O365 Tenants for User Groups

Occasional Contributor

Until recently, there was an offer from the Microsoft Technical Communities Program (MSTC) for free O365 subscriptions to help collaboration within user groups (see https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/dn550853.aspx). My user group made use of this offer, and has renewed the subscription each year (for free) by using a Yammer group which was linked from the original pages on technicalcommunity.com (which are no longer available). 

 

I've been in contact with both O365 support and the new Microsoft Tech Community about the status of this offer and the user groups which are reliant upon the O365 tenants. Thus far:

  • O365 Support has no offer or transition plan to assist. Instead, they have referred me to the Microsoft Tech Community folks.
  • Microsoft Tech Community replied with:

...we are looking to see if there is anything we can do to support this going forward but I am afraid at this time there is nothing further I can communicate.

 

I am sorry I do not have better news to share on this currently however we will publish any update to this position in the Community Events Speakers and Leader discussion board.

Each week, O365 contacts me to see if the Microsoft Tech Community has provided any updates, as my tenant (and others) will expire if nothing is done about this. It's likely that not many user groups are fully fledged non-profits that would qualify for other O365 offers, so without the assistance of Microsoft on this we will all be forced to either begin paying for our subscriptions or switch to alternative, more cost effective, solutions. User groups are often run by community members on a shoestring budget, so paying per month for these subscriptions is likely not a viable option for most.

 

As this is the forum mentioned by MS Tech Community... any updates?

45 Replies

@Eric Starker Do we have any update on this at all?

@Eric Starker Unfortunately, as a user group we are planning our online Teams meetings months in advance in order to get speakers and to plan topic areas. It was January of this year before we got a definitive answer and solution. The group I represent does not charge dues so that we can be mor accessible to ITPros at all levels.  Please do not wait until January 2020 to let us know.

Know that we are all grateful for Microsoft's support, but please at least tell us something we can take to our members.

Thank you.

@Jon Badgett Did you make a switch to another platform like www.groups.io or stay with the one Kiosk license for your group?

@Allen 

So while I was at MS Ignite 2019, I stopped by Community Central and inquired about the renewal of the Office 365 tenant for User Groups and was told that the current community team did not plan on making this user group benefit available anymore. Too bad.  For those of us that use our tenant for our online meetings via Teams, and use the platform for demonstrations during meetings this is very disappointing news.  Someone at the booth suggested Free Teams.  Really? 1st, Free Teams does not allow for scheduling or recording. Without a full tenant we cannot demo SharePoint templates, MS 365 Admin portal, etc. during our meetings. We had also used it for maintaining group records, notebooks, Teams for study groups, etc. 
I have no idea how many user groups took advantage of the Tenant for User Groups subscription, but I fear that now other user groups will look for other resources for their virtual meetings. We have been plugged into Microsoft as a sponsor since the "old livemeeting days" (remember those?) back in 2007.

More and more over the years, less and less has been offered as a resources to this community.

 

I offered the suggestion that if MS no longer offers a full 25 user tenant, maybe they could make a 5-user but full tenant available?

 

I asked Brad @Anderson during his The Ship Room taping from Ignite "what he saw as the role of the user group community both now and in the future." (

Hermine Turner in the Ship Room with Microsoft VP Brad Anderson - https://youtu.be/PWfN_8iVWQU?t=559) I suggest that community leaders use this forum as a means for letting Microsoft know what we need and want as user groups.

 

If you are a user group leader who had utiilized this benefit, please express your feelings about it going away and how you plan to replace it. If you know other group leaders, ask them to do the same.

 

Hermine Turner, DITUG President
president@ditug.org
Follow me on twitter@fairygeekmother

 

@Jon Badgett @Deleted @Nathan Ziehnert 

 

 

@DITUG President 

 

"very disappointing news"

 

@Jon Badgett @Sarah Lean @Nathan Ziehnert 

@Allen @Eric Starker @brad anderson

The real question, of course, is why is this an issue every year? Microsoft has made us totally dependant on the FREE Office 365 tenant since the beginning of the product. Our user groups have developed and implemented numerous uses and come to rely on it as a resource to continue to promote Microsoft products. What's the internal issue? It's not like it costs them anything to do this and it obviously has had a huge impact on Office 365 sales so what's the issue?

Can someone please take this to the RIGHT Microsoft Management person who can pull the switch and turn on this user group benefit once and for all.

 

@Eric Starker Do we have any update on this at all?

@Richard Kenyon(h) 

At this time, this offer is no longer something we are supporting. If that changes, we’ll be sure to share in the Tech Community and through our Twitter (@mstcommunity). Sorry about that.

@Eric Starker 

 

As we do not have membership dues or sponsorship's at this time we will have to remove the accounts being used

 

What is the bare minimum account required for still being able to use Teams for doing our web meetings?

@Richard Kenyon(h) Unfortunately I don't know the answer to that question (or any questions on particulars beyond this offer not being supported currently) but I will try to find out for you.

