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If you were one of those churlish people who replied “yeah, right ... when pigs fly” when Microsoft announced a few weeks ago that it was going to be more transparent about its release cycle for Office 365, then eat your words.

Last night and out of the blue, Microsoft published a public roadmap for business for the development of Office 365 over the coming months. While, the company admitted only some of the details of its plans are included, the level of detail it provides is impressive. It has also announced the availability of an early release program called First Release.

What Comes Next

After many months of criticism over the unpredictability of its Office 365 releases, Microsoft has finally got the point. It has outlined a product development program that will be updated as news becomes available.

Ultimately, this is a key requirement for Office 365 customers, who are starting to be deployed in all corners of the enterprise, and for IT manager and company directors, who need to map how Office 365 will expand across the business. For Microsoft, it also makes sense because companies will now also be able to plan how much they will spend and what they will spend it on.

Everyone with a soft-spot for Microsoft is  a winner here. In a blog post about the roadmap by Jake Zborowski, group product manager for Office 365, there are some interesting insights as to why the penny finally dropped. Zborowski said it was the acquisition of Yammer that had some unexpected effects on the Office 365 team:

The most significant change we’re making is in how we communicate updates and provide a forward-looking view of our service plans. We’ve learned a lot from our Yammer team on how customers expect communication in a fast-paced, services world, and we got great feedback from customers like you at the SharePoint and MEC conferences on our transparency for future investments in our business services."

Microsoft is committing itself to publicizing what it is doing and what it will do with Office 365, before it actually does it.

The other significant point to note is that he has confirmed that new cadence of Office 365 releases will be significantly faster than they have been in the past. This has been mooted over the past few months but here, Zborowski confirms it: