Living In The Post-Outlook Client Era: Alternatives
To see if I could survive in the “post Outlook Client era,” I uninstalled CRM for Outlook from my computer. I was upgrading to Office 2016 anyway, so this afforded me the ability to make a clean start with Outlook on my computer. This is a great idea to do periodically—Outlook can slow down the bigger your local OST file becomes, and doing a clean installation every few years will make your Outlook experience much better.
Now that I didn’t have the Outlook client, I still needed a way to track emails from clients, so I tried the new alternative tracking methods.
Folder-level tracking allows users to define folders in their inbox and link them to CRM records. Then, when emails are moved to the folder, the emails are automatically tracked in CRM and set regarding to the record linked to the folder. I set up a folder for each of my most active projects, then I could drag emails from that project to the folder and have them tracked.
I find folder-level tracking to be extremely convenient, since it works from any email client. This includes Microsoft Outlook, Outlook web access, and even non-Microsoft mail apps, such as Apple Mail. I also really like how it gives the user a “bulk track” option—I can drag 40 emails from a client to the folder, and have them all track. It even works for sent items. After I send an email that I wish to track, I just move the sent email to the folder, and it will be tracked.
I even set up some Exchange rules to automatically move emails from certain people to a tracking folder. This makes the automatic tracking options more flexible than the Outlook client, where you can only automatically track emails from accounts, emails in response to tracked emails, or all emails. This lets me granularly decide which accounts I want to automatically track and which I don’t.
After turning on folder-level tracking, I find my quantity of tracked emails has increased significantly.
Working with folder-level tracking for several weeks, I have discovered a few limitations that people considering folder-level tracking should consider.
- It is limited to twenty folders
- Once you create the folder in your inbox, there is a slight delay before that folder becomes available to be selected as a tracking folder.
- Emails already in the tracking folder will not be tracked. Only emails added to the folder after the folder tracking rule is created will be tracked. If you have existing folders already containing email, my recommendation is to create a new folder, define tracking for that folder, and then move the emails to the new folder.
Not to be confused with CRM for Outlook (AKA the “Outlook client”), the Outlook App is an Office 365 app that runs in your Office 365 account and is available from within Outlook on PC or Mac or Outlook Web Access. It is currently in preview, but will be released to general availability with the CRM 2016/Fall 2015 release. At that time, it will also be available from the mobile Outlook apps for IOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
Once enabled, emails in Outlook and Outlook Web Access will have a hyperlink for “Dynamics CRM.” When the hyperlink is selected, a tracking window appears, giving me the ability to track the email in CRM.[responsive][/responsive]
This gives me the ability to find any quick-search enabled entity record to set regarding. The really powerful thing is I also can create any of these records. So say I have a client email me, and I need to create a case. The CRM app for Outlook gives me the ability to create a new case, then set the email regarding that case.
I have found the CRM app to be useful, especially when I need to do more than track an email, or I need to track an email against an account for which I currently don’t have a tracking folder. I’ve also used the Outlook app for clients that don’t email me as regularly—if I only get one email from a client, it is not worth the effort to set up a tracking folder, and the Outlook app gives me the ability to still track those emails. In that respect, folder-level tracking and Outlook app work together well. Folder tracking for bulk tracking of emails to my 20 highest priority accounts, and Outlook app for lower priority/frequency client communication.
- Outlook is required. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as Outlook is on almost any platform available, including Android and IOS; however, some users will not want to run Outlook—somebody might prefer IOS mail or the Gmail app. In that case, folder-level tracking may be the better option.
- The app is currently in preview, which means that it has some rough edges. For example, it currently has issues in Outlook on PC if you have ADFS federation for single sign on. It works great from Outlook web access. This issue will be resolved in general availability in the fall release.
- It does not allow for bulk tracking—each email must be tracked individually. Fortunately, we have folder-level tracking for that.
In this post, I covered the alternatives to using CRM for Outlook for email tracking, and what my experiences with them have been over the past month. In the next and final post, I will share some final thoughts from my experiment, and what I’ve missed from the Outlook client.