Who Benefits from the new Features?
The simple answer: Everyone who is regularly involved in meetings!
To be a little more precise: The tools are designed firstly for meeting planners who organize gatherings attended by more than two participants. They will not save any notable amount of time if you are just planning a business lunch with one partner.
Secondly you will save the participants a lot of stress as well. For instance when you are preparing a meeting or following up on its outcomes.
The AI tools presented in this blog article make the pre- and after-meeting processes more efficient – for planners as well as the attendees.
How Can I use the Tools?
As we said in the beginning, all you need is an Outlook online account. That’s where you’ll find the current tools with their latest updates – the others will be rolled out incrementally.
You’ll have to be patient for a while if you are using the local version of Outlook. The features will probably be available there in future. But there’s no telling right now whether or when that will happen.
The only alternative at present: Use Outlook Online!
Challenge #1: Scheduling a Date for the Meeting
Finding the most convenient date for a meeting can often be tricky. Either you and the participants embark on a sheer endless process of sending emails back and forth to identify a suitable time. Alternatively you can use a planning tool like Microsoft FindTime or just the Microsoft Outlook calendar. But it remains a tricky endeavor, no matter which method you pick!
Would it not be easier and more efficient if – while you are planning – you could simply receive a suggested date and time when everyone is available?
The Solution: Smart Time Suggestions for Dates & Locations
The new Office Outlook Online AI feature directly suggests dates when all of the participants are free. Of course this means that your colleagues will have to keep their calendars up-to-date – and that is usually wishful thinking. But maybe your colleague will notice how handy this feature can be and will become a little more conscientious at managing their calendars!
It can also be challenging to find the right location for a meeting that is not exclusively online. To assist here, Microsoft 365, i.e. Office 365 within Outlook Online comes with the handy feature “Suggested locations”, which enables you to find the right place much faster. Every suggested meeting location comes with details like the address, office hours and contact information.
Source: Microsoft – Office 365 Outlook-Online Feature: Suggested locations
Challenge #2: Preparing for a Meeting
“The meeting begins in 10 minutes.” Everyone is familiar with the sense of sheer panic that comes when you’ve completely forgotten a meeting. And what can you do if there’s not enough time to prepare properly?
An important meeting is on the agenda for tomorrow, and you’re sure that you have put together all the important information. But still that nagging sense of doubt remains lurking in the corner. What if I’ve forgotten something?
The Solution: Meeting Insights
Based on the Office 365 AI technology (Office Graph), Outlook Online uses the Meetings Insights feature to gather potentially related information before the gathering takes place.
This information is extracted from the following sources and is personally tailored to your needs:
• Emails and attachments that are relevant to the meeting.
• Date from OneDrive for Business.
• SharePoint data to which you have access.
The Microsoft 365 and Office 365 artificial intelligence, combined with Outlook Online and Meeting Insights, makes sure you know soon enough the things you need to prepare. And even if the date has slipped your mind, you will still have all the important information right at your fingertips to help you prepare at least on-the-fly.
Source: Microsoft – Office 365 Outlook-Online Feature: Meeting Insights
Special Tip: Use Meeting Insights to follow-up on conferences
“After the meeting is just the run-up to the next one.” Meetings Insights also uses smart Office 365 AI to follow up on your conferences. Shared data from the meeting is then added to the information above in the form of meeting notes etc.
Challenge #3: Responding to an Email with a Meeting Invitation
Email threads feature repeated requests to take part in a quick vote. What then happens is time-consuming and a regrettably all too familiar routine for many of us: “Dear Ms. xxx. Yes, I will attend. Thank you for the invitation. With kind regards, xxx“. And you get this kind of message several times a day, before every meeting – is it really necessary?
The Solution: Suggested Reply – Semi-Automated responsed
Starting now, you can put an end to the laborious task of answering emails. Outlook automatically suggests a suitable response. But that’s already possible. So what is new?
“Suggested reply with a meeting“ is the answer. This feature is simply the next logical step. As soon as Outlook recognizes that a meeting invitation suits your calendar, it shows you the matching answer as an option. Now all you need to do is select it – and Outlook takes care of the rest, almost by itself.
By the way: It also works with open-ended questions. The screenshot below shows you an example. You’re asked whether you have time for a meeting. Outlook knows the answer, so it automatically inserts the most important information into the invitation when planning the meeting.
Source: Microsoft – Office 365 Outlook-Online Feature: Suggested reply
Roadmap: When will the new Features be Available?
Microsoft is currently rolling out these features, initially just for Outlook Online (Outlook Web app), which means they are only available via the Outlook Web frontend.
It is presently unknown whether or when these features will also be included in the local version of Outlook. Microsoft plans to analyze the feedback from the online version before proceeding.
If you are currently unable to access the new features, it is possible that they are not yet rolled out for your Office 365/ Microsoft 365. Or that they need to be enabled in Office 365/ Microsoft 365. Simply ask first level support in your company in these cases.