Office 365 News and Views – June 2018

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Office 365 News All Round

Once again, I find myself in the position where lots is happening inside Office 365 and it’s hard to keep track of everything, let alone write long-form articles. To close the gap, here are eight or so snippets about stuff that you should know about.

Microsoft 365 Admin

The biggest news in Office 365 land recently is Microsoft’s decision to rename the Office 365 Admin Center to be the Microsoft 365 Admin Center (Figure 1). Announced on June 6, the change is part of Microsoft’s efforts to convince Office 365 customers that life would be so much better if they would only buy the complete Microsoft 365 suite.

Microsoft 365 Admin Console
Figure 1: The new Microsoft 365 Admin Center in all its glory (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Buying into Microsoft 365 makes sense for enterprise customers, who can certainly use the extra functionality in Enterprise Security and Mobility and Azure Active Directory Premium, but the advantage is less obvious for smaller tenants. In any case, the renaming is due to be effective across Office 365 by mid-July and if you buy Microsoft 365, this is where you’ll manage everything.

SharePoint Plans

Planner has been slowly improving recently with better views of tasks and the much-awaited guest user access. On the other hand, SharePoint has rolled out tools to help customers move classic team sites over to those powered by Office 365 Groups. The two applications come together to support the creation of plans from group-enabled SharePoint team sites (that’s a mouthful). Once you have some plans, you can embed plan data into pages using a new web part (Figure 2).

Planner in SPO team site
Figure 2: Planner embedded in the home page of a SharePoint team site (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Like Teams, SharePoint supports the creation of multiple plans per Office 365 group, and you can embed any and all plans in pages as you like, choosing either a task or graph view. Even idiots like me can do it! For more information, check out the article by Juan Carlos Martinez.

GDPR Sensitive Data Types

Some weeks late, but welcome all the same, Microsoft has made a set of new sensitive data types available for use inside Office 365 to help tenants cope with GDPR. You can use the new definitions to check for sensitive personal data such as European Union passport numbers that might exist in email and documents. A new GDPR DLP template covering all the common EU personal data types is also available.

Group Forms

Office 365 Groups are used by many Office 365 applications as an identity and membership service. Forms is the latest to pick up the service, with the major difference that Forms does not create groups. Instead, Forms uses Groups to share forms (Figure 3). Basically, you can now create a form and associate it with a group. By doing so, you share the form with the members of the group.

Forms and Groups
Figure 3: Group forms (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Sharing To-Do

To-Do seems to be an application that people love or hate. In any case, you can now share a list with your friends through a new feature (Figure 4).

To-Do List Share
Figure 4: Sharing a To-Do list (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Sharing creates a link that you can send to friends and colleagues. The link looks like this:

To redeem the invitation, the recipient pastes the link into a browser and signs-in to the application. To-Do then includes the shared list in the set of lists available to the user. Simple and effective.

To-Do also now includes the ability to break complex tasks down into “steps.” Planner calls the same thing “checklist items,” but I guess the two applications can’t use the same term for fear that someone would think that they do the same thing.

Microsoft continues to walk a thin line to make sure that To-Do doesn’t cramp the style of Planner, the solution for team-centric tasks.

Creating Teams from a Template

Teams now allows you to create a new team using an existing team as a template. This is probably less common in the enterprise than it is in education, where Teams seems to be popular (in the U.S.). Setting up teams for multiple classes, each with much the same configuration and membership is a royally manual and boring task, so it’s good to be able to copy across the membership, tabs, apps, channels, and settings (Figure 5).

Create Team Template
Figure 5: Creating a team from a template (image credit: Tony Redmond)

No conversations or files are copied, and you’ll probably have to do some work to fix tabs and apps, especially if they connect to third-part data. Even so, it’s a step that makes a common task easier, which is always welcome.

Tweaks to Team Creation

Also in Teams, you can now allow people to join public or private teams with codes. The idea is that no one likes to add several hundred members to a team manually, so you can generate a unique code for the team and publish it (through email or a web site) to potential members. Anyone who wants to join can input the code (Figure 6) and Teams will add them without further intervention.

Join Teams with code
Figure 6: Joining a team with a code (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Teams Metadata

I’ve commented in the past about the simplified view of SharePoint document libraries used by Teams. Although simplification encourages users to interact with SharePoint in a way that the browser interface sometimes discourages, the downside is that some important functionality is unavailable, like adding a classification label or other metadata to a document.

One of the announcements Microsoft made at the recent SharePoint Conference is that they are going to enable the same view of a document library in Teams as is available in the browser interface. Hopefully, this will address the issues that people have with users stuffing lots of documents into SharePoint without any metadata.

Label Management

Speaking of labels, I notice that the Security and Compliance Center has some new widgets that you can add to the SCC home page to track how people are using labels (or not). The widgets also show up in the Data Governance dashboard and include information like how many labels have been applied recently, the top labels used (and the people who apply labels), and even a “Risky labels activity” widget that tracks changes to labels applied to documents or folders.

In this context, risk means that someone might remove a label or change it to a label that causes other behavior to happen, such as content expiring sooner. The Data Governance dashboard also includes a Labels Activity Explorer page for you to do a deep-dive into what’s happening with labels in the tenant (Figure 7). According to a Microsoft post, the “new experience provides real-time data,” which is untrue. The data shown by the explorer comes from the Office 365 audit log, and it takes SharePoint at least 15 minutes to pump new events into the log after they happen.

Labels Explorer Activity
Figure 7: Labels Activity Explorer in the Security and Compliance Center (image credit: Tony Redmond)

Not everyone will care about who’s doing what with labels in a tenant, but this kind of insight is invaluable to people who need to track how documents are classified and used. It’s a nice addition to the Security and Compliance Center.

Email Decryption on Download

In an update to the Encrypt capability available for Outlook clients, Microsoft says that tenants can now decide whether to allow attachments to be decrypted on download. When you encrypt email, any attachments are also encrypted. Typically, this is what you want as the protection persists no matter where the attachments travel. That is, until you send email to systems that cannot decrypt attachments, like Gmail. The new tenant setting controls whether Office 365 decrypts attachments on download. You might or might not want to do this, but at least you now have the choice.

Changes Flowing By

There’s no doubt that if you take your eyes off Office 365 for more than a day or so, you’ll miss something that happened. Part of the charm of the cloud is that it is “evergreen software.” But the problem with evergreen software is that sometimes change bites you in the butt. You’ve been warned.

Follow Tony on Twitter @12Knocksinna.

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