As an Office 365 MVP, I am constantly being asked by customers and partners alike how best to stay aware of all of the new innovations coming out of Office 365, including things like Delve, Groups, Clutter, and the new Boards. As Microsoft makes the transition to an online-first and mobile-first company, the rapid pace of the release schedule can leave some partners wondering how to keep on top of it all – much less how to get the most out of these new capabilities themselves.
What are the latest features, you ask?
Well, for example, Delve is a new search-related feature that uses the power of the Office Graph to identify content that is important to you. Content within Office 365 or OneDrive for Business that is available through your current work projects, or that your peers and manager are working with on a topic related to one of your interests, will appear on your Delve page. From your default view, you can refine the search by metadata tags, a person on your team, or the new Boards capability.
Boards, simply put, are just another way to organize your content. Have a new project you are working on, and want to assemble related content in one place? Add them to a Board, regardless of the file type, making it easy to organize your materials – and get a filtered view of the content that is important. And as always, the content you can see in Delve and your Boards are security trimmed through SharePoint.
How to use these and other latest features is an entirely different – and lengthy – blog post, but I thought I would address one question here: How can partners stay on top of the new feature release cadence?
My short answer is to stay informed, and get involved. The quantity and quality of communication coming out of Redmond is on the rise, and my personal view is that it is a night-and-day difference in communication with what we had even three or four years ago. I have been repeatedly impressed with how quickly Microsoft personnel have responded to inquiries from the community, whether through official channels or community blogs and social media. This is not to say that it’s a perfect system – I think there is a lot of room for improvement (specifically, in the level of detail provided around roadmaps), but partners have many ways through which they can find the information they need about what Microsoft has released, or will soon release.
To stay on top of the latest Office 365 features, here’s what I recommend:
  • Start out by following the Office Blog, which is usually the first place you’ll hear about new features or Microsoft plans. Of course, if you are an administrator for your organization, you can find out about updates through the Office 365 Message Center within your O365 subscription, as well.
  • Bookmark the Office 365 Roadmap site, which is a quick way to see what is currently available, what will soon be released to a tenant near you, what is in development, and any features that have been cancelled or delayed.
  • Join the Office 365 Network on Yammer. With almost 44,000 members on the network, this can be a fantastic resource for asking questions and getting answers, both from the community and from the various Microsoft product, marketing, and sales personnel who always seem to be online. Of course, how to make yourself productive on Yammer is another topic.
  • If you want to stay on the cutting edge of Microsoft releases and be able to provide feedback as new features and capabilities are released, join the Office 365 First Release program. While new features are still rolled out to various O365 tenants in waves, participants in this program can see these updates weeks before the general populace, giving you time to try them out and provide feedback to Microsoft.
  • On the topic of feedback, one other important site for you to remember is Microsoft Connect, which allows you to report any issues you might be experiencing. 
Beyond these primary sites, there are numerous websites and resources available for developers, IT pros, testers, and support personnel. TechNet has been heavily expanded, and there are a number of Office 365-related communities on Yammer and out on the web that can be valuable for partners.
Hopefully you find this list of resources helpful. As always, I encourage everyone to provide feedback on these sites – or resources you feel are missing from the partner community – directly to Microsoft. They cannot make changes if they do not know, so open up the lines of communication and share your feedback! The entire partner community will benefit if we all become engaged.