Best Practices when using Outlook Calendar and Meeting Invites
Microsoft has recently updated their guidance for best practices when using the Outlook client Calendar to send/receive/manage meeting invitations. Below are key points to ensure the best possible experience with these tasks. For a detailed description, please navigate to Microsoft’s Office portal page here:
Supported Outlook Client Versions
IPG recommends using the latest Outlook client (2010) if possible. Microsoft best practices are distinct for each Outlook version, and Outlook 2000/2002/2003 specific details will be given at the end of this document. The following pertains to Outlook 2007 (SP3) and newer clients.
3rd party Outlook add-ins can introduce e-mail or meeting inconsistencies. It is best to stick with the Microsoft published or IPG approved client add-ins to reduce the risk of abnormal client activity. Always ask your FSO or contact the Messaging Team directly with any questions you may have.
Forwarding Meeting Requests
Microsoft recommends users on Outlook 2007 NOT forward meeting requests. There are known issues resulting in lost/corrupt meeting data in this case. The meeting organizer should, instead, be asked to add the attendee to the original invite.
Outlook 2010 users who receive meeting invites may forward the invitation to other users. However, Microsoft strongly recommends that all attendees should be using Outlook 2010 to maintain meeting integrity. We realize determining this may not be feasible in an enterprise/global environment. Also note that Outlook 2010 will notify the meeting organizer if an attendee forwards the meeting invitation to another user.
1) Outlook 2007 – Recommend not forwarding meeting requests; ask organizer to add attendee to original request.
2) Outlook 2010 – Forwarding meetings okay if:
a) Organizer generated the meeting request from (any) Microsoft Outlook client.
b) Attendees are all using Outlook 2010.
Best practice is always to have the organizer add any additional attendees to the original request. Doing so ensures that all attendees receive any applicable meeting updates, preserving meeting integrity.
General recommendations from Microsoft are:
1) Always set an explicit end date for the meeting. Never use the “No End Date”, even though it is an option. Microsoft recommends maximum recurrence duration of 6 months.
2) Or…limit the meeting to a specific number of occurrences. As meetings will undoubtedly have multiple modifications as time progresses, a new meeting series allows for a “fresh start” once the original series ends. This keeps meeting confusion to a minimum.
3) Ending a recurring meeting: Microsoft recommends that instead of cancelling a recurring meeting, the organizer simply changes the end date. Doing this preserves meeting history and notes, whereas cancelling a meeting is destructive and purges the meeting history completely.
Changing the Meeting Organizer
Microsoft Outlook clients provide no means of changing the meeting organizer. Simply end the recurring meeting via setting an earlier end date and sending the update to all attendees. A new organizer can then create a new meeting series.
Please note that there have been past issues with Mobile devices and meeting corruption where the organizer has actually been changed and/or the meeting is cancelled entirely. This abnormal activity is propagated by poor coding in the mobile operating system (Apple, Android, etc.). Microsoft ALWAYS recommends that meeting invitations be administered by the Outlook client directly to avoid these issues.
Attachments within Meetings
This issue is seen quite often in an enterprise environment. Microsoft recommends against attaching documents to recurring meetings due to the following:
1) As modifications are added to recurring meetings, attachment copies are created. This takes up additional space on the Exchange mail servers.
2) If the organizer amends one or more set of attachments, the changes will not be seen in past/future occurrences.
Enterprise file collaboration services such as SharePoint are best suited for ensuring company attendees have access to updated document content. Additionally, online meeting services such as Microsoft Lync, Cisco WebEx, and Citrix GoTo Meeting provide capabilities of sharing desktop screens and documents, enhancing collaboration effectiveness for the meeting.
Avoid Copying Meetings
It is best to avoid copying meetings to prevent inconsistencies. Microsoft Outlook, by design, will remove links between original and copied meetings. Outlook 2010 will also insert “Copy:” into the subject of any copied meetings, letting attendees know the sent item is not the original.
Mobile Devices and Corporate Mailboxes
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has introduced several capabilities into the corporate environment, with convenient e-mail access being the most prolific. Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync is the underlying technology that provides this capability. IPG’s default ActiveSync policy will enforce basic security via mandatory device protection PIN and screen lock timeout.
With several versions of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS operating systems accounting for the bulk of mobile devices connecting to IPG mailboxes, key actions can be taken by the user to ensure email and meeting integrity.
1) Keep mobile device OS updated to latest version – general recommendation. In cases where a known issue exists with a mobile OS version, IPG Messaging Team will disseminate information to users with additional recommendations or relevant workarounds.
2) Limit the number of mobile devices connecting to your IPG mail – Microsoft states that having multiple (PC or Mac) Outlook clients or mobile devices accessing the mailbox at the same time can introduce conflicts. If multiple devices or clients are absolutely necessary, avoid processing mail or meetings on two or more devices within a short time period.
3) Avoid installing applications from questionable sources – Primarily targeted towards Android devices. Amazon Marketplace and Google Play are sources that vet applications to an acceptable level. Configuring the Android device to restrict applications to these sources will mitigate risk to the user and possibly the company as a whole.
4) Mobile Anti-virus (If Available) – Builds on the above bullet. As mobile devices become ubiquitous, they are an ever-increasing target for malicious software. Installing a mobile anti-virus from a reputable vendor is always encouraged.
