Improving on the Outlook Scheduling Assistant

The Outlook Scheduling Assistant is a great tool to arrange meetings with colleagues you know, but what if you need to find someone with specific skills within your organization, or schedule multiple people but not be involved yourself? That’s when things get complicated and time-consuming – if not impossible.

Scheduling by Skill

Imagine you needed to schedule a “brain surgeon” (go with us here) for an important job? The Outlook Scheduling Assistant requires the user to click on the various people you think you could use to see if they have availability, which quickly becomes time-consuming. There is no mechanism to make sure you choose a brain surgeon, which in this case would be a problem. Also, as people’s schedules get busier, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find someone that has the availability to do the job.

An easier way

Our Whitepace® scheduling tool allows you allocate attributes/skill sets to people so you can quickly search for and locate people that have the necessary skills and availability you need. There’s no need to click on everyone to check availability, just choose the skills needed, and let the system find the best resource for the job for you.

What to do when you need a combination of skills?

Do you need to schedule two people with different skills for a project? Do you need a ‘brain surgeon’ that also speaks Spanish? The Outlook Scheduling Assistant can’t help you with that. You need to know which employee or contractor has the required skills so you can add them to a meeting request to check their availability. This adds layers complexity, wastes time, and increases the possibility of scheduling errors.

Timewatch Whitepace® scheduling software enhances Outlook with a resource database, allowing skill sets and other custom attributes to be allocated to your employees. With this information you can create multi-resource views by the different types of skills and resources groups you define, schedule by skill and availability with just a few clicks.

Outlook is great for scheduling meetings for people you know, Timewatch’s Whitespace® is great at finding people with the availability and skills you need to join a project.

Resource Groups and Tags allow you to categorize resources to make scheduling easier. Group by skillsets, office, region, anything you need.

“With the Outlook Scheduling Assistant, you have to choose who you want before you can see if they are available,” says Phil Jones, a product specialist at Timewatch. “This is fine when booking meetings, but not for scheduling people. What customers told us they wanted was the ability to specify the skills they need and when they need them, and for the system to help them choose the best resource with the availability to do the job – and that’s what Timewatch gives them.”

“If an organization can see actual availability for all resources, scheduling staff save a huge amount of time and effort,” adds Jones. “If you are trying to schedule a group of team members, Timewatch allows you to see who is available without sending out a group invite only to later discover that half of your potential resources are already booked or – worse – something changes after you have fixed a date.”

Other Advanced Outlook Scheduling Advisor Advantages

Whereas the Outlook Scheduling Advisor is great at helping people find available times arrange a meeting with other people, Timewatch advanced Outlook scheduling advisor helps scheduler locate resources with the right skills and with the availability to do the job, but there are other advantages as well:

Multi Resource,
Outlook Group Views

With Whitespace® you can create any number of Outlook group views showing resources by skill, office, region, or any combination of attributes. Resources can be displayed in various styles and density from hours to months.

Examples of a detailed and a summary view for a specific resource skill group.

Outlook Meeting Organizer – A Help Or A Hinderance?

With the Outlook Scheduling Advisor, the person arranging the meeting is automatically the meeting organizer and is included in the appointment. Although this is needed when an individual makes a meeting with colleagues, it is problematic for organization that want to use Outlook for resource scheduling. With Whitespace®, the people scheduling appointments do not need to be included, but they are logged as the creator of the appointment for reporting purposes.

Booking Security

With Outlook there is no security, no control over editing of appointments, and that can be a serious issue when scheduling resources is based on skills and availability. Using the example of the brain surgeon that speaks Spanish, you wouldn’t want their work assigned to someone without either skill. Whitespace® can protect bookings so that the original booking conditions are persisted through any edits, ensuring the accuracy and integrity of a booking through it’s lifecycle.

Conflict Management

With Outlook there is no conflict management. Multiple conflicting appointments can exist in people’s calendars. Although there may be good reasons to allow conflicting appointments, for example provisional bookings, better control is needed. Whitespace® allows organizations to manage conflicts – to allow overlaps where appropriate, help resolve them, and block them where needed.

Reporting

There is no reporting available with Outlook. Whitespace® fills the gap, providing comprehensive and privacy sensitive reporting on Outook calendars. The system comes with a library of reports for customers to create their own report menus. There are also charts, dashboards, data extracts and for those that need something specific, there is a report writer and dashboard designer which supports customized reporting.

Resource scheduling dashboards

Customizable resource scheduling dashboard

Organization-wide Resource Visibility Turns Outlook Into a Resource Scheduling System

In addition to the advanced Outlook Scheduling Advisor, Whitespace® unlocks the full potential of Outlook by with multiple using our software by bringing the following features to what you already use:

  • View any number of employee calendars side-by-side (Outlook is limited to four)
  • Group employees by definable attributes, eg. skill, office, timezone, language, anything grouping you need
  • Allow sorting and searching by resource availability and capacity so you can find the right employees for a job and the ones with the necessary availability
  • Specify the skill(s) and dates you want, and let the system show you who is available
  • Bring reporting and analytics to Outlook and Teams calendars (something Outlook and Teams don’t have)
  • Add security to company booked appointment so users can’t accidentally move or delete them (something Outlook and Teams cannot do)
  • Expand upon Outlook and Teams’ five appointment types: busy, free, out-of-office, etc. This allows organizations to create their own booking categories, eg. training, consultancy, customer meetings, chargeable, non-chargeable, whatever you need
  • Allow custom fields to be added to appointments: purchase order number, ticket number, chargeable/non-chargeable, contact number, anything you needed to report upon
  • Allow Outlook and Teams to turn appointments into time sheets and timesheets into invoices where needed

How does Outlook resource scheduling help your business?

It’s simple:

  • View work calendars for individuals, groups or your whole organization
  • Configure appointments to hold all the data your organization needs
  • Make bookings by skill and availability
  • Categorize types of appointment to suit your organization
  • Color code views appointment types
  • Allocate customers / projects to appointments
  • Report upon work by customer / project or any other attribute
  • View company resource capacity by skill
  • Report upon and see availability in the future
  • Analyze what staff have been working on
  • See resource available in real time
  • Schedule groups or individuals instantly
  • Safe, secure, with full privacy protocols

The Outlook Scheduling Assistant is great, but have you tried… Timewatch Whitespace?

Our resource scheduling system has been designed with customers that needed more out of Outlook. We apply your exact requirements, giving you complete control over every aspect of your scheduling solution. You can view your resources by skill, project, customer, or team, and adjust this in any way that suits.

That means anything can be scheduled – not just your employees. Whether you’re scheduling training courses, projects, vehicles, patients, equipment or even rooms, our resource management tool can display your resources in a way that is simple, user-friendly and above all, valuable for your business and transformative for your time management.

Scheduling conflicts can cause planning errors, missed meetings, lost revenue, and goodwill. Timewatch helps manage conflicts, whether you need to avoid them altogether, send alerts, or resolve them. Like all of our features, users can adjust the rules of conflict management in accordance with their needs.

Make your business more efficient by having total visibility of who is doing what, where, when, and why. Increase efficiency by knowing exactly what each employee’s availability and capacity is in the future. Maximize your resources!

Want to see the advanced Outlook scheduling assistant and Whitespace® in action?

Book a demo. As an tool that works with Outlook, it is best to see it in operation separately to you live Outlook system first. We provide free demonstrations and test drives so that you can experience the system in operation

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