Scheduling meetings and connections can sometimes take longer than the meetings themselves. Have you ever been caught in an email chain trying to schedule a meeting or connection with a colleague, vendor, service provider or business partner? The back and forth providing available times can be time consuming and frustrating. Add in another 2, 3 or 4 people can even drag out the process longer.
Luckily, there are a number of digital solutions that will enable you to streamline the scheduling process. The challenge is finding the right one that meets your needs. Unfortunately, there are few solutions that provide everything you are looking for so perhaps a “lineup” of tools can assist you in choosing the best option? Today we will take a look at a couple of solutions that are included with Microsoft’s Office 365 and Microsoft 365 licensing platforms, FindTime and Bookings. We will briefly cover how, when and why you would want to use each of them.
How : When installed/configured, FindTime is an add-in within Microsoft Outlook that can be used when sending/replying to an email. Simply select the “Reply with Meeting Poll” button and the add-in will open up within the application and show the times when you are available as options. After choosing the desired duration, you can select the options that you would like to present to those within that email. Anyone in the “To” field will be a required attendee and anyone in the “CC” field will be optional. Additionally, if the meeting poll consists of those within your organization, their respective availability will be reflected in the availability options.
When a meeting poll has been successfully sent, you will receive a confirmation email with a link to the webpage where you can view/manage the voting results. You will receive confirmation emails after each recipient submits theirs. Once all of those are in, you can complete the process by selecting “schedule” within the last voting result email or through the https://outlook.office.com/findtime/dashboard
- Installing the Add-in
Visiting the findtime.microsoft.com website and select the “Install for Free: Requires Office 365” button. After you provide your Office 365 information, the add-in will install within your local Outlook application and will also be available with the outlook.office.com web application.
FindTime works great when you want to present multiple options to attendees to both internally and externally to your organization.
It provides you the control you desire to choose the times that initially work best for you. You can also control the content within the meeting invite as that information is populated within the calendar invite.
How: Microsoft Bookings is a custom website (PC and Mobile) where anyone with the link can request a meeting with an individual in your organization based on the criteria that is created (including availability). Once the requestor selects the desired service/time, a meeting invitation is automatically created and sent to all parties. The service is included within the Office 365 and Microsoft 365 licensing options provided by Microsoft. For “direct purchase” customers, Bookings is available by default. For those that work through a “channel partner” for their licensing needs, the channel partner will need to enable it on their end.
Changes to the meeting can be administered by both the booking administrator as well as the individual that requested the meeting. Both can be accessed by the website (PC and Mobile) as well as the Microsoft Booking mobile application.
Bookings is highly customizable and allows any organization to create custom websites for general service or individuals within it. Once the sites are created, links can be placed within the company website (including their Facebook page) or within an individual's email signature.
Bookings is a great tool when you have a service that you would like to provide to your customers or if you would like the ability for individuals to book meetings with you based on their schedule as it relates to your availability. Value can also be placed on the services provided so that estimated revenue can be generated as a result of the meetings.
- Home Inspections
Bookings can reduce the need for a dedicated “scheduler” of certain services that companies can provide as well as allows individuals outside your organization to schedule meetings with you based on your availability. Because it is so highly customizable it may require external assistance in setting up the system so that your needs are adequately met.
Scheduling meetings and appointments can be time consuming. Utilizing digital scheduling tools can reduce much of the time needed to get everyone to compare schedules and “get on the same page”. Microsoft offers two scheduling tools, FindTime and Bookings that are included in their licensing options. Each provide uniquely different ways to schedule with others (inside and outside your organization). A combination of both can be beneficial for any professional (or direct) service organization. FindTime is relatively easy to set up and utilize. With some training/assistance, most employees can create meeting polls directly within their Outlook client. Bookings requires some customization/administration on the back end. Once configured correctly, it can provide a great benefit to any company or individual when they want others to choose what time works best for them according to your staff or personal schedule. However, due to the customization required, it is highly recommended that an experienced implementer assist with understanding the needs and process of the organization so that it can be properly set-up and train a local administrator/organizer.