Did you always feel Office 365 has been going through rapid updates and you as a customer or partner are left with no insight? Until now Microsoft has been rolling out features without regard to the tenant profile. There is generally no process for partners to get updates before or after customers. I personally know of multiple instances where it’s been a nightmare for organizations to keep track of and stay informed of all the changes, left alone the communication to their end users.
Microsoft has taken the first step by coming out with a new feature called “First Release” Program. This will allow anyone (customer or partner) to be in the front of the line for a small subset of significant updates. The program is scoped to Exchange and SharePoint features and I hope they expand to more capabilities. Each tenant can choose to be in the First Release group or in standard release to determine when they get the select list of releases. If you’re responsible for a number of different organizations tenants, you may persuade them to keep First Release turned off, so that you get early warning and experience. Then you’ll be able to support them more knowledgeably.
Note: Yammer is NOT part of this program
With Office 365, you get product updates – like new email features, more site storage, and new collaboration features – as they become available. You can decide when to receive the updates by opting in to the First Release program or remaining on the Standard Release program.
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With this option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates as early as one week after the official announcement. Choose this option if you and your
employees are comfortable with regular updates to the Office 365 service.
With this default option, you and your users receive a select set of significant service updates 3 weeks or more after the official announcement. For at least 3 weeks, you have time to learn about the updates and prepare your employees.
How to take benefit of this new feature?
1. Go to your Tenant portal
2. Go to Admin > Service settings > Updates.
3. Turn First Release on or off.
One another widespread frustration we usually experience is when users in an organization on the same tenant see different updates on the UI. This is due to the fact that it is an ongoing upgrade and is not completed yet. The users in one Office 365 organization are located on different server farms and the update is performed not by Office 365 organization; the new patches are deployed on the server farms. This is the reason why not all users in a company can see the new feature (for e.g. toolbar). While the upgrade is ongoing it is normal that some colleagues of yours still don’t have the feature available. An update might take up to 2 months and after this time passed all users in your organization should see already the feature available.