What is the Office 365 Centralized Deployment Service?

Microsoft 365 in 365 blog series


One of the things that is exciting about this challenge to write 365 blog posts on Microsoft 365, is that it gives me an opportunity to deep dive into some very narrow areas of focus, and learn more about the applications and services included. One such area is the service that allows administrators to centrally deploy and manage Office add-ins, which help end users to personalize their experiences – and allows organizations to extend the capabilities of Office in a managed way.

Since Microsoft Office moved to the cloud, we’ve seen a handful of methods for distributing add-ins to end users, but the Office 365 Centralized Deployment service is the first to automate deployment of add-ins with minimal administrative interaction. Using this service, admins can deploy internally-developed add-ins, as well as add-ins from the Office Store or Microsoft AppSource, making them available to users on an individual basis, to business units or groups, or across the entire enterprise from either the Office 365 Admin Center, or via PowerShell scripts.

From the user perspective, it’s fairly simple: open your Office application, and you will automatically find the new add-in on the ribbon. When the Office app starts, the add-in automatically downloads for the user. Likewise, the add-in will no longer appear if the administrator turns off the add-in, or if the user is removed from the relevant Azure Active Directory (AAD) group – and soon Microsoft plans to give end users the ability to turn off add-ins from the ribbon, as well.

Finding a new add-in in the Office 365 Centralized Deployment service

What is included in the Centralized Deployment service?

Centralized Deployment supports users in Office 365 Groups, distribution lists, and security groups that are supported by AAD. It requires a recent version of Microsoft Office and OAuth enabled version of Exchange.  The service includes worldwide support for all supported Office languages, as well as the sovereign data centers for Germany, and soon support for Chinese sovereign deployments. The service currently supports Word, Excel and PowerPoint add-ins on Windows, Mac or Office Online. However, Outlook add-ins are still currently deployed from the Exchange management pages — but the plan is to merge this capability with Centralized Deployment in the near future.

Centralized Deployment offers the following functionality:

  • Windows, Mac and Office Online support for Word, Excel and PowerPoint: The Add-Ins are automatically deployed on client boot.
  • Store Add-Ins or Line of Business Add-Ins: Add-Ins can either be acquired and assigned to users from the Office Store or a manifest can be uploaded for Line of Business (LoB) applications.
  • Office Admin Center or PowerShell: Use either Office 365 Admin Center or Powershell to deploy, assign and modify Add-Ins.
  • Eligibility documentation and Compatibility script: Documentation has been provided to help organizations determine if centralized deployment will work as expected. A script can be run to determine if the organization has the correct configuration to use Centralized Deployment.
  • ISV analytics: Through the Seller Dashboard, Microsoft is adding display analytics of how many users have been assigned an Add-In per tenant ID, which can be tied into licensing recommendations for upsell.

Get started with Centralized Deployment

To access the Centralized Deployment feature from Office 365 Admin Center, an administrator can log into your Office 365 account, select the Admin tile within the App Launcher, and from the left navigation, select Settings > Services & add-ins from the drop-down menu. Once you select Upload add-in, you will launch the Centralized Deployment dialog box and will be walked through the options to begin loading your add-ins.

the Office 365 Centralized Deployment service

Microsoft has made a number of resources available to developers and admins to help them leverage this valuable service:

Also published on Medium.

Christian Buckley

Christian is a Microsoft Regional Director and M365 Apps & Services MVP, and an award-winning product marketer and technology evangelist, based in Silicon Slopes (Lehi), Utah. He is the Director of North American Partner Management for leading ISV Rencore (https://rencore.com/), leads content strategy for TekkiGurus, and is an advisor for both revealit.TV and WellnessWits. He hosts the monthly #CollabTalk TweetJam, the weekly #CollabTalk Podcast, and the Microsoft 365 Ask-Me-Anything (#M365AMA) series.