Spring is upon us in Redmond, and everything is starting to bloom—including artificial intelligence (AI). Just like the season, AI is bringing new beginnings and growth to organizations and their IT departments. In this month’s Microsoft 365 Admin Digest issue, we’ll dive into Microsoft’s latest AI research, a new case study about change management with Microsoft 365, Microsoft’s latest AI research, show you where to find relevant trainings for your users, and share details about important changes coming to Exchange Online.
Microsoft 365 change communications, a case study
Change management is a constant and critical aspect of IT that affects every IT pro—including those of us at Microsoft. Our latest case study reflects on Microsoft’s own internal processes for supporting change management across the company, especially in the context of rapid development.
“In 2014, Microsoft published a new roadmap every six weeks with about 30 items. Today, it publishes daily with more than 100 new items added per month, with the full roadmap rarely covering less than 1,600 items at any given time.”
The case study focuses on how Microsoft 365 manages its roadmap to provide visibility and drive alignment across engineering and product marketing teams. It also dives into the process for new feature submissions, which initiates a sequence for roadmap operations teams to coordinate with internal stakeholders across Microsoft to develop the change communications necessary for launch.
“Because every change is intended to improve customers’ experiences, Microsoft encourages customers to test and provide feedback on updates before rolling them out for general availability.”
Microsoft 365 admins and IT pros are critical to our innovation cadence. Since those roles are often the first to receive notifications of upcoming changes in the Message center, their feedback through the Microsoft 365 admin center can influence future roadmap items.
Ultimately, Microsoft wants maximum customer transparency when rolling out any update, change, product, service, or feature, whether that customer is a commercial enterprise, small or midsize business, or government entity. To help achieve this, Microsoft built a streamlined process for innovation and product development, and its coordinated approach to the roadmap can help organizations prepare for change and offer feedback. Any organization can take inspiration from the Microsoft 365 Roadmap as a model for bringing new features and services to their user base, removing much of the uncertainty and complexity inherent in change. Read the full case study on change management here.
Take a bigger role in driving productivity and engagement
The WorkLab team just published a special report last week on, “The New Performance Equation in the Age of AI,” and it’s worth reading. Our research shows that employee engagement is key to organizational success. Moreover, productivity and employee engagement are not only key to performance, but each actually multiplies the other. And that makes sense; after all, when you’re engaged in your work, you’re more productive.
The WorkLab report goes deep, offering actionable tips to business leaders, and by extension, IT pros for boosting performance through greater employee engagement and productivity.
- Employee engagement matters both to organizations and its bottom line—especially amid economic uncertainty. Organizations should:
- Measure and report on employee engagement as you do financial metrics—in town halls, at board meetings, and in annual reports.
- Adopt an organization-wide management framework that helps leaders develop skills and adopt a growth mindset around engagement.
- Communicate that engagement is a business imperative—for instance, by creating an engagement-related goal for managers.
- Give managers access to data to help them take action on improving communication, employee engagement, and productivity.
- Adopt a digital employee experience that leverages next-generation AI and data-driven insights.
- Clear communications and goals unlock employee engagement.
- Create clear priorities at the leadership level and use goal-setting frameworks like OKRs to help everyone focus on those priorities.
- Equip leaders with modern communication tools that meet employees where they are in the flow of work.
- Use AI and data-driven analytics to increase communication effectiveness.
- To sustain engagement, build a feedback flywheel.
- Make sure your listening strategy is comprehensive—incorporate relevant direct and indirect signals.
- Use AI to analyze collected data, increase your understanding of patterns, and accelerate your time to action.
- Empower managers to create their own feedback flywheels to drive meaningful change within their teams, and to help ensure key metrics are in place to measure impact.
- Set accountability measures that help employees trust that action will be taken. Be transparent about how feedback will be used and provide clear next steps.
There are lots of opportunities for IT pros to help their organizations increase productivity and engagement. We’ve already covered some of the tools in the Microsoft 365 admin center that can support this, like Adoption Score and Experience Insights, through greater insights into productivity. Your toolbox should also include next-generation AI, which will affect both the IT department and individual IT pros. The technical upskilling and Microsoft certifications in last month’s Admin Digest blog post can help the latter determine the best ways to use AI for their orgs.
