Outlook’s Notification Pane for Office 365 Incidents

Another Way for Tenant Administrators to Know When Incidents HappenI

MC211619 was one of the Office 365 notifications that passed me by without making much of an impression. Announced on June 16, it’s about a new right-hand notification panel in Outlook for Windows (click to run, aka Microsoft 365 enterprise apps). The panel appears when an incident happens that affects tenant users and the idea is that tenant administrators get a heads-up before users start to complain that something isn’t working. The update is associated with Microsoft 365 roadmap item 58085.

One reason why I didn’t pay much attention to this change is that relatively few incidents have recently happened that affect my tenant. I guess I’ve been luck. Although incidents occur all the time inside Office 365, the sheer scale of the service and the way that tenants receive service from a network of datacenters mean that some tenants never notice problems while others experience issues.

The Outlook Notifications Panel Opens

Last night, Outlook (version 2006, build 13001.20384) opened the notification panel for the first time to display details of a problem with OneDrive. As you can see in Figure 1, notifications also include when problems are resolved. As it happens, the two incidents are related (navigation in the browser clients for SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business). Clicking the See more link under a notification opens the Service health section of the Microsoft 365 admin center to display details of the problem.

Outlook's Admin Notifications Panel
Figure 1:Outlook’s Admin Notifications Panel

I’m not sure how quickly Outlook removes notifications. The service health dashboard shows both problems as resolved at 9:37pm UTC on July 14 while the notifications remain visible some 36 hours later.

Outlook Help Includes Admin Notifications

The notification panel is designed to open automatically, which is what I saw. You can check for incidents at any time by going to Outlook’s help section (Figure 2).

Access admin notifications through Outlook help
Figure 2: Access admin notifications through Outlook help

Disabling Incident Notifications

If you don’t want to see incident notifications, you can disable their display in Outlook Options. Go to Advanced and scroll to the bottom to reveal the checkbox to disable incident notifications intended for administrators (Figure 3).

Outlook setting to disable admin notifications
Figure 3: Outlook setting to disable admin notifications

Microsoft doesn’t define what users Outlook considers to be an administrator. I believe the panel is available to any account holding the global administrator role for a tenant. I don’t believe that it works for accounts holding other roles like SharePoint administrator or Teams administrator.

Service Notifications by Email

You can configure service health dashboard preferences in the Microsoft 365 admin center to have incident notification sent by email to up to two users. Oddly, I didn’t receive notifications for the incidents flagged by Outlook, even though I’d chosen to receive emails for incidents and advisories related to SharePoint Online and OneDrive for Business. As I assume both Outlook and the admin center use the same service communications API to know when new incidents occur, it’s hard to explain why this happened. Maybe it’s just another small disconnect in the cloud.

Uncertain Need for the Feature

I’m unconvinced that a need existed for Outlook to surface incident reports to administrators. There’s already many ways to find out when problems exist, including the email mentioned above, using a third-party monitoring product, or building your own solution using the API. Besides, users let you know faster than any probe when things aren’t working, and your favorite social media feed will highlight problems when they are widespread across Office 365.

Overall, it seems like Outlook could focus on other areas of functionality like the top items in Outlook user voice instead of admin notifications, but hey, what would I know…


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5 Replies to “Outlook’s Notification Pane for Office 365 Incidents”

  1. I do hope that it is not only Global Admin that can use this feature. Maybe the newer Global Reader would make more sense here. I would newer use a normal user account as admin (must allways be separated) It would make sense if the feature could be enabled on specific users by an admin. But I do also agree that the feature seams redundant, especially if it only works for Global Administrators.

  2. Agree with Thomas Nelson. Would be nice if Microsoft would detail which administrative groups receive these alerts. Global Reader would be a logical inclusion.

  3. Interesting. I posted my question on TechNet about this and the next day you post your article. Talk about timing.. I’ve actually been seeing these notifications for about 2-3 weeks now and was trying to figure out how to get these to show up on his outlook. I had forgotten that I was running the preview version.
    Personally we like having this mainly because it is something we can’t miss. We are a 2 person IT team with quite a lot of infrastructure to manage.

  4. This option is not available to me. I am actually a Global admin and have this version installed. I had previously rolled back because of the crashing issues yesterday. Is it possible this option was removed in a fix?

  5. If this is indeed limited to accounts with the Global Administrator role, this feature is pointless for us. We have a large tenant, work in Outlook with our user accounts, not with admin accounts, and very few of our admins have the Global Administrator role. The Global Reader or Service Support admin roles would be more appropriate.

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