Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Enhancements I would love to see made to Microsoft Outlook

One could be hopeful that someone from Microsoft that is on the Office and/or Exchange team reads my blog and will be savage in pursuing my suggestions for improvement. Anyway, I figured I would outline five enhancement requests that would increase the productivity of enterprise employees in significant ways…

I will probably break this up into multiple blog entries where today’s focus will be targeted at needed improvements to the calendaring function. Some of the changes may not be limited to Outlook alone and may require changes to Exchange along with the creation of new industry standards. I will let those smarter than me decide what the best approach is. For now, let me articulate the challenge.

The modern enterprise employee may spend their time not in one location but traveling across multiple enterprise sites. There is no way to indicate on one’s calendar, what location you will be in on any given day. This could be valuable in allowing others in the same location to book time with you. Likewise, it would equally cause others to not book time with you if you are going to be in another location.

In situations where a person needs to travel between locations, one needs to account for travel time. For example, I would in our Hartford office and periodically need to travel to our Windsor location. I may accept an appointment in Windsor but then need to put time around the original appointment to account for drive time. Wouldn’t it be great if this could be something the organizer could populate?

I receive lots of calendar invites and at many times they are in conflict with other accepted appointments. In this situation, I tend to click tentative such that the event still stays on the calendar and is not lost on the chance the other meeting gets cancelled. The meeting organizer will see that I responded with a tentative and then have to guess whether I did so as a placeholder with little probability of actually attending or I did so with the full intent of attending and I am simply working to free up some time. So, tentative to the individual may have different semantic meanings than to the organizer. This could be remedied by somehow either providing more granularity beyond just tentative or at least allowing a way to indicate the probability of attending in percentage/odds terms.

Outlook allows you to invite a resource where in our culture, it allows you to choose a conference room. Nowadays, many meetings have conference dialin’s and webinars attached to them. Wouldn’t it be great if I could invite them as well without having to take multiple steps? At some level, this would require the ability to send along supplemental information stored in a wallet whereby I could as an organizer use my ATT moderator code to schedule a meeting and everyone else that is participating gets the participant code. The same behavior would be desirable for gotomeeting and webex.

Sometimes people are slow to respond to meeting invites and may not accept till the last minute. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to have the meeting organizer get alerts whenever a conflict arises? How many times have vendor sales people scheduled time with me to pitch their product when at the last minute, our administrative assistant forwards another must attend meeting. This would allow the system vs a human to let the organizer know of conflict.

Taking this one step further. There are times where you absolutely, positively know in advance that a conflicting calendar invite is something you will not accept. Imagine a scenario where I proactively scheduled time off to see my two son’s get married. I would love to indicate on this calendar invite that I will absolutely not accept any other calendar invites which are in conflict.

Anyway, if anyone from Microsoft is listening, I hope you find this list of enhancement requests useful…

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