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.