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In my blog post last September, I called out the herculean work of the IT admin community in shepherding organizations through the new era of remote work in response to the pandemic. Five months later the role of the IT professionals is no less critical, especially as we begin to shape what the “new normal” looks like.
In talking with many of you, we overwhelmingly hear about your challenges balancing the need to stay focused on strategy and business problems, with the work that often gets in the way of that—managing deployments, security updates, and support calls from users. That’s why we are excited to share new features to make this easier!
In May and September 2020, we announced new cloud-based capabilities in the following three areas: intelligent insights, servicing automation with controls, and Microsoft 365 Apps health. Since then, we’ve seen over 11 million devices running Microsoft 365 Apps onboard to Inventory. We’ve also provided IT admins with over eight million app health metrics and delivered servicing updates to over 500,000 devices with our new Servicing Profile, keeping them continuously secure with the latest security improvements and up to date with improvements for collaboration and remote work.
Today, we are excited to announce improvements and more new capabilities to keep devices up to date, give you greater control and enable you to more easily manage Office as a service:
- New in Microsoft 365 Apps Inventory and Servicing Profiles
- General availability of Skip and Rollback
- General availability of Microsoft 365 Apps health
Gain comprehensive insights with the new Microsoft 365 Apps Inventory
When it comes to understanding the Office apps environment in your enterprise, we know you need answers quickly. By using the apps Inventory service available in preview today, you gain deep insights into Microsoft 365 Apps in your organization. With these details, you can quickly identify anomalies, such as version sediment across your apps and add-ins. We have learned what is important from the feedback of partners and customers who helped us define and design these capabilities. We heard that understanding the versions of Office builds deployed across your organization, the number of devices with Microsoft 365 Apps, and the most installed add-ins are important to help you quickly assess and make decisions about security posture, quality of employee experience and expediting deployments. You can even view the last time a device checked into the service. Learn more about Inventory in the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center.
Managing positive security posture is the top priority for all of us. Keeping Microsoft 365 Apps current with the latest patches contributes to positive security posture in a rapidly evolving security landscape. We included security update status by device (currently in preview) as a key metric that IT pros can monitor across the estate. This metric helps you assess the coverage of your enterprise with the latest security updates for Microsoft 365 Apps, share with your Security team, and take appropriate actions to remediate imminent threats.
You can also set goals for applying updates, tracking update progress, and identifying where your IT organization can improve processes to ensure devices stay up to date with Microsoft 365 Apps. Finally, you can also export all of this data for internal reporting or for sharing information with auditors and regulators. Learn more about security update status report.
Automate for more efficient Office updates with Microsoft 365 Apps Servicing Profiles
Since announcing the preview of Servicing Profiles last September, we’ve serviced more than 500,000 devices with Microsoft 365 Apps to keep them continuously updated. Now you can use the Servicing Profile feature (currently in preview for Monthly Enterprise Channel) to efficiently manage and automate how devices receive monthly updates directly from the Office Content Delivery Network (CDN). To ensure IT admins are at the helm, we built a set of explicit controls that enable you to pause and resume the updates with a click of a button. Additionally, we have heard that many organizations want the ability to automatically pause updates from being delivered during specific times, typically during tax or holiday seasons, to reduce the possibility of disruption for critical business processes. You can easily schedule these with our exclusion dates feature.
“From previously managing updates from ConfigMgr, using the Servicing Profiles from within the Apps Admin Center is a breath of fresh air.”
– Matt B, Technical Systems Engineer, Cisco
Coming soon to preview, you’ll be able to set Servicing Profiles by using Azure Active Directory (AD) user or device groups. If an issue is detected post update, you will be able to restore the device to the previous Office build and pause the rollout until the issue is resolved. For broader issues affecting a larger number of devices, you will be able to restore and pause updates using Azure AD groups. Today, Servicing Profile is only available in preview for the Monthly Enterprise Channel and will be available in preview for the other channels at a later date. Learn more about our update channels to help you deliver the latest value to the business.
Streamline servicing of Microsoft 365 Apps with Skip and Rollback
We designed Servicing Profiles to meet the needs of all organizations regardless of their complexity. But we believe that many environments will be sufficiently served by using Skip and Rollback in Version management* based on your preselected default channel. With Version management, you can easily roll back all your devices to a previous version of Office or skip an upcoming update. You can find this feature, now generally available**, in the Microsoft 365 admin center under Settings > Org settings > Services > Office installation options.
Increase performance, reliability, and security with Microsoft 365 Apps health
We’re excited to announce that Microsoft 365 Apps health is generally available this month. Since we first previewed this capability, we’ve provided insights for over eight million devices through the dashboard. Now, via the Microsoft 365 Apps admin center, you can see reliability and performance trends by app and channel, and features like Reliability advisories, advisory history and diagnostic data coverage to help you easily monitor, optimize, and discover issues with Microsoft 365 Apps in their environment.
Like the Inventory and Servicing Profile dashboards, the Apps health dashboard provides at-a-glance views for quickly spotting anomalies that might need investigation and troubleshooting. You can identify devices running unsupported Office builds, a list of advisories for your organization, and devices covered by Apps health. You can also see trends over the last 30 days to view trends by channel and see any correlation between current advisories and those that occurred in the past.
The Microsoft 365 Apps health dashboard provides visibility and actionable guidance about the health of the deployment of Microsoft 365 Apps. Microsoft processes diagnostic data from your environment to produce these valuable insights and give you confidence that the deployment of Microsoft 365 Apps in your organization is secure, up to date and behaves properly.
A frequent request we receive from IT admins is to help them assess the quality of their Office deployment and compare it to similar companies. To deliver on this need, we are introducing aggregate industry benchmark to evaluate performance, currency, and reliability and other key metrics of your deployment with your industry peers. We will be gradually rolling out this feature in the coming weeks.
To preview and start using all these new features, log in to Microsoft 365 Apps admin center. Check out our Guide to Microsoft 365 Apps deployment and servicing at Microsoft Ignite to learn more about all the new features coming your way soon. Have a question? Join our Office deployment experts on March 3 and March 10 for live Office Hours Q&A sessions to ask any questions you have about deploying and servicing Microsoft 365 Apps. Or head over to the Microsoft 365 Tech Community discussion space to continue the conversation!
*If you’re already using another method to manage Office updates on devices in your organization, such as Group Policy or Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager, then the choices on the Office installation and the Version management tabs won’t apply to those devices.
**The skip and rollback functionalities are now available in the Microsoft 365 admin center, but are not available to customers who have the following plans: Office 365 operated by 21Vianet, Office 365 Germany, Office 365 GCC, or Office 365 GCC High and DoD.
Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.