2010 will mark the release of the next version of the world’s most popular productivity suite, Microsoft Office. It will incorporate the work of thousands of Microsoft developers, feedback from thousands of customers and over 2 million beta testers. It is the first version of Office to be truly cloud-services aware and virtualisation aware. Feedback from Early Adopters is showing that Office 2010 is living up to its mission of being the best productivity experience across the PC, Phone and Browser. But before we look to upgrade one of the most widely used technologies in our organisations, it is important to look at what is not working and what needs to change to meet new challenges.
Some people may argue that “Email is done”, that all the developments in email are already developed and that we should switch our focus on other communication mediums. But there is still room for improvement – ever larger volumes of e-mail saps time out of our day. For most office workers, email is still a considerable part of our day and since you probably spend more waking hours in Outlook than with your own family, it’s worth making that time as productive as possible. Perhaps email inefficiencies are caused by over-eager colleagues that are keen to share their pet/newborn/holiday photos, birthday wishes, emails with half the organisation on the CC line or projects that insist on collaboration-by-attachment. While I am sure there are times we have all done this, there are also serial offenders – You know who you are!
An ancient event enshrined in email lore is known as Bedlam DL3. A large distribution list brought the productivity of its members right down after a simple question “Why am I on this distribution list?” and 25,000 reply-all’s saying “Me too!” or “Please stop replying-all”. In fact, IT Administrators had to get involved to stop the avalanche of replies. Outlook 2010 includes a feature called “Ignore Conversation”. I like to think of it as a mute button for email threads that are lingering past their usefulness. One click and a positively Shakespearean dialog box appears - “the selected conversation and all future messages will be moved to the Deleted Items folder”. I smile a little every time I read that and think about all the time I have just saved.
Another common email scenario is going on holiday. Unfortunately this often means coming back from holiday to an overwhelming inbox. While, it is often tempting to just declare Email Bankruptcy and start with a clean inbox (Ctrl-A, DEL for anyone wondering) Outlook 2010 has some new capabilities that allow you to take less drastic measures. Conversation View sorts and consolidates all messages into a single, expandable inbox entry. This makes it easy to focus on what is important and to also use another feature – the Clean Up Conversation. This feature is similar to the Ignore Conversation except that it only removes the older messages in the thread, leaving you with only the most current email and any unique emails (like attachments, meeting requests or forked conversations).
Outlook 2010 also incorporates useful information from your social network by displaying relevant information about the sender or your recipients in the Outlook Social Connector. The social connector will show their picture, recent conversations, attachments and appointments you have had with that person. In addition, the Outlook Social Connector connects to SharePoint 2010’s social computing capabilities to display additional information such as blog entries, status updates. The Outlook Social Connector is entirely extensible – LinkedIn have announced that they will be building a provider to display information from your LinkedIn professional contacts in the Outlook Social Connector.
There are many more great features in Office 2010 such as mail tips, calendar previews, multiple exchange profiles, Outlook Mobile, Outlook Web App and voicemail, IM and text message integration. You can try these for yourself, download Office 2010 beta today
Outlook 2010 is a leap forward in managing inbox overload but still staying connected and informed. Staff and budget cuts we have seen through 2009 mean that everyone needs to be more productive and make the most of resources like Office to produce results.