Find relevant trainings for your users
Suggested training can help your organization by providing insights into the Microsoft 365 help and training articles being read by your signed-in users on support.microsoft.com, and in-app help panels with these three insights:
- Top viewed articles across organizations shows you help and training articles that have been getting the most views.
- Trending across organizations shows you the help and training topics that are trending, which can help reveal topics of new interest and emerging issues.
- Commonly viewed together provides insight into the articles being read by all users in all Microsoft 365 organizations, along with the top viewed and top trending articles. You can use these insights to create and deliver training packages for your users.
For more information, check out Microsoft 365 Experience Insights dashboard.
Protect Exchange Online from Persistently Vulnerable Exchange Servers
Last month, Microsoft announced a new enforcement system in Exchange Online that is designed to deal with the problem of unsupported and unpatched Exchange servers that send email to or through Exchange Online. There are many risks associated with running unsupported or unpatched software, but by far the biggest risk is security.
Microsoft uses the Zero Trust security model for its cloud services, which requires connecting devices and servers to be provably healthy and managed. Servers that are unsupported or remain unpatched are persistently vulnerable and cannot be trusted, and therefore email messages sent from them cannot be trusted. Persistently vulnerable servers significantly increase the risk of security breaches, malware, hacking, data exfiltration, and other attacks.
To address this problem, Microsoft is enabling a transport-based enforcement system in Exchange Online that has three primary functions: reporting, throttling, and blocking. The system is designed to alert an admin about unsupported or unpatched Exchange servers in their on-premises environment that need remediation (upgrading or patching). The system also has throttling and blocking capabilities, so if a server is not remediated, mail flow from that server will be throttled (delayed) and eventually blocked.
To learn more about the new enforcement system, as well as when and how your organization may be affected by it, be sure to check out the announcement, and join a live discussion on this topic for an Exchange AMA event on Wednesday, May 10th at 9:00 AM Pacific.
Simplify domain allow list management
Last week Microsoft announced the introduction of the cloud.microsoft domain that will bring authenticated, user-facing Microsoft 365 apps and services onto a single, consistent and cohesive domain. This move is set to bring several benefits to customers and admins. It will drastically reduce the complexity of the allow-lists required to help your tenant stay secure while enabling users to access the apps and services they need to do their work. Exclusive ownership of the .microsoft top-level domain enables enhanced security protocols and governance controls, and the value of security investments done at the top-level domain to seamlessly accrue to the apps. All experiences hosted on the .microsoft domain can be assumed to be legitimate and authentic.
Initially, only net-new services will be deployed in the cloud.microsoft domain. Existing workloads have a broader range of implications to consider and will transition at a slower pace. In most cases, no customer action will be needed to continue using Microsoft 365 workloads the same way you do today. Admins seeking to update their allow lists will find that *.cloud.microsoft has already been added to the official list of Office 365 URLs and IP address ranges.
Before changing the domain for any existing service which requires customer network configuration, we will notify you at least 30 days in advance as specified in Microsoft’s standard network update cadence.
For more information read the blog introducing the cloud.microsoft domain.
Join the Microsoft 365 Conference
We are just days away from the Microsoft 365 Conference in Las Vegas and we’re excited to meet the attendees. We have a session track dedicated to delivering content relevant to Microsoft 365 admins and IT pros that provide with a wealth of knowledge from a roster of experts.
The complete session list is on the conference website, but here are a few of the sessions that cover topics of interest for Microsoft 365 admins:
There will also be plenty of opportunities to engage and network with Microsoft employees and attendees, and to hear about all the exciting things happening across Microsoft 365, like Copilot.
While we continue share IT admin highlights and insights in this blog series, consider also subscribing to Microsoft 365 admin center updates from the Microsoft 365 Roadmap. Keep an eye out for communications published in the Message center, too. We also highlight new feature releases and enhancements released each month in our What’s new in the Microsoft 365 admin center article.
Comment below if there are IT admin or change management topics that you’d like us to explore in the future!
Continue the conversation by joining us in the Microsoft 365 community! Want to share best practices or join community events? Become a member by “Joining” the Microsoft 365 community. For tips & tricks or to stay up to date on the latest news and announcements directly from the product teams, make sure to Follow or Subscribe to the Microsoft 365 Blog space!
In addition to special reports like this, the WorkLab team also publishes an annual Work Trend Index (WTI) report that draws insights from over 30,000 people, 31 countries, and trillions of productivity signals: Work Trend Index