Best Practices for Using Microsoft Outlook from a Sales Perspective

Arrow-Tip #48 Transitioning from Outlook 2003 to 2007

As many of my early readers know, I resisted the upgrade from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007 for a long time (see Arrow-Tips #22 Should You Upgrade to Outlook 2007).  Since that March 2008 post, Microsoft has released service packs for both Vista and Office 2007 which is always one of the key things to wait fore before upgrading your Microsoft software.  So in February of this year when I purchased a new Dell Latitude I decided to go on and bite the bullet.  In this Arrow-Tip I’ll cover some of my observations regarding the transition and would love to hear comments from all of you as well.

Getting Started – Data Import

I have to admit that the transition of my old mailbox information in Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007 was completely painless.  I’m on Exchange so all I really had to do was set up my profile on the new laptop (MailStreet hosts my Exchange service and they provide excellent instructions) and the data populated into the new Outlook 2007 environment.  Everything was still there and even my custom forms seemed to port over just fine.

I’m still using my old laptop in tandem with the new one so I’m actually maintaining data for the same profile in both an Outlook 2003 and an Outlook 2007 environment – so far absolutely no issues.


Anyone who has attended one of my seminars can tell you that I’m a huge user of the Activities tab on the Outlook Contact form.  This tab allows the user to see all Outlook items including emails, appointments, journal entries, task items and other contact records that are linked to the contact – I find this feature invaluable for tracking activities and history of commuincation with a given client or prospect. 

The first omen that this feature might be problematic in Outlook 2007 was that the Contacts button and field which allows a user to link items to a contact is hidden by default in new installations of Outlook 2007.  This issue is easily resolved by checking the Show Contact Linking on all Forms box on the Contact Options window (Tools/Options/Contact Options button). 

From there its a good news/bad news scenario.  The good news is that other users with access to your mailbox folders can now see this tab on your contact forms.  This functionality was not previously available which was a problem in environments where sales assistants or managers needed to share data with members of the sales team.  The bad news is that this tab doesn’t always populate very well.  Populations of items on this tab has always been a little slow – especially for users with large item volumes (like email) in their mailboxes.  But now, my clients and I are seeing behavior where the same items will sometimes populate the Activities tab and sometimes not.  This behavior appears to be inconsistent and unpredictable – very frustrating!  If you have found a solution for this problem I implore you to post it in a comment.

Cool Stuff

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few cool features that haven’t set the world on fire, but are useful:

  • Improved searching – Since I maintain many levels of nested folders in my Inbox, it’s nice to be able to easily search not just my Inbox, but all my subfolders at the same time.
  • To Do Bar – The To Do Bar or Task bar is now available in several folders complete with a nice little calendar shwoing an appointment summary for the current day.  I had a lot of clients clamouring for that dashboard like functionality prior to the release of Outlook 2007.
  • RSS Feeds – I know I said before this wasn’t a big deal since Outlook 2003 gave you the ability to set a web page as the view for any folder, but really it is pretty cool.  I like seeing new posts as part of my unread mail.  CAUTION: don’t set up too many RSS feed folders or the volume of new posts will dilute the value of your Unread Mail features.
  • SharePoint Integration – I admit that I didn’t use these features as much in Outlook 2003, but I find the integration and synchronization with team discussions and Tasks is very nice (see Arrow-Tip #45, Arrow-Tip #46, and Arrow-Tip #47for a three part serious on managing organizational tasks using Outlook , Exchange and SharePoint).

All things considered I’m glad I waited for some of the more troublesome bugs to be sorted out before making the jump.  But I sure will be a happier camper when the Activities tab bug gets fixed.  As always, I’d love to hear your experiences with the transition so please leave me a comment.

This post was written by MistyKhan and published on May 21, 2009 in the following categories: Arrow Tips, Calendar, Contacts, Front Page, Inbox, Performance, SharePoint, Tasks. You can leave trackbacks on this post at this address. To follow the comments on this post subscribe to the RSS feed.


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