Organization Messages Available to Madden Microsoft 365 Users

Organization Messages Serve a Single Purpose – Drive Microsoft 365 Adoption

Last month, I covered Microsoft’s unfortunate choice to begin running in-product ads in SharePoint Online. The ads highlighted the joys of attending the Microsoft 365 conference in Las Vegas at the start of May. Publicizing this conference was a reasonable choice given the heavy Microsoft sponsorship for the event and the line of Microsoft speakers from the SharePoint development group on the schedule, led by Jeff Teper.

Microsoft’s support for the conference wasn’t the point. The argument raged about the ethics of Microsoft running in-product ads directed at end users who would never attend such an event in software paid for by customer organizations. The tactic might be appropriate for no-charge consumer software; it’s not when you pay to consume a service. If you agree with this position, please consider upvoting the feature request to quash in-product ads.

Microsoft 365 Organization Messages

Enter organization messages, available through the Adoption Score (under Reports) section of the Microsoft 365 admin center, which seems to be an analogous technology. This time the messaging is under the control of the tenant, which is how it should be. The advent of organization messages for Microsoft 365 Office apps shouldn’t come as a surprise because Microsoft launched organization messages for Windows 11 (Intune) in preview in November 2022. That project continues, albeit still in preview. All these efforts have the same goal: send messages to end users as they work to prompt them to do something.

Organization messages are currently available to encourage people to:

  • Encourage people to create files in SharePoint or OneDrive.
  • Encourage users to email files with cloud attachments.
  • Encourage people to communicate using Teams.
  • Encourage people to use @mentions in Outlook.
  • Encourage people to use Outlook mobile.

When a message is active, the targeted apps display the message tooltip in the business bar in the Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook desktop apps (aka, the “product surface”). The usual outcome is that the user either dismisses the message with a button often labeled “Got it” or they click another button to go to documentation for the suggestion made by the tooltip.

Creating an Organization Message

I decided that @mentions in Outlook would get the best response from users in my tenant, so opted for that message. The admin center launched a wizard to guide through the steps to create and schedule the message, starting with picking the message appearance (Figure 1). Your account must be a global administrator or hold the new Azure AD Organizational Messages Writer role to create, schedule, and monitor organizational messages.

Creating an organization message
Figure 1: Creating an organization message

The next step is to select message recipients (“the audience”). The easy option is to select everyone, but more granular filters are available to:

  • Omit priority users (often executives, and you wouldn’t want to disturb their ponderings).
  • Omit users by group (why bother the IT department with hints they already know about?).
  • Apply filters based on group-level insights (like departments and locations) derived from Azure AD.

Before you can apply filters based on group-level insights, you must enable organizational insights through the org settings for Adoption score (Figure 2).

Enabling group-level insights for Microsoft 365 adoption score
Figure 2: Enabling group-level insights for Microsoft 365 adoption score

Next, you add a schedule for the message by setting start and end dates for the apps to display the message, which must be at least 48 hours in advance. You also set an interval for the message to reappear if the user dismisses the message without taking the recommended action (the nagging user parameter).

Finally, you either save the message as a draft or go ahead and submit it for scheduling (Figure 3). After scheduling a message, Microsoft 365 takes care of processing its display by prompting apps when a user within scope for a scheduled message connects.

Checking details of an organization message
Figure 3: Checking details of an organization message

Viewing Organization Message Tooltips

Due to the mandatory 48-hour lead-in period, a certain leap of faith ensues as those who schedule messages wait for the tooltips to appear in apps used by the target audience. Eventually, the tooltips show up in the targeted Office app to impress users (Figure 4).

A tooltip for an organization message
Figure 4: A tooltip for an organization message

You can’t customize the appearance or text in a tooltip in any way. Tooltips generated by organization messages use the same format as the other annoying prompts that Microsoft surfaces in the Office apps. I’m particularly taken by the way that Word offers me a tour of its facilities. Perhaps Word wants to show me features that I’ve never explored since starting to use Word 2.0 in 1992. More likely it’s just a sloppy implementation that results in unwanted tooltips appearing without good cause.

Monitoring Organization Messages

When organization messages are active, it’s possible to monitor the success of Microsoft 365 in delivering the message (tooltip) to users through a rudimentary (half-finished) dashboard (Figure 5). You can’t resize the columns, so you must scroll across to see the columns revealing the total for messages seen (shown to users) and total clicks (on a tooltip button). Clicking the name of a message does nothing.

Organization message dashboard
Figure 5: Organization message dashboard

If you feel the need to plan another communication campaign, you can clone an active message and schedule it for different dates and target audiences. For instance, you could start off with a test campaign focused on members of the IT department (identified by an Azure AD group) and then broaden communications to a wider audience after seeing user response to the tooltips.

Do You Need Organization Messages?

On the one hand, it’s good that Microsoft built a framework for delivery of administrator-authored messages to users via the Microsoft Office apps. There are times when administrators need to communicate on a broad basis with tenant users and doing so in the applications people work with most often seems like a promising idea. However, the downside is that the implementation (in preview) is terribly limited to the messages that Microsoft wants administrators to send. Being able to send custom messages would make this facility so much better and more valuable.

Pop-up messages can be like old-fashioned MFA challenges: easy to dismiss. The value gained by bombarding end users with helpful advice is doubtful. If anyone gains, it’s Microsoft. I’m unsure where any value exists for customers here, just like I doubt the value of in-product advertising of even apparently benign items like Microsoft 365 conferences you might like to attend.

So much change, all the time. It’s a challenge to stay abreast of all the updates Microsoft makes across Office 365. Subscribe to the Office 365 for IT Pros eBook to receive monthly insights into what happens, why it happens, and what new features and capabilities mean for your tenant.

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