The overall perception was that Microsoft has been saying for a long time that it wanted to foster a more open relationship with its customers and developers, mainly in terms of upcoming releases of its software. This was partly to give everyone an early heads on up new features, but also to encourage community feedback and support.
So they have been working hard in recent months and years to open up dialogue and better prepare customers of changes and new releases.
And that being said, Microsoft has recently released the Office 365 for Business Roadmap, detailing upcoming changes and add-ons to the Cloud platform. And it is a breath of fresh air!
At the same time Microsoft announced the ‘First Release’ program, allowing customers to opt-in for new Office 365 features at least two weeks before they launch them into production. This gives developers time to setup a tenant, conduct their testing, and make sure their solutions are fully compatible.
The Office 365 Public Product
So here is a look at how Microsoft has presented the road map. For easy reading, Microsoft split their features into 3 main categories:
- The Launched – Fully released updates that are generally available for all applicable customers
- The Rolling out – Updates that are beginning to roll-out and are not yet available to all applicable customers
- And In development – Updates that are currently in development and testing
Each feature has a little click able ‘plus sign’ which offers more detailed information about it. Each feature announcement has the following elements:
- Feature title
- Feature description
- A ‘Learn more’ link that goes to a related blog post
- A small picture or screenshot of the feature in action
In General, the road map works well and will surely prove in the coming months to be a really useful tool. It could certainly do with an internal search function, but we hear Microsoft has received this feedback from much of the community so hope it will be added soon
What does the road map impart?
For SharePoint users, there are two features of the road map which are particularly interesting – the customizable SharePoint navigation bar and forms for SharePoint lists. Let us take a closer look at each:
- Customizable SharePoint online navigation bar
This feature has been a long time coming for users of SharePoint and is currently in the ‘roll-out’ stage on the road map. It enables SharePoint Online admins to hide some of the links that are on the top bar by default – ‘One Drive’, ‘Yammer/News feed’, and ‘Sites’.
- Forms for SharePoint Lists
The long awaited replacement of Info Path is currently on the “In Development” list. For now, all we have is the information available from Microsoft:
“This feature will allow for in-browser list form customization on top of SharePoint lists and will allow for in-browser list item editing without having to go to a different view as well as adding and rearranging list columns in the custom view.”
As yet, that’s all we have to go on, but we’re already looking forward to seeing how this feature develops.
A new era of communications for Office 365
Microsoft’s decision to open up about the future of Office 365 is great news for business users and developers alike. Microsoft has made no secret of the fact that they have drawn heavily on the experience of Yammer’s release schedule, but have actually done an even better job in execution.