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Can you have too much collaboration?

Too much collaboration, is that possible?  With Office 365 there is a multitude of options for collaboration.  Can it get to a point that this begins to cancel each other out and become unproductive?  

Most of us love collaborating, working with our colleagues to achieve a common good.  What cost does it come with?  I'll try and answer some of these questions.  I'll get into detail with Office 365 and how to use the best collaboration tool for the job.

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Office 365 users can now download Office 2016

Office 365 users can now download Office 2016 by default. Learn how to control and manage this, as well the latest on Office 365 ProPlus change management.

Microsoft released the Office 2016 Deferred Channel earlier this month.  

At this time, Microsoft announced on the Feb 23rd this build would be available in the Office 365 User Software Page. True to their word, this has now kicked in.

Office 365 users can download Office 2016

If you haven't changed any admin settings, your users will now be able to download Office 2016.  When they login to the portal they will see something like this, inviting them to download Office 2016:

Also, when opening the Office 365 User Software Page from Settings, Office 2016 is recommended:  

Further down the page, Office 2013 is still available but well hidden.

Why still install Office 2013?

​The 'Why I would install Office 2013?' page, which I can't link to easily, has some useful info. It talks about: 

  • Exchange Server 2007 isn’t compatible with Outlook 2016
  • ​Outlook 2016 requires Autodiscover so manually configured accounts won't work
  • Some third-party add-ins, such as Business Contact Manager, aren’t compatible with Outlook 2016
  • Older versions of some standalone Office products, such as Project 2013 or Visio 2013, aren’t compatible with Office 2016

As the administrator, your meant to provide your users with guidance on which version they should install. 

Control users from downloading Office 2016

There are new options in the admin portal, under Service Settings and then User software. In the new Office 365 Admin center, this can be found under Settings, then Services & add-ins and finally Software download settings.

Here you can control whether you want your users to be able to download Office 2016.  This is what it looks like by default.  

If you had previously set some options, you should revisit this page to see what it look like now.  There have been some reports of a few oddities with these settings!

To stop users from being able to download Office 2016, untick 'Office (includes Skype for Business)' under the '2016 version' section.

To learn about the update branches or as they are called now channels, check out my Office 2016 Deferred Channel Released for Business post.

Download Office 2016 for Deployments

When deploying Office 2016 you will want to download Office 2016 in its entirety.  You can get an offline copy of Office 2016, which for Office 365 ProPlus customers is the Click-to-run version.

Use the Office ​Deployment Tool (2016 version) for this, check this post for all the steps - How to download Office 365 Deferred Channel for Office 2016.

Key dates you need to know about Office 2016

Here are the key dates you really need to know for your Office 365 ProPlus change management, all the way up to the end of Office 2013:

  • ​The Deferred Channel was released on February 9th 2016
  • Since February 2016, the Office 2016 version of Office 365 ProPlus is available for users to install.  Admins can control which version users can download from the Software page and what channel users install: Current or Deferred Channel
  • The new First Release for Deferred Channel was released 8th March 2016
  • For the Office 365 clients with the Office 2013 version pulling updates directly from Microsoft (CDN), they will be updated to the Office 2016 version by the end of June 2016 (approximately) as long as certain criteria is meet
  • The next Deferred Channel has a target release date of June 2016
  • October 2016 Deferred Channel receives feature updates and a new First Release for Deferred Channel released
  • Support ends for the Office 2013 version of Office 365 ProPlus February 2017

It's worth reiterating, by the end of June, any Office 365 ProPlus clients running Office 2013, getting updates directly from Microsoft will be upgraded.  This is the criteria used to determine if Office can be upgraded successfully.

All these dates are subject to change, for the latest information check Microsoft's Office 365 ProPlus upgrade guide.

Are you ready for Office 2016?

As this post illustrates Office 2016 is coming and administrators have some responsibility in managing this process.  See  'How to manage Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels' as one option.

Look out for more Office 2016 coverage, in the meantime, you could check out my other related posts.

How to manage Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels

Here you will see how to control the Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels.  These were called branches previously but are now known as channels.  Let's go through how you can control these channels.  

With this, you can manage how you receive feature updates in Office 365 ProPlus across your organization. 

