Integrated, You: Microsoft Outlook Exchange— 3 Essentials for your Business
The way we do business is constantly changing. Not too many years ago I would have typed this column on an IBM typewriter and mailed it to the editor in a stamped envelope. Do you remember those days? How about the Rolodex index card system on your desk that managed your most important business contacts? Do you still have a paper calendar or DayTimer on your desk?
If you no longer use any of those trusted business tools, it begs the question: do you even need a wooden desk?
If you are a technology integrator, you undoubtedly sell and install lots of high tech software and gadgets. Even with all the latest gear, new technology can be a blessing or a curse. We often find that the darned technology is frustrating and can bog down our results rather than making our workflow easier. Stop for a moment and look around your office, and think about your own workflow challenges today.
In most offices, Microsoft Outlook now handles the top three essentials of email, contacts and calendars. It has become my virtual desk and I could not run my day without it. Outlook Exchange can be a great solution if you understand all that it can do to bring your workflow together.
Many small businesses have worked with Outlook, but since they do not have servers, have missed major benefits that Outlook Exchange provides for larger companies.
Like most of you, I am very mobile and need to stay in touch as I move from place to place. Exchange is the game changer that transforms Outlook into my most important “Killer App” that runs my day no matter where I am.
With Outlook Exchange, I can easily see my email, calendar and contacts on any of my desktop PC, my Mac, my laptop, my iPhone and ipad. It works seamlessly with PCs, Macs and just about every mobile device out there. So, no matter where I am, I have instant access to all of this data. Exchange also includes Outlook Web Access (OWA), which lets you log in from any web device and that web connection does not require the purchase of Outlook software.
The good news is that small companies don’t need to buy an expensive server and hire an IT expert. There are tons of companies who can host Outlook Exchange for your company for under
$10 a month per mailbox. These hosted services provide all that you need to make your email, contacts and calendars both mobile and shareable.
Say you are at home on your laptop and a client emails you and says he is interested in a proposal. He gives you his cell phone number and asks you to meet with him at the job site next Friday. With just a few clicks, Outlook lets you email him back to confirm, update his contact info in your contacts and setup an appointment on your calendar. Wow, that was easy! But there is more …
By doing this, every device you own has the information updated instantly. The rest of your staff can also see that the contact information has been updated. If you setup calendar sharing, your staff can also view your calendar to see that you are booked at that time. But there is still more …
When next Friday rolls around, your PC, laptop, iPhone and iPad will all go “BING” and popup a reminder 30 minutes before your appointment. Even as you travel to the job site, your mobile devices will have any notes you created about the talking points, job site address, etc. Your staff can also have access to the contact or calendar info if you allow them to share and you can control if they can view only or make changes.
The calendar is the perfect place to plan everything. With day, week and month views, you can take control of your schedule for Installations, service calls, staff meetings, days off, reminders to order equipment and more. You can easily setup your personal calendar and your work calendar on your mobile devices. So after you finish the service call, your combined calendar will show that you need to pick up the kids after school today. I love the simplicity.
If you set up Tasks in Outlook, those can easily be displayed on mobile devices, marked completed and tracked in the office. To enhance our email communications, we created a group of special boilerplate email “signatures” that include canned replies, images, links and more.
Adding Exchange will dramatically transform your daily workflow. You won’t believe how big the payoff is for making this small change. iPad users have always had the ability to easily connect to Exchange, but now you can also download Office 365 on iPads, which takes this winning combination to the next level. Of course, you will need a cellular data connection on your device to connect everywhere.
While there are many choices for email and Google has some great apps, Outlook Exchange is my go to choice to make things run as smooth as possible.
BidMagic software users get the added benefit of built in Outlook connections for sales contacts, scheduling callbacks, installations and service calls and more.
If you setup Outlook Exchange wisely, it will make your day … day after day. •