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Microsoft Adds Office 365 Capabilities and Management Tools

Microsoft added some Office 365 capabilities this month, including administrative tools for IT pros and a preview of Microsoft Graph reporting APIs.

The Graph is Microsoft's search-powered service that underlies its Office 365 applications. It's typically used to surface organizational information. The newly added Graph reporting API preview can be used by IT pros and software vendors to push Office 365 use data into reports or software tools. The Graph API can surface summary information for each Office 365 application. It can be used to show time-span details for accounts, sites and users. It's also used to deliver daily activity reports. The time-spans that can be sampled include the last seven days, 30 days, 90 days or 180 days.

The new Graph reporting APIs will replace Microsoft's Office 365 Reporting Web Service APIs, which are used to integrate Lync Online activities with e-mail, spam and antivirus activities. There's an end date for the Office 365 Reporting Web Service APIs. They'll get removed on Oct. 1, 2017. The following APIs will be going away at that time, according to Microsoft's announcement:

ConnectionbyClientType, ConnectionbyClientTypeDetail, CsActiveUser, CsAVConferenceTime, CsP2PAVTime, CsConference, CsP2PSession, GroupActivity, MailboxActivity, GroupActivity, MailboxUsage, MailboxUsageDetail, StaleMailbox and StaleMailboxDetail.

Not all IT pros can access the new Graph reporting API previews. They can only be accessed by "any user with global admin or product admin rights (for Exchange, Skype for Business and SharePoint)," according to the announcement.

Office Admin Center Additions
In addition to the new API preview, Microsoft added administrative capabilities to the Office 365 Admin Center this month. Here are the capabilities that are now available.

Organizations now have the ability to assign the Dynamics 365 Online service administrative role to other users, who can then access the Dynamics 365 Admin Center as a service administrator. These assigned service administrators lack access to global administrator controls, such as managing subscriptions and accounts, or the ability to change access settings. Microsoft lists the privileges of an assigned Dynamics 365 service administrator in this blog post.

IT pros can now export data from the organization-wide activity charts that show up in Office 365 Admin Center. There's a new Export link that will capture the data for a specific time period, saving it as an Excel .CSV file.

This month, Microsoft released a new Office 365 service health dashboard, which shows service incidents and advisories. The dashboard also is getting added to the Office 365 Mobile Admin App for "Windows Phone, iOS and Android," Microsoft's announcement explained, although it's just starting to roll out this month.

Organizations now get some better controls over shared Office 365 mailboxes. For instance, they can now "convert user mailboxes into shared mailboxes." In addition, they can turn on a setting for a shared mailbox that will permit end users who are members to see the content that's been added. IT pros get a new toggle button in the Office 365 Admin Center that enables that experience. The toggle goes by the label, "Copy items set on behalf of this mailbox," which maybe isn't the most helpful label that could be imagined.

Microsoft claimed it has eased the process of adding an organization's domain to Office 365. Organizations can now connect their domains to Office 365 "by simply adding one TXT record to their name server DNS," Microsoft's announcement explained.

Microsoft also published materials designed to help end users get started using Office 365. There's a new quick start guide and video.

The Microsoft Tech Community now has a new Office 365 blog series focused on service management issues, which is located here. It covers "monitoring, incident management and change management in an evergreen service," according to the announcement.

Microsoft also is promising that future reporting improvements will be coming to the Office 365 Admin Center. Those new reports will provide information about OneDrive for Business and SharePoint clients, as well as information on Microsoft Groups. Some of Microsoft's Power BI reporting capabilities also will be arriving for Office 365 tenancies, including "a reporting role and the Office 365 adoption content pack."

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Paul Cunningham offered a few insights about Microsoft's Office 365 plans in recent Practical 365 blog posts. He indicated that Microsoft has slowed its plans to automatically create groups for manager users. It's otherwise known as a controversial "private groups" capability that Microsoft planned to turn on this month for Office 365 subscribers. The feature is now just getting delivered to a "select group of customers" for testing purposes, Cunningham indicated. Microsoft also is enabling the ability to restore deleted Office 365 Groups, but it's apparently at the test level, according to Cunningham.

Microsoft is planning to end all support for its deprecated DirSync and Azure Active Directory Sync tools on April 13, 2017, Cunningham indicated. Users likely will have to use the Azure AD Connect tool instead.

Microsoft's delayed Focused Inbox feature for Outlook clients is starting to show up, according to Cunningham. He also indicated a date for the Skype for Business voicemail transcription feature. It'll be "rolling out on March 31st to all customers," Cunningham stated.

Other Office 365 Additions
In related news, Microsoft indicated this month that coauthoring in Excel for Windows desktops is now available at the preview stage for Office Insiders who follow the fast-ring testing branch. This capability, which lets multiple users collaborate on a single Worksheet, has lagged on the Windows desktop side, but it's been available for other implementations, such as "Excel Online, Excel on Android, Windows Mobile and iOS (for Office Insiders)." Coauthoring in Excel for the Mac isn't available yet, but Microsoft is working on adding that capability.

In addition, Microsoft is adding an "AutoSave" capability for users of Excel, Word and PowerPoint when they are working on files stored online using the OneDrive, OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online services. The AutoSave feature is currently rolling out to Office Insider fast-ring testers.

Project Online users can now "create and manage up to 30,000 projects," Microsoft announced this week. The previous limit was 5,000 projects. Project sites, which are used for collaborations, also got an expansion, from limit of 2,000 project sites to 4,000 project sites.

Microsoft Planner, an Office 365 application that lets organizations set up projects with tasks shown in a color-coded scheme, now permits the assignment of multiple people to a single task. It's a basic functionality that was lacking in the original release.

Microsoft also announced this week that it has expanded some capabilities available with its Office 365 K1 subscription plan. The K1 is a plan for so-called "kiosk" workers or customer-service personnel.

Office 365 K1 subscribers now get access to StaffHub, an employee scheduling service. In addition, they're getting access to Microsoft Teams, a chat-based collaboration service that's currently available to business and education Office 365 subscribers. Office 365 K1 subscribers now have access to PowerApps and Microsoft Flow for building apps and workflows. They also get access to the Office 365 Video service for posting video content. The OneDrive for Business storage service for Office 365 K1 users was bumped up to 2GB. Lastly, Microsoft added Skype for Business presence and instant messaging to the plan.

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