A New Outlook

Microsoft Outlook is still hugely important

My name is Brent Leary and I am an addict — a BlackBerry and iPhone addict. Plus, I like Palm Treos for running Microsoft Office apps. I spend as much time on the road as I do in the office and it’s important for me to be able to get work done when I’m on the go. I am thoroughly dependent on synching contacts, appointments, and tasks created in Outlook with my devices. It’s the only way I’m able to stay on top of everything.

Recently, I was asked to name the one software application I could not do without. I’ve worked with hundreds of applications over the years and have depended on several to win and fulfill contracts as a management consultant, application developer, writer, etc. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on project management, marketing automation and business modeling software. And over the past several years my focus has been one of the hottest areas in the software industry—social media and customer relationship management (CRM). With all that said, my most indispensable software package, at the moment, is my e-mail application.

I like to think of myself as being a pretty unique guy, but in this case I’m just one of the 300 hundred million people who spend a significant part of their business day within Microsoft Outlook. I basically view Outlook as my desktop portal because many of the other applications I depend on are fully integrated with it.

CRM is a great tool in its own right for managing interactions with customers and prospects from a sales, marketing, and service perspective. But what really makes it great for me is when I can run it right from within Outlook. For example, I can send e-mails in Outlook and associate the e-mail to contacts and opportunities in Salesforce.com with a push of a button. I can manage my marketing campaigns and run forecast reports without having to leave Outlook.

Many of you have probably received an e-mail from someone you know inviting you to join their social network sponsored by service provider LinkedIn. By joining, you are able to see if other network members have relationships to people you’d like to connect with. If a member has a relationship, you can ask for an introduction to your target, providing a much warmer opening and higher probability of a successful outcome. I use a few social network applications for this reason. Applications from Spoke Software, Leverage Software, and LinkedIn analyze Outlook files to figure out the strength of relationships, allowing you to determine what member has the best relationship to the person you want to reach. These applications not only increase the probability of connecting with a target, it also decreases the time and effort of doing so.

I was so close to saying the Web browser was my most important application, and probably will be in the near future. But when my laptop went on the fritz last month the first thing I backed up was my Outlook file. It may not be

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