It’s been a couple of months since I last blogged about my thoughts on Outlook 2010. You can read my previous two posts here and here (and on the Legal IT Professionals site, here and here) or you can just use the Office 2010 Series category to the right.
This post is a look at the presence, contacts and social connector features in Outlook 2010.
First let’s look at the contact cards. In the contacts folder there isn’t anything revolutionary, it’s pretty much the same as previous versions. But it’s the exposure of this contact information in other parts of Outlook that is a nice addition in 2010. Just hover over a contact anywhere in Outlook (on an appointment, an email address etc) and you get the following pop-up displayed:
From here you can do a number of things. You can of course use the arrow in the bottom right to get more details of the contact. This can be information from your contacts folder or information held about people in your organisation address books.
But in addition from this pop-up you can start integrating into other parts of Outlook. So click on the email icon to send an email to the person or the icon to schedule a meeting (where it will show their availability where the contact is in your organisation).
Also from here you start to see the integration into other Microsoft products. So if you have Office Communicator in your organisation, you can see the presence of the contact (i.e. whether they are online, in a meeting, away, busy etc), you can start an IM (instant messaging) conversation or initiate a phone call with the person. Just like the rest of Office 2010 it’s all about having the right functionality available in the right place!
Another nice addition is the “Suggested Contacts” folder. This looks at the emails you send and builds up a collection of contacts for you. Initially you think “in most cases won’t that just be the email address and maybe a name?” Not necessarily!
Let’s look at how Outlook 2010 expands the contact card within the new People Pane and also allows you to expand it further with “social connectors”.
This area, below the email reading pane, works in a similar way to Xobni for those that have used that application. You can see an example above. In the top right of the people pane are all the contacts from the email (To:, CC: etc), click on a contact and you see details of other emails from that person, appointments you have with the person or attachments you have received from the person.
If you’ve got one of the Outlook Social Connectors installed then you can also see social media status updates, RSS feeds etc from the person. In the above image you can see I have the Linkedin social connector installed, this would be an excellent addition to Outlook 2010 for lawyers. As clients or prospective clients email you (or are cc’d in emails to you) you can immediately see information from their linkedin profile!
There are also social connectors for facebook, windows live messenger and myspace available from Microsoft at the moment.
But in addition there is a Social Connector Software Development Kit available from Microsoft, so there is the opportunity for law firms to develop their own social connectors. The obvious one is to pull richer information on internal contacts from intranets or people databases the firm may have.
Looking to the world of third party legal IT vendors, this has to be a great area for CRM in law firms. LexisNexis surely have to develop a connector for InterAction! It would be a perfect addition, allowing lawyers to instantly see up to date information on clients.
Also for Knowledge Management, a connector into the DMS (document management system) or Knowledge Management Systems to see documents or content authored by a particular contact within the organisation.
With all the added functionality and the flexibility in Outlook 2010 the difficult job for those Project Managers having to run the Office 2010 projects is where to draw that line under your project scope!