Empowering Your SMB with Microsoft Outlook

Paul Mah
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Looking Ahead at IT Spending Expectations in 2013

The recent release of Office 2013 may prompt some businesses to evaluate if they need to upgrade to the latest version of the Office suite, or whether to make a switch to Office. While the decision by individual organizations will differ according to their unique needs, SMBs that are not already using Microsoft Outlook with Exchange Server may want to use the opportunity to examine how they can leverage it to be more productive.

I have personally used Outlook with an Exchange Server for years since switching from Thunderbird with a self-deployed IMAP server. Below is a trio of features that outline what I like most about Outlook.

Email Management

A relatively new feature, the ability to group emails by conversation is particularly invaluable for knowledge workers who deal with a large number of emails every day. For one, the ability to group by conversation makes it far easier to follow a particular thread or topic, reducing the general clutter in a way that enables a better focus on those that matters.

Personally, I’ve also found the search function of Outlook to be snappy, allowing me to literally pore through years of business correspondence to refresh my memory, or check on previously agreed-upon points. And of course, the ability to create multiple folders can make finding a particular message from a mobile device an easier task.

Calendaring

Another indispensable feature of Outlook for me is its calendaring capabilities. Two or more calendars can be managed side-by-side, which, together with the ability to share, makes it easy to checkout a teammate’s schedule to arrange a meeting. Moreover, larger SMBs can also leverage the backend Exchange as a means to book meeting rooms and manage the loan of company equipment.

Global Address List

Can’t seem to remember the email address of certain colleagues? Global Address List (GAL) support ensures that you don’t have to. The feature allows users to browse through a global address book and will even help auto-complete the address based on what is typed. This certainly beats having to update a printed (or electronic) list to reflect new employees or those who leave.

Of course, detractors will argue that Web services such as Google’s online suite offer similar features today. However, Google earlier this year announced that it will no longer support Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) for new users. At the end of the day, this makes Gmail a less appealing option for mobile users keen to leverage the tried-and-tested EAS to sync emails to their tablets and smartphones.



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