Limit the Number of Outlook Delegates
This is another key area that tends to cause meeting confusion or inconsistencies within Outlook. Outlook does not impose any restrictions on the number of delegates a user may assign. However, Microsoft does recommend that “Editor” permissions be given to only one user (delegate). Assigning only one delegate ensures minimal confusion and easy identification of meeting manipulation. Adding additional delegates also imposes greater resource strain on the Exchange environment due to necessary background transactions taking place between the user and delegate accounts.
Outlook 2000 / 2002 / 2003 Specific Best Practices
· Make a choice Accept, accept as tentative, or decline each meeting request that you receive, especially if it is an update to a meeting request that you previously accepted. By making a choice, you keep the meeting organizer apprised of your decision and you prevent the meetings that you want to attend from being accidentally deleted. If you need to attend a meeting but can't at the time it is scheduled, you can propose a new time for the meeting.
· Try not to delete a meeting request outright because this is one way that meetings get "lost."
· Send updates - After modifying one of your own meeting requests, remember to click Send Update to send the updated request to all recipients.
· Cancel a single meeting - If you need to cancel a meeting, it is considerate to notify the people you invited. Delete the meeting from your calendar, click Send cancellation and delete meeting, and then send the cancellation to everyone you invited.
· Cancel recurring meeting - If you, as the meeting organizer, are ending a recurring series of meetings, open the meeting on your calendar, set a new end date, and then send an update. This keeps the past meetings on everyone’s calendars, but future occurrences after the end date are removed.
· Change meeting organizers - If a recurring meeting is changing to a new organizer, there is not a way to reassign the ownership of the meeting. The original organizer should send an update with a new end date — the past meetings remain on everyone’s calendars, but future occurrences after the end date are removed. The new meeting organizer should send a new meeting request for meetings in the future.
· Keep meetings from vanishing - If you run Outlook on two computers and accept a meeting while using one of them, don't delete the meeting request from the Inbox on the other computer. If the request is still there, accept it again. Deleting a request on one computer after accepting it on another computer can cause the meeting to disappear from your calendar.
· Process meeting requests and updates from the Inbox- Always accept or decline a meeting request from your Inbox. Yes, Outlook allows you to accept or decline a meeting from its time slot on your calendar, but that can leave the meeting request in your Inbox. Leaving the meeting request in your Inbox might confuse you later and definitely leaves any delegates (delegate: Someone granted permission to open another person's folders, create items, and respond to requests for that person. The person granting delegate permission determines the folders the delegate can access and the changes the delegate can make.) you appointed wondering about whether the meeting was accepted.
· Keep your meeting notes separate- As a meeting attendee, avoid adding your own private notes to the body of a meeting request in your calendar. If the organizer updates the meeting, your notes are lost.
· Don't move meeting requests - Don't move a meeting request from your Inbox to a different folder before you accept or decline the request or before the meeting appears in your calendar.
· May Adrienne come, too? - If you receive an invitation for a meeting and believe someone else should also attend it, instead of forwarding the meeting request to that person, ask the meeting organizer to add that person to the attendee list, and then to send everyone an updated meeting request. This avoids surprising the organizer with an unexpected attendee and helps prevent lost meeting requests.
· There is always room for one more If you are the meeting organizer and you want to invite another person after sending the original meeting request, add the person to the attendee list (the To line) of the original meeting series or occurrence, and then send an update to all attendees.
· Convert an appointment to a meeting request - If you want to create a meeting from an appointment on your calendar, open the appointment, click Invite Attendees, and then select the people you want to invite. This converts the appointment to a meeting request.
· Remove it right - If you receive a meeting cancellation, click Remove from Calendar to remove the meeting from your calendar. Deleting the cancellation from your Inbox won't remove the meeting from your calendar.
· Try not to change an existing attendee list - Suppose the attendee list in one of your meeting requests contains two instances of a person's name. If you delete one of the names, and then send a meeting update to the "Removed or Added Attendees," the person receives a cancellation. Similarly, if you send the meeting update to "All Attendees," the person receives both a cancellation and an update.
· Be careful with DLs Try to avoid sending meeting requests to distribution lists (DLs), particularly ones that you are a member of. If you need to invite all the members of a distribution list, expand the list in the To line before sending the request. If you need to add or remove attendees from a meeting request that you already sent to an unexpanded distribution list, don't expand the list and start adding or deleting names. Instead, cancel the meeting and create a new one.
· Don't auto-accept requests - If you have granted one or more persons delegate access to your calendar or if you have delegate access to someone else's calendar, turn off automatic acceptance of meeting requests. By turning off automatic acceptance you avoid problems with delegate workflow.
· Avoid calendar clutter - To make people aware of your schedule, or to let them know when you plan to be away from the office, don't send a meeting request or forward appointments that block out portions of your schedule on their calendars. Instead, share your calendar with them.
If you don't want to share your calendar, you can still use a meeting request to let people know when you will be away from the office. Before you send the meeting request, set Show time as to Free so that it doesn't block out the time that you are away as Busy or Out of Office on the other people's calendars.
So what if someone sends a meeting request or appointment that blocks out portions of your calendar? If you accept the item (item: An item is the basic element that holds information in Outlook (similar to a file in other programs). Items include e-mail messages, appointments, contacts, tasks, journal entries, notes, posted items, and documents.), set Show time as in the item to Free.
· If you don't want to receive meeting request responses... Typically, it is best to know in advance who plans to attend a meeting that you schedule. By default, Outlook meeting requests ask for a response from each person you invite. You have the option not to receive responses to your meeting request, but then you won't know who accepts, accepts as tentative, or declines it.