@Eric Starker 

 

  Thank you for finding an option to keep using Teams for our meetings

 

  Free Teams does not support scheduling so is not an option for group

 

  I will share the catastrophic news with our group and start removing accounts :( 

@Richard Kenyon(h) As I said I will do my best to find out for you. Please note that I have no authority to promise anything here, just trying to help as best I can. 

Some user groups go as far as getting their nonprofit status (yes there are other commitments in getting this just to run a user group). However, those that do can take advantage of the Office 365 Nonprofit program: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/nonprofit/office-365-nonprofit

 

However, as others said below, I just wish Microsoft would just create a permanent solution once and for all. It is hard enough running a user group without having to worry about this every year.

@Mike Terrill our user group is non-profit, but evidently only 501(c)3 qualifies for the program you cite, not 501(c)6. We've been using, promoting, managing, and espousing Microsoft products for over a decade now. Odd that suddenly this year, nobody at Microsoft sees value there.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftteams/office-365-licensing

 

Here is a list of Office 365 licenses and what they include. As you had mentioned, you can't schedule meetings in the free version of Teams (though you can still host them.)

 

We're aware of the concern about losing these free licenses. We understand your frustration and we do appreciate your feedback. 

Eric
Thanks for the update, who does own or make this decision? In my mind the benefit considerably outweighs the cost to Microsoft.
It would help to understand the decision making process and who we have to influence to reverse the decision.
Thanks
Mike

@Mike England 

Hi Mike, 
I understand the frustration here. This was a decision collectively across multiple teams and isn't able to be changed at this point. 

This was a benefit as part of the Microsoft Technical Communities. The Microsoft Technical Communities is a program that no longer exists, unfortunately. We renewed them last year to help and prepare folks for this. And, upon renewing licenses last year, we communicated we would not be extending any further past that. 

Thank you for your understanding. 
Cheers,
Dylan

 

@Dylan Snodgrass I totally understand this isn't your decision. But I do think if someone senior enough was told about this need and the benefit user groups offer to Microsoft, they'd make something happen. Any idea at all on how to reach the big wigs?

@Dylan Snodgrass 

Hi Dylan,

Thanks for your reply but you have not supplied a reason for this position. As I mentioned in my earlier post, User Groups have become dependant on this benefit and we all agree that it offers tremendous benefit to Microsoft as well. We just don't understand why they(you) would decide to discontinue this.

As for last year's "notice", I never saw that and after identifying the correct person and submitting the required form last year, the license was simply renewed with no other information.

I really do think that Microsoft is making a huge mistake here and someone should be escalating this issue to someone who can finally see the benefit and change this decision.

Thank you for your understanding,

Frank Tutone

@Jon Badgett 

Hi,   

    I represent the Carolina IT Professionals Group out of Charlotte NC.

We have had a 25 user E3 license provided for us for several years now and first I would like to say thank you.  It has been very useful.  We have been under using it, but it comes in extremely useful as we are "Not for Profit" and do not have the funds to spend on such a terrific packet.  We only allow board members to use this license and, in fact are only using 5.   Everyone on the board is a volunteer and no one gets paid...   

 

    Teams is our new favorite as it is nothing short of fantastic for piping in speakers from all over the country.  There are less MVP's in Charlotte and we will not pay to bring speakers in.  Granted there are other options, I personally prefer this one.   It is also great to show how well teams works.   We are grateful for the licenses in the past and are very disappointed to see it go.  We had plans to add a member or two to our board in the hopes of utilizing more of SharePoint to market and handle increased loads in the group.   (I have been trying to get some classes in as well and failing at finding the time, we are stretched pretty thin.)  The package has been a godsend and has proven indispensable.     Like I said, we are not for profit and have not been soliciting sponsors, and we do not charge dues and therefor do not have the any funds to purchase such a plan.    

 

    I do not understand how people can abuse these licenses (I have read that people were doing this.)  We would never grant license to a non board member, and I believe that I am personally liable should that promise be broken.   

 

    Since we are not bringing in money, it would be extremely helpful if Microsoft would consider extending user group licenses for at least ONE more year for us to continue operations as usual until we can find alternate methods of communication or gear up on serious sponsorships.     We currently have over 1300 people on LinkedIn and Meetup and a mailing list around 3K.  We do list Microsoft as a sponsor.  All our meetings are Microsoft centric... except for job search, self help, better management skills, or FBI type meetings.  We also have topics relating to O365 as a business or management as well, and have been recording out meetings for all to see... (easily done when piping in on Teams.)  We do use Microsoft as a venue as well.

 

    Though not eloquent and written on the fly, I hope this message gets across the point I am trying to make.   User Groups (small) are part of the foundation of the IT industry.  We can use all the help we can get.  Often we pay out of our own pockets to keep the groups going.   Our E3 accounts give us exposure, a place to work from (emails addresses,) and allow us to function much easier.  It really makes a difference and we wholeheartedly support Microsoft.  Thank you for all your help.  Please consider not shutting us down and out.  Please consider continuing the program.  It makes a HUGE difference which helps us make a difference in the community.

 

Kevin York
Meetings Director
CITPG

We support Ukraine and condemn war. Push Russian government to act against war. Be brave, vocal and show your support to Ukraine. Follow the latest news HERE