10 October 2013

Outlook Meeting Requests

Outlook icon Use the Outlook calendar when you want to arrange a meeting. It is efficient, and you will get everything in writing in the meeting appointment. In an article about Outlook invitations in the Tips section I am showing how to do it.

Many can handle Outlook requests
You can send an invitation from your Outlook calendar to anyone. If the recipients don't use Outlook, they might not get it as an invite but rather as an ordinary email, but that is rare. Most modern e-mail clients on computers, phones and tablets can handle an Outlook meeting request.

Scheduling Assistant
Outlook New Meeting buttonMost of what I show in the demo can be done with all meeting requests if the recipeint has a fairly modern e-mail client, but one feature requires something more: the Scheduling Assistant. To see if the other person is occupied or not, so called free-busy information, there are two requirements:
  • You must both be connected to the same Exchange server farm
  • The other person must have shared his/her calendar information with you
There is one more thing to remember about the free-busy information: it is only shared two months into the future. Therefore the meeting you are trying to schedule should fall within this range if you want the information to be shown in the Scheduling Assistant.

Invitations with add-ons
Two of the Outlook add-ons build on the Outlook calendar: TimeCard and Calendar Browser. Meeting requests can be sent when using both of them, and they even enhance the standard Outlook features. I will give some examples.

TimeCard for Outlook logotypeWhen a company uses TimeCard for reporting of hours and expenses the staff have one, two or three dropdowns in each appointment in their Outlook calendars. These are used to tag appointments with time reporting data, which are then reported from the Outlook calendar to a central database.

If one employee requests a meeting with a group of colleagues, they will all get the appointment for the meeting tagged with the correct TimeCard values when they accept the invitation.

Calendar Browser
Calendar Browser logo With the resource booking tool each resource has its own Outlook calendar, and to book a resource is as easy as making an appointment. Calendar Browser works with both public folder calendars and direct booking mailbox calendars.

Public folders cannot send invitations, but when the calendar is a mailbox calendar the booking and invitation can be made in one process, so that users can book a resource for the meeting at the same time as they invite the other attendees.

You can for example book a room for the meeting and send meeting requests in one flow from the room's calendar. Even extras like refreshments or equipment, may be booked at the same time.

More tips
Should you not already use Outlook for arranging meetings I suggest you take a look at the demo and read the article about it in the Tips section. There you can also find an article about 6 ways to add info to the Outlook calendar and many tutorials on SharePoint and Excel. Please share if you find something useful!

By Peter Kalmstrom
CEO and Systems Designer Business Solutions