Microsoft Expands Office 365 Tool for Keeping End Users in the Dark
Microsoft on Wednesday announced a couple of enhancements to an emerging Office 365 management capability that lets IT pros hide certain software features from end users or employees.
The capability, called "Office What's New Management," is currently at the preview stage. It's accessible by IT pros via the Microsoft 365 Admin Center portal, as well as the Office 365 Client Configuration Service via the Services tab. The preview gives IT pros control over which new Office 365 features can be seen by end users when they access the "What's New" section of their Office Desktop App client.
The Office What's New Management capability is for IT departments with a lock-down mentality and a view that end users are just monkeys when it comes to Office 365 applications and features. In addition to providing a block on what end users can see with the Office What's New Management preview, Microsoft has previously encouraged such monkey-like end user behavior. For instance, in 2018 it pushed down a policy that lets end users start certain Office 365 application trials, such as Microsoft Teams, unless IT pros should block that trials policy beforehand.
Microsoft had initially released the Office What's New Management capability in preview form in November. Back then, IT pros had to have either Global Administrator (full) or Global Reader (read-only) rights to access this feature. Now, with the updated preview, it's possible to access the Office What's New Management capability with the Office Apps Admin role, too, which permits full access rights.
Another new addition to the Office What's New Management capability preview is the ability to foresee what will be coming in an Office 365 semiannual channel feature update release. The "semiannual channel" term refers to an update schedule where new software features get delivered to Office 365 tenancies twice per year, typically in the spring and fall.
"You won't have to wait for the release day to get visibility into the feature content available for a coming release version," explained Scott Schnoll, a product marketing manager for Microsoft 365, regarding the enhanced Office What's New Management preview.
Microsoft's announcement includes a table showing that IT pros will get a view of the new semiannual channel Office 356 features about one-to-two weeks beforehand.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.