For additional information check out my "Office 2016 Deferred Channel Released for Business" post.

Note much of Microsoft's documentation and settings still refer to branches, which will change over time to match the rebranding.

Updated Office 365 ProPlus Branch Names

Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels

Here are the five options to manage Office 365 ProPlus Update Channels.

Option 1

Set the Click-to-Run configuration.xml file, which is used to manage a deployment.  Use the 'Branch' option.  To download or install for example, in this case with the deferred channel, use Branch=“Business” setting.

Here are the valid settings you can use:

xml branch setting

Channel

Current

Current Channel

Business

Deferred Channel

Validation

First Release for Deferred Channel

FirstReleaseCurrent

First Release for Current Channel

See my "How to download Deferred Channel Office 365 ProPlus" post to see this in much more detail.

Option 2

​Again edit the Click-to-Run configuration.xml file, use the 'Updates' element to specify which channel to use. Use the same settings available in Option 1, refer to the table above.

This changes the update branch for an already installed product like Office 365 ProPlus. You can switch an Office 365 ProPlus installation from one update branch to another this way.

​<Configuration>
<Updates Enabled="TRUE" Deadline="02/26/2016, 00:00" Branch="DeferredChannel" UpdatePath="\\Server\Share"/>
</Configuration>

Option 3

If you allow your Office 365 end users to download Office 365 ProPlus from the User Software Page, you now have more options.

In the 'User software' section of the admin portal, with the introduction of the deferred channel, there are now some enhanced admin controls.

Starting today, IT admins also have the ability to further customize the User Software page. Admins now have the option to select the Office version and update channel (for 2016 apps only) a user can see and download directly from the Office 365 User Software Page. The changes IT admins make on the Admin Center will go into effect on February 23, 2016, giving admins the opportunity to change the default update channel and decide which install links to expose to their users.

Here you can select the default channel, with the deferred channel selected but the current channel is also an option:

Manage user software through Office 365

Note if you previously disallowed users to download Office, these new settings in the admin portal may have overridden that preference, which you may need to revisit. 

Option 4

​With the Office 2016 Administrative Templates in Group Policy, you can set the Office 365 ProPlus channel.  With this it's possible to override the channel from what was installed originally. 

Start by download the ​"Office 2016 Administrative Template files (ADMX/ADML)" and install these as usual.

Then in your Group Policy Object ​navigate to the setting:

​The name of the Group Policy setting is Update Branch. You can find this policy setting under Computer ConfigurationAdministrative TemplatesMicrosoftOffice 2016 (Machine)Updates. The relevant choices when you enable the Group Policy setting are Current, Business, and Validation.
Office365 Set Channel ProPlus

Remember 'Current' is the Current Channel, 'Business' is the Deferred Channel, while 'Validation' is First Release for Deferred Channel.

Option 5

You can also use ​First release for select people.  This then allows access to the First Release for Deferred Channel on the software download page. First release allows administrators to designate particular users to try out features in advance:

​You can also provide users with First Release for Current Branch for Business by selecting them for the First Release program for Office 365. If you do this, those users can install First Release for Current Branch for Business directly from the Software page in the Office 365 portal.
Install Office 365 ProPlus with the new 2016 apps

Visio Pro or Project Pro for Office 365 and Update Channels

There is an important note if Visio or Project for Office 365 is installed alongside Office 2016, that's a bit of a gotcha.

If you have Visio Pro for Office 365 or Project Pro for Office 365 installed on the same computer as Office 365 ProPlus, they all must use the same update branch. You can't have a mix of update branches on the same computer.

The effects of this are quite pronounced according to reports I have read.  Say you're using the current channel with Office 2016, you later install Visio Click-to-Run.  The Visio installation will change your Office channel to the Deferred Channel, so it matches with Visio.

Resources

How to download Office 365 Deferred Channel for Office 2016

Here is how you can download the new deferred channel of Office 365 ProPlus, which I talked about yesterday.

Step 1

Download the Office 2016 Deployment Tool, the current version being 16.0.6612.6353.

Office 2016 Deployment Tool

Step 2

​Run the file you just downloaded, in my example  'officedeploymenttool_6612-6353.exe' or whatever the latest version is called.

