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What’s New in Microsoft 365 (October 2020)

In this month’s post we highlight a few of the Microsoft 365 announcements at Ignite along with some nice features coming to Teams and SharePoint in the upcoming month.  We are also going to touch on the Azure AD outage experienced on 9/28 as it’s not all sunshine and rainbows in the Microsoft space post-Ignite.

Microsoft Ignite has come and gone, but it will continue to live on at in the virtual world so you can always check out what you may have missed.  Usually I’m grabbing the Book of News and tracking the sessions; however, this year I was in the process of moving, so that wasn’t really feasible.  With Ignite being a virtual conference this year I was able to listen and watch the demos from my cell phone during the moving process…technology really can be awesome at times. One of the overarching themes regarding the announcements was the “premium” label being attached to many of the features being announced, which should make for some more interesting licensing/billing conversations in the future for those of us in the Microsoft ecosystem😉.

Ignite Highlights

Power Automate Desktop

  • When Microsoft purchased Softomotive in May of this year, it was only a matter of time before this came to fruition. Currently in preview, Power Automate Desktop , is taking Microsoft’s Robotic Process Automation to the next level by enabling the automation of tasks on local desktop environments.  If you’re not familiar with RPA in the Microsoft 365 platform that’s probably because it’s part of the enhanced Power Automate licensing.  

Power BI Premium Per User

  • This is targeted to  be generally available in the spring of 2021 but this is likely meant to be an easier pill to swallow to get to the premium features of Power BI for small to mid-size organizations.  Most commonly folks are looking at Power BI Premium for the reasons noted in the book of news (Paginated Reports, Dataflows and AI/ML) but Power BI Premium isn’t exactly cheap. Christopher Finlan has already posted some answers to FAQs here but the “biggie” is cost and we haven’t seen that one addressed yet.

Power Platform low-code updates for developers

  • This is really meant for the development community but what I really like about this announcement is the usage of the phrase “low-code” in the heading…the Power Platform is not “no-code”. No, you definitely do not need to have a background in development to utilize it but if you want to take full advantage of even the most basic functionality offered in Power Automate and Power Apps you really do need to write some code and understand syntax.  If you’re a Power User or a developer working in the Microsoft 365 space check out the announcement details: GitHub actions for the Power Platform now available in preview.

Project Cortex and SharePoint Syntex

  • Continuing with the “pay to play” theme the first piece of the Project Cortex innovations customers will be able to get their hands on is SharePoint Syntex. SharePoint Syntex allows users to train AI to read documents and extract metadata then apply it directly to the document to enable easier content management. Their given example is the application of sensitivity and retention labels but there are a lot of potential use cases here for general usability improvements and developers creating custom applications.  For a thorough overview of SharePoint Syntex check out the Tech Community announcement.

Reimagined Stream

  • This kind of feels like where they should have gone with Office 365 Video then Stream in the first place but who am I to judge? Microsoft Stream will be transitioning to storing the videos in SharePoint and OneDrive vs. a separate capacity. This will enable users to work within the context of a familiar application as well as sharing of Stream content with guests which has been a huge limitation of the Stream application for some time.  If this appeals to you in any way, check out the documentation for The new Microsoft Stream

Teams Announcements Galore

  • As expected, there were a significant number of announcements related to Microsoft Teams.  Most of these feature enhancements are welcome improvements for everyone or specific to the use case/licensing for the organization.  I was surprised they didn’t note one of the message center updates we received during Ignite though: Prevent attendees from unmuting in Teams Meetings.  This is one of the most requested features we hear about when doing Teams training or just general Q&A with customers and I thought Microsoft would make a bigger “to-do” about it.

Friendly Reminders

SharePoint 2010 Workflows will no longer work in SharePoint Online starting November 1, 2020

  • If you haven’t already converted your SharePoint 2010 workflows in SharePoint Online to Power Automate you better get moving ASAP…this isn’t likely to be a  deadline Microsoft pushes back because your business wasn’t able to get things squared away in time. 

Modern List creation updates in SharePoint Online

  • With Microsoft Lists rolling out it was only a matter of time before the SharePoint Online list creation experience got the same interface…inform your users that are creating lists change is coming.

Organizational branding coming to Microsoft Teams App Store

  • While not exactly “Teams Branding” many organizations are clamoring for, this is a step in the right direction. Not every organization is using 3rd party and/or custom applications in MS Teams but for those that are, this is likely a welcome update.

Deployment schedule available for Microsoft Power Platform 2020 Release Wave 2

  • Really like what the Power Platform team is doing with the release waves. Essentially it’s the Microsoft 365 roadmap for the Power Platform with all the relevant details available in one location. Having to click around to get to the “meat and potatoes” of things can be a real nuisance. 

Keep an eye on the Azure Status site for the postmortem update on the Azure AD outage from 9/28

  • Fortunately, I was out of the office when this outage occurred but given the scope and severity, I am very curious to read the details of the postmortem aka Post Incident Report (PIR). My IT life started in Systems and Networking administration so I’m very familiar with things even though I’ve been developing for the past 10 years. However, I cannot fathom the scale at which Microsoft has to manage/operate their cloud  so any “peak behind the curtain” is a welcome opportunity…or maybe I’m just trying the make the best out of a bad situation.

As always, there are a lot of things happening in Microsoft 365, so be sure to check out the Tech Community Blogs and the Microsoft 365 Roadmap for more of what’s new.