luck, you will need it" with regard figuring out Microsoft's collaboration and social networking product positionings.

GigJam is yet another Microsoft collaboration tool that lets users pull together applications and files on a card-like "canvas" and then share access with others. It's still at the preview stage since its 2015 Worldwide Partner Conference debut. IT pros can enable the GigJam preview and manage it from the Office 365 Admin Center as of the December Office 365 update. GigJam is turned off by default for Office 365 subscribers right now.

Lastly, the December Office 365 update is adding new service health dashboard preview capabilities for users of the Office 365 Admin Center. The service health dashboard provides a "summary view" of the Office 365 service for organizations, as well as "incidents" and "advisories" of note for IT pros, according to Michels. With the December update, Microsoft added a "rating option" that will let IT pros tell Microsoft about the relevancy of the information surfaced in the dashboard. The service health dashboard preview also shows a "history view," which allows IT pros to review "all incidents and advisories from the past 30 days," Michels added.

This updated service health dashboard will be rolled out more broadly "in February 2017," according to Michels. Future updates to the dashboard will include reports on client access to "SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Yammer," she added. The reports will become portable to other applications via APIs, and Microsoft will enable this API support via a coming "Office 365 adoption content pack in Power BI," she indicated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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