You can't be everywhere at once and, as any small business manger can tell you, having an assistant to help manage daily activities, such as appointments and messages, can be incredibly helpful. Knowing this, Microsoft built a feature into Outlook called Delegate Access. This feature lets you assign a delegate, typically a secretary or an office assistant, to your Microsoft Exchange server account, thereby granting them the capability to respond to email and meeting requests on your behalf.
The way it works is quite simple. When a delegate wants to send an email message on behalf of his manager all he needs to do is enter the managers name into the From box of the email message. Recipients of the email message will see the sender as Delegate Name on behalf of Manager Name. You can assign one or more delegates to each of Outlooks major components including Contacts, Calendar, Inbox, Tasks, Notes and Journal.
While the most common usage of the Delegate Access feature is typically between a manager and an assistant, you can also use it as a productivity tool among team members. For instance, using the Delegate Access feature, managers can assign tasks to employees, track projects and manage team member schedules.
You can create a shared contact list that contains all the people and companies associated with a project, thus increasing communication and efficiency. Rights can also be individually assigned, providing different users with different levels of access. For example, as a manager, I might want my team to have access to my schedule, so I would provide them with the rights to view my calendar. However, I would want my assistant to have the capability to not only view my calendar, but also to create, modify or remove appointments from my schedule.
Microsoft Exchange and Delegate Access
In order to use Outlooks Delegate Access feature, your company must use Microsoft Exchange as its email platform. Without Microsoft Exchange on the backend, the Delegate tab wont even show up in Outlook. If your company meets this requirement, than configuring Delegate Access in Microsoft Outlook is a relatively easy procedure.
Most versions of Outlook support this feature, but different versions of Outlook have slightly different configuration procedures. These hyper links will take you to detailed instructions for configuring Outlook 2007 and instructions for setting up Outlook 2010.
If you do not have Microsoft Exchange in your organization, but would like to take advantage of some of these features, there are some options available. One would be to consider migrating away from your current email system and over to the Microsoft Exchange platform.
On the surface this might seem like an extreme step, but there are advantages to it. And, depending on the size of your organization, it might not even be all that expensive. If you had to purchase the hardware and software, configure and maintain the mail system yourself, you would be looking at a rather substantial investment. However, there is a more economical solution available.
Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offer hosted Exchange solutions. In this scenario you don't actually buy, install, manage or maintain the Exchange server, youre just given an account on it. This is similar to how it works when you have an ISP hosting your website. The ISP is responsible for all aspects of the servers operation, including backups and virus protection, plus they usually offer 24/7 support. Additional features such as a Mail retention policy, content filtering and even encryption are also available. In many cases you can even get a private domain name (e.g., email@example.com).
Numerous companies offer this type of service, and you can easily find providers by doing a simple Google search. Use the search phrase Hosted Exchange service and you should find plenty of results. For example, GoDaddy and Intermedia offer competitive Exchange hosting plans with varying degrees of storage space available and prices starting at around $10 per month/per user.
If migrating to Exchange is not a realistic option or you simply don't want to budget for an additional monthly expense, you do still have alternatives. Many small businesses use either simple POP email or Web-based email solutions, such as Hotmail or G-mail. Some webmail-based providers offer some type of basic delegation functionality.
Gmail and Delegate Access
Googles G-mail lets you assign a delegate to both your calendar and email accounts. Other webmail providers might have a similar offering. While not as feature rich as the Exchange alternative, they do work and it bears investigating.
For POP mail users looking for delegate functionality, another option might be a simple third party application called OfficeCalendar by Lookout Software. This application offers many of the same features found in Exchange, but without the need for an actual Exchange server, allowing users to share their calendar, email, contacts, tasks and even notes with other team members.
OfficeCalendar's online component lets you access Outlook data while out of the office, and it will even sync with your Blackberry or iPhone. The cost for OfficeCalendar is listed at $99 per user, with quantity discounts when you buy 5 or more user licenses. This is a considerable savings to the hosted Exchange service. Furthermore, whereas the hosted Exchange service is a recurring expenditure, this is a one-time expense. Evaluate it for yourself by downloading the 30-day free trial.
The Delegate Access feature is a powerful tool that can increase productivity and communication between you and your team. If your business has a Microsoft Exchange server, take advantage of these capabilities. And for those of you that dont, investigating the other options we discussed here will be time well spent.
Ronald V. Pacchiano is a systems integrator and technology specialist with expertise in Windows server management, desktop support and network administration. He is also an accomplished technology journalist, writing product reviews, monthly columns and feature stories for both print and web-based publications.
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