Microsoft Exchange provides the underlying technology that enables business to communicate. It provide email, to-do lists, reminders, a contacts book, and calendars for appointments and meetings.
Large organisations often run in-house Exchange servers. This is an expensive option outside the budget of most companies, thankfully Hosted Exchange, or a Managed Exchange Server can provide every business with a full Exchange environment.
If you have Microsoft Exchange, but aren't sure if you're using it to its full potential, or are thinking of swapping to Exchange from an older IMAP / POP3 email service, here are 10 ways Microsoft Exchange can help your business communicate and work more efficiently.
Check your email before leaving home
Thanks to Outlook Web App (OWA) webmail and ActiveSync it's possible to check your email wherever you are, either using a web browser or any modern smartphone or tablet (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, Blackberry 10). So, make it part of your routine to check your email before leaving home. Why? Well if you're off to meet a client they may have had to re-arrange, saving you a journey, or a quote may have come in over night, which means you can respond whilst your competitors are still having their cornflakes.
Set your out-of-office even when you're already out of the office
Everyone has done it at some point. Left the office for the last time before a holiday, or extended work trip, and then remembered that the out-of-office message hasn't been set. All those emails coming into your inbox from customers, and no response to let them know why you haven't replied. It's enough to cause sleepless nights, but you don't have to lose sleep. Simply log into your OWA webmail and set an out-of-office message from there.
Create follow-up appointments whilst sat with a client
Traditionally arranging a follow-up appointment with a client you're sat talking too meant returning to the office, checking your Outlook diary and then emailing over a list of proposed dates. The time this takes can mean client's diaries become full with other appointments, or they decide they don't need to see you at all. Instead use your mobile phone's built-in diary to set an appointment whilst your sat with the client. Thanks to ActiveSync you'll be able to see all your appointments on your phone, add a new one and sync all the details back to your Outlook calendar in the office.
Use resource mailboxes to avoid meeting room clashes
Resource mailboxes are an often under-used part of Exchange. They allow you to create a special mailbox for meeting rooms, or equipment, and then when you are adding appointments to your diary you can include a particular resource (say 'Boardroom') and Exchange will automatically allocate the resource to you, or if it's already booked give you alternative options. No more double-bookings for meeting rooms, no more wandering around the building looking for a spare space and no more wondering who was the last person to use the spare projector.
Wipe a missing smartphone
Having business contacts and emails on a mobile device is great benefit to how companies communicate. When that mobile device goes missing it can be a major headache, with all that valuable business information potentially in the hands of a stranger. That's where OWA comes in. From within your webmail there's an option to manage any device that is tied to your Exchange account and remotely wipe information from it. Hopefully you'll never need to use the option, but when you do it is invaluable.
Keep contacts in sync
It is estimated that 20% of all contact information companies have about their clients is wrong; whether that's a wrong email address, wrong postcode or wrong telephone number. One reason for the errors is running multiple address books (such one in Outlook and another on your mobile) and only changing one when a client tells you their new details. Once again, ActiveSync provides a way of keeping all your contact information in sync. With ActiveSync updating your mobile address book (say whilst sat with a client) automatically updates all your other Exchange address books. No more incorrect client details and no need to update multiple contact lists.
Flag for follow-up
Email is at the core of business communications, and many client requests, and orders, start with an email. Outlook provides 'flags' to help you manage emails and make sure important actions are not missed. Flags can be set to follow-up an email right away, on a specific date, or within a certain time frame. Using flags means you don't have to constantly search through your inbox for particular messages, or worry about having not actioned something important.
Let others know when you're free
Keeping track of team member's movements can be tricky. If they're out of the office then which client are they with? Do they have meetings scheduled in for next Wednesday? Shared calendars allow you to see what team members are up to at any point in the day, and for times when their (or your) movements are not to be shared, you can mark an activity as private so other's can see a person is not available without knowing why.
Instantly update quotes when sat with customers
Microsoft SharePoint is an extension of Exchange which provides private cloud storage for documents and allows you to edit Office documents from anywhere using your laptop. So when you're sat with a client and a quote needs updating you can download the quote from SharePoint, amend it on your laptop and upload the latest version. Team members back in the office instantly have access to the updated quote and the client is happy that the changes have been made.
Automatically add disclaimers
Many businesses use disclaimers to ensure they are compliant with local regulations, or as part of their internal email privacy settings. Relying on each employee to add a disclaimer to every email can be troublesome, so the solution is to automatically add the disclaimer message to every outgoing email using the Exchange server. This means a standard disclaimer can be employed company-wide and there are no issues over a disclaimer being 'missed' of an individual email.
Microsoft Exchange - Your flexible friend
The great thing about Microsoft Exchange is its flexibility. It's range of tools help businesses of every size improve their communications and work more efficiently and the 10 tips here are just the start. Every size business can use Exchange, whether it's with a dedicated on-site server or through a Hosted Exchange provider.