Accept the prompts and chose where to extract the files.  With this complete you will have a setup.exe and configuration.xml file in your chosen folder.​

Step 3

Leave ​configuration.xml as it is and create a new xml file in notepad called 'download_deferred.xml'

​Here is the contents for 'download_deferred.xml', change the SourcePath to a folder on your PC

<Configuration>

<Add SourcePath="C:\\ODT Latest\\Deferred" OfficeClientEdition="32" Branch="Business">
<Product ID="O365ProPlusRetail">
<Language ID="en-us" />
</Product>
</Add>

</Configuration>

We are specifying the 'Business Branch" in the xml file, which is now known as the Deferred Channel.  Here are the other valid settings.

xml branch setting

Channel

Current

Current Channel

Business

Deferred Channel

Validation

First Release for Deferred Channel

FirstReleaseCurrent

First Release for Current Channel

Step 5

Now lets download the deferred channel of Office 365 ProPlus 

setup /download download_deferred.xml

You should then see the Deferred folder appear almost immediately, as all the files are downloaded.  This amounts to around 1.13 GB of data, which could take a while depending on your internet speed to download.  It took a solid 20-25 minutes for me.

Office 2016 Deferred Channel Released for Business

Today Microsoft announced the deferred channel for Office 2016.  This helps Office 365 customers better manage the pace of change with Office 365 ProPlus updates.  

It helps by making Office 365 ProPlus updates more predictable.  You can plan ahead and test updates in advance.  Read on to learn how this works.

Office 365 ProPlus Change Management

The chart below shows what Office 365 ProPlus change management looked like originally with update branches.  The idea being you could decouple new features from monthly security updates, giving you more choice in deployment. 

Office 365 Deferred Channel

New features are beneficial but they can sometimes be disruptive in the impact they have on staff.  Also new features may break compatibility with third party software that integrates with Microsoft Office.  Microsoft elaborates further on this type of situation:

​For the Office 2016 software, you must choose how often you want users to get feature updates. Which frequency you choose depends on several factors, including how many line-of-business applications, add-ins, or macros that you need to test any time that there are feature updates to Office, Project, or Visio. For example, if you use specialized Excel workbooks in your business, you may want to get feature updates only every four months. This gives you time to test that your Excel workbooks work with the new features that Microsoft releases.

You want a way of deploying regular security updates, without changing anything else that could impair support.

Channels replace Branches in Office 365 ProPlus

The first point to note is no more branches.  Branches were used to describe the frequency new features would be pushed out. Here are what it looks like now:

  • Current Branch is now called Current Channel.
  • Current Branch for Business is now called Deferred Channel.
  • First Release for Current Branch is now called First Release for Current Channel.
  • First Release for Current Branch for Business is now called First Release for Deferred Channel.

Microsoft announced this change as a refinement on what had been announced last year:

​Since then, customers have expressed appreciation for the ability to have greater control over the frequency of feature changes and have more time for validation. Today, we are further refining that update model and—based on feedback—are renaming service “Branches” to “Channels.”

Here are the details with update branches being renamed to channels:

Channel

Function

Current Channel

Monthly feature and security updates

Deferred Channel

Monthly security updates with feature changes every four months

First Release for Deferred Channel

​Early access to the next Deferred Channel

First Release for Current Channel

Office Insider program

Microsoft hopes this change makes things clearer and I think it does to some extent:

While this naming change may seem small, we believe it will make a big difference in helping customers understand the purpose and cadence of the different delivery vehicles.

​Deferred Channel for Office 365 ProPlus out now

The initial release for the deferred channel is now available, it is version 16.0.6001.1061. It can be downloaded directly from the Office CDN, using the Office 2016 Deployment Tool (ODT).  From Feb 23 2016 it will be available from the Office 365 User Software Page.

The next First Release for Deferred Channel build has been released - check 'Office 365 users can now download Office 2016' post for key dates.  This is "fully supported production quality build for testing".  Microsoft is targeting to release this in June 2016  as a standard build in the Deferred Channel.

Office 365 users can now download Office 2016

Check out the Office 365 Client Release Notes page for details on the new version of Office 365 ProPlus 2016 version.  See my latest Office 365 posts for the latest coverage.