Microsoft Adds Release Status to Message Center Notifications

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.

Message center notifications show off their release status
Figure 1: Message center notifications show off their release status

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:

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.

Planner task has the release status in its Notes field
Figure 2: Planner task has the release status in its Notes field

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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2 Replies to “Microsoft Adds Release Status to Message Center Notifications”

  1. Thanks, great article.

    I learned in September in a conversation with a Microsoft Product Manager that GA (General Availability) dates listed on the Microsoft Roadmap reflect the date that a feature will BEGIN broad rollout and not the date when features will actually be generally available (i.e., rollout completed). This is a big problem for us as adoption specialists who work daily to get users excited about Microsoft’s new features. Users see a “Generally Available” date and think it’s the date when the feature will be available to everyone, not the date when “rollout has started and will complete after an unspecified period of time.”

    If the Roadmap noted timelines the way the Message Center does, this would be much more helpful. For example, from MC337332, updated 9/12/2022: “When this will happen? We will begin rolling this out in early March and expect to complete the rollout by late November (previously late August).” This is a very helpful way to present anticipated availability information.

    Perhaps in the new year the team that maintains the MS Roadmap will take a note or two from the the team which is continually providing improvements to the Message Center.

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