Davton’s highly experienced team will build a working integration between your SAAS application and Outlook, Exchange and Office 365.
We can advise you on the best options and methods to integrate Outlook, help you avoid some of the common problems of working with Outlook, and deliver a working application that your customers will love.
Call me or email me for an informal discussion on how we can help you build your integration.
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Outlook integration has become a key requirement for many business customers in deciding which application to purchase.
Davton have helped many SAAS applications with their Outlook integration, leading to more sales, higher application uage, and increased customer satisfaction
Integrate Outlook Desktop
MS Outlook is still the most popular email client for business users by a long way; and Office 365 is doing a lot to make sure that the next generation of businesses are also Microsoft Outlook users.
One of the great things about Outlook is that it can integrate third party applications into its user interface. The desktop client has long been able to integrate ‘COM add-ins’ or plugins as they came to be known. The interface and options for plugins has grown steadily with each version of Outlook, and it is now possible to customise many elements of the user interface – either by adding to or replacing existing elements.
Davton have been building custom solutions based on Outlook for over 10 years. The information below details some of the ways to integrate Outlook, together with real examples from applications we have built.
Outlook plugin integration options
It is possible to integrate your application with any of the Outlook Desktop features, using an Outlook desktop plugin. Outlook items can be synchronised, enhanced, copied, or even replaced by items from within your application.
Integrate Outlook Web Access
Outlook Web Access is the Outlook version accessed using a browser. Outlook Web Access has only recently opened up to allow third party integrations. Office 365 is Microsoft’s fastest selling product ever, and one result is that many more people are using Outlook Web Access.
Microsoft have now created a new integration method for Office 365, which confusingly they are calling add-ins. The new Office 365 add-ins are built on completely separate technology, and have a basic feature set as would be expected with version one of any product. In fact Microsoft are regularly releasing new versions of the Office 365 add-in interface, and we are seeing significant improvements in functionality with each update.
Office 365 add-in integration options
The new Outlook add-ins for Office 365 integrate with Outlook Web Access but will also work in other Outlook clients including Outlook 2013 / 2016 and the latest versions of Outlook for Mac. The integration options are more limited, but they are easier to install and manage.
Email is a fundamental part of Outlook and integrating Outlook emails with other systems is a key aspect of many integrations.
There are many ways email can be integrated. These include:
- Logging outgoing emails
- Logging incoming emails
- Tracking emails
- Updating or modifying email after they have been sent
- Adding information to emails while in compose mode.
- Sending copies of emails to other systems such as CRM or document management systems.
The CRM Integration section below has more examples of email integration.
The example below is from a system designed to track how quickly internal responses were received from time sensitive emails. It shows simple tick boxes in the user interface to define parameters to be set as the email gets logged in the system.
Davton designed and implemented the full system including a reporting interface.Many third party applications include their own contact database. There are a number of ways the contacts can be integrated with Outlook.
- Allow access to external contacts from within Outlook.
- Synchronise external contacts with Outlook contacts.
- Show additional information about contacts from within Outlook (without storing that information locally).
The image above shows an Outlook contact with an additional panel showing at the bottom. The new pane shows additional information stored only in the online database. It can be viewed and updated from within Outlook, but it is only ever stored online.
The example above shows an additional panel which has been added to Outlook to enable the user to select an email recipient from the integrated system, rather than from within the Outlook contacts.
Calendar Integrations fall into three categories:
- Appointment Synchronisation.
- Adding details into the Notes field for Outlook meetings (before the meeting request is sent to attendees).
- Integrating with room booking or video conference booking systems.
Conference call systems require information (Call numbers, IDs etc) to be added to the body of an appointment before it is sent to other attendees.
Room booking systems offer the option to book a room (plus facilities) at the same time as a meeting is booked. This requires integration with an external platform, and the main direction of flow is ‘into the external system’, via an API (Application Programming Interface).
The example above show an Office 365 add-in with a new room booking panel in the right hand pane. This displays when creating an appointment and allows the user to book a room and link it to the appointment.
Some third party systems have their own calendar, and this needs to be synchronised with Outlook’s calendar. In this example, in addition to synchronising calendars; appointment attendees are selected from the external system and added to the Outlook appointment.
Customer Relationship Management systems utilise many of the types of data which are included in Outlook, but linked and organised in a more central and hierarchical way. Many CRM systems include an integration with Outlook, because their users still spend most of their day within Outlook.
In addition to the contact and calendar integration discussed above, CRM requires a communication trial to show who has been communicating with whom. Emails are a key part of this trial – so adding emails to CRM systems is a key part of their Outlook Integration.
There are two ways of getting emails into a CRM system
- Include the CRM system as a recipient of the email via a bcc when the email is sent.
- Use an API (Application Programming Interface) – if the CRM has one – which enables the outook add-in/plugin to update the CRM system directly.
The process of adding emails may also require that the emails are categorised, linked to the correct account, task or person, and follow up times scheduled. This can all be acheived using an add-in or plugin.
It is possible to automate some of the linking functions so that emails from or to particualr emails or domains are always linked. The example below shows a simple configuration which enables a user to manage this process.