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Release Status Only Present for Some New Notifications
Message center notification MC485549 (14 December, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 108078) brings news of a new launch status Microsoft is adding to notifications to make it clearer to administrators about the actual status of a change heading to their tenant. Until now it’s been difficult for administrators to know exactly when a software change will hit their tenant after release by Microsoft. The difficulty increases when Microsoft misses a predicted availability date, something that often happens regularly (the expanded reaction set for Teams is a notable example).
The new release status shows up as a property of new message center notifications. In Figure 1, we see that some updates have a launched status (update available to all tenant users) while the scheduled date for other updates has not arrived. The third status is “rolling out,” meaning that some users have received the update but not others.
Microsoft plans to unveil the new release status to targeted release tenants starting in mid-December 2022. All targeted release tenants should see notifications with release status by mid-January 2023. General roll-out to standard release tenants is due in mid-April 2023.
Initially, the release status will appear for Teams, Outlook, and Microsoft 365 admin center announcements. Over time, it will spread to all workloads. A release status only appears for updates that correspond to a Microsoft 365 roadmap item. Sometimes updates appear that aren’t on the roadmap. Logically, these messages won’t have a release status.
Continuum of Message Center Notification Improvements
The latest change to message center notifications is part of an ongoing continuum of improvements to customer communications for updates released to Microsoft 365. Recent examples include:
- Introduction of messages to inform tenants when data privacy incidents occur.
- Addition of a relevance tag for message center notifications to advise administrators when a change is especially pertinent to their tenant.
- Flagging how many users are likely to be affected by a change.
The project to improve communications around Microsoft 365 updates is led by Microsoft with considerable customer involvement.
Planner Tasks See the Release Status
The Planner tasks created by the Message Center-Planner synchronization capability include the release status in the Notes section (Figure 2). There’s no easy way to filter tasks with a certain release status in Planner.
I also don’t see any evidence of the release status (or the other recent enhancements like relevance and user count) in the Service Messages API. Perhaps Microsoft hasn’t had the chance to upgrade the API to output all the details now available for message center notifications.
Need for More Predictable Release Dates
The trick for Microsoft will be to make sure that the accuracy of the release status tag is high. At one point, nearly half of all the updates published in message center notifications failed to meet the scheduled dates. Software development is an inexact science when it comes to predicting when the last few bugs that hold up the deployment of a new feature will disappear.
Microsoft has become better at publishing believable and attainable dates in the recent past. Things aren’t perfect yet and are likely to never be. Perhaps a new highlight on release status will make Microsoft do even better when it comes to predicting feature availability. We can but hope!
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