With the integration of Outlook and Microsoft Dynamics CRM it is difficult to delineate what is an Outlook feature and what is a CRM feature. A colleague of mine (Ian Anderson) says CRM is not integrated with Outlook it is embedded in Outlook, I think that is a great way to think about it.  When I consider the challenges of user adoption in CRM projects I’m always reassured when the users are Outlook users, most of the time they don’t even know that they are using CRM. The advantage of this is often taken for granted but should never been underestimated.

This week I had the chance to speak with Lillian Hiscox, Lillian is a solution specialist in the productivity (Outlook, Lync, Office, etc) team here at Microsoft. On my way home I stopped by her desk and we had a brief chat about some of the new features coming in Outlook 2013.

What follows are some of my favorite Outlook features.  Some are old, some are new (Outlook 2013), some you know about, others you may not. All make me more productive. In no particular order:

1. My Customised Outlook Environment

I love the way I can customise my own Outlook. I can choose my own shortcuts, I can remove my own navigation items, I can place my reading panes, I can have everything I need on one page without needing to navigate to different pages or applications. On top of all this, as a user I am no longer thinking in terms of systems, I have Email, Calendar, CRM, SharePoint Document Management and my social feeds all in once place. This is what my Outlook looks like:



2. Track in CRM (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011)

We all know it, it been around for since the early releases of Microsoft Dynamics CRM. The Track in CRM Button (shown as Untrack below) has to be the most productive feature I use. I am using CRM and I don’t even know it. Emails and appointment are tracked automatically and I can personalise the experience based on individual needs (Managing directors or HR can for example turn this off).


3.  Set Regarding (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011)

I use set regarding to tag my emails and appointments. What I really like about set regarding is that it learns the way I work and presents me with the things I am mostly likely to be working on. With one click I can link my activities (tasks, emails, appointment etc) to any record in CRM.


4. Attach Documents (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011)

Like set regarding, I can, with one click attach document(s) from CRM directly to my email. I think this is very much an underused feature, but it makes finding and using those common documents really easy.


5. Sync Contacts (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011)

I can choose what contacts I want to appear in my Outlook and if they appear in my Outlook they appear on my phone. I have a custom filter called “My Teams Outlook Contacts”. I use this filter to sync any contacts that my team are talking to in the next 6 months and any contacts that I have already spoken to in the last 6 months. This way even with years of meetings and emails, only the most relevant information appears in my Outlook and Phone. Because my CRM system is integrated into Outlook I no longer care about where the contact or appointment is created. It simply appears when I need it most.


6. Pin records to Outlook (Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011)

I don’t have the best memory in the world so I run my life with lists. And post it notes (or I used to). Now I simply pin items or tasks to my Outlook, they sit comfortably in my to-do panel in Outlook. These can be emails I need to send, tasks I need to do, Contacts I need to remember, Opportunities I need to work on  (any CRM record really). In the example below you can see how I have pinned a record (see the red flag) so that it appears in my to do list on the right pane.


7. Insert Calendar

Arranging meetings can be a hassle, and it is unproductive, so to make it easy I insert my calendar directly on my email so people outside of my organisation can see when I am free (From the ribbon select insert calendar). I keep total control of my diary and I can also keep my meetings private.


8. Ignore Conversation

Sometime I am cc’d on an email and I don’t really need to be part of the conversation. When that it the case I use the ignore feature that automatically moves subsequent emails on the trail to my deleted items (right click on an email and select ignore).


9. Assigning Policy Details (Retention Policies)

With Policy details I can easily select one of more emails and determine how long I want to keep emails. Organisations  can define their own policies based on best practice and all I need to do is say how I want the email(s) to be treated. For example I can select and email and ask Outlook to automatically delete after it 30 days. That way I know that if I need it in the short term it will be there but it is not going to clog up my email system in the  months to come.


10. Outlook Social Connector

If you haven’t installed it yet, then I recommend you go and get it – you won’t look back! It is available to download from here. When you install the Outlook connector can specify the services you want, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. I really like the fact that I can be writing an email to a client. I have all the latest information on the client because the contact record is synced to my Outlook and directly in the email I can see the information that the client is posting on social networks


11. Social feeds on the Outlook Contact Card (Outlook 2013)

The Contact card in Outlook has been substantially improved. Among other improvements you access the contact card by simply hovering over a contact (or email address) in Outlook. In Outlook 2013 this now includes the ability it see the social activity from services such as Facebook and LinkedIn directly within the contact card.whatsnew

12. Touch mode / non touch mode (Outlook 2013)

With Outlook 2013 I can switch between touch and non touch (normal mode). This means that when I am using my device as a tablet I get an experience more suited to gestures (such as bigger buttons) and when I return to docked or the keyboard I can go back to normal usage. I really like the fact that I can use the same software and tools and they can be tailored to the way I want to work.


13. Policy Tips and Violations (Outlook 2013)

With Outlook 2013 you can be warned if you are about to send sensitive information in an email. Information such as credit card information can be detected within the email  and outlook will want you about the potential  policy violation.


14. Inline replies (Outlook 2013)

In Outlook 2013 you can hit reply and no more popups!


15. Quick Peaks (Outlook 2013)

This is a real time saver. Organising meetings is a real pet hate of mine, if you concur then you’ll like this. Quick Peaks allow you to hover over your calendar and within the same window you can see what appointments you have. You don’t have to switch windows you can be working right within your email.


16. Suggested Appointments (Outlook 2013)

If in the email it has a date and if you are busy Outlook will suggest an alternative time in your calendar that you are free.

suggstedappointments17. Attachment Reminder (Outlook 2013)

We have all been here! Now Outlook will detect certain words and if there is no attachment it will warn you before you send the email.


18. Bing Maps (Outlook 2013)

The Bing maps app can detect an address right with the email so you can see exactly where you need to go.


19. Office Apps (Outlook 2013)

One of the biggest announcement of the new office is its extensibility. It is very east to build, download and use these add-on applications within Office. You can find out more here.


That is it for this week. I hope there was at least one or two features that you where not aware of (or forgot about) :-). Please suggest any features you use below, Outlook is such a feature rich application it is difficult to know everything it does!

This posting is provided “AS IS” with no warranties, and confers no rights.

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