Inspiration

Creating Out-Of-Office messages is something that gets mostly done last minute. That is why they are often poor in information (even thoughtless). Many users forget essential things like when they are back or if they are reachable while out-of-Office. This is not only a bad experience for the receiving party – far worse – for organizations it leaves a shallow (nonprofessional) image of that organization with the receiving party. So, helping users in creating thoughtful, meaningful and complete OOF messages might be a cool thing for the user and an organization!

What it does

Well, it creates out-of-office Messages. But it does that in a clever way. Basically, it offers the user a wizard like experience where he can make some basic selections like – when hi is back – what the reason for is absence is. An on top of all it does this in multiple languages. That way business people that have audiences in multiple languages get multi-language-out-of-office messages for free! Here the main benefits we see:

User Benefits: It makes life easier for each individual user by surfacing this auto response feature of Exchange in a more discoverable way and by providing boiler plated templates for the most common scenarios for a user to capture their auto response messages in up to three different languages with just a few clicks. The UI is mobility-optimized and works on all devices and form factors.

Organization Benefits: Auto response messages are more likely to be activated helping in actively managing expectations of employees, customers and partners. Auto response messages are complete, polite, thoughtful and consistent, adding/retaining to the trust level associated with their brand/organization.

How we built it

Initially we built this as one of the first Office 365 Web apps. We were the third entry in the Office Store (Sore ID: SA00000000*3*)! Customer feedback then indicated that they would use it much more regularly if the Mail Responder were not just a tile in the App Launcher but a button in Outlook. So, last October we launched the Mail Responder for Outlook Office Add-in for Outlook. In December 2016, we also switched from using an AWS API to save the OOF message to using the Graph to do that. On December 23rd (and based on its success of up to 10’000 new users per week) we enhanced its reach and moved from the Azure AD 1.0 to the newer Azure AD 2.0 Auth flow allowing users with Microsoft accounts to also use the add-in (hotmal.com, .outlook.com)

Challenges we ran into

We found a problem with federated organizational account and a Microsoft personal account which have the same email address. The token returned does not present itself as we would have expected. We raised this with the corresponding people in Redmond (YA/DS) and it is currently being investigated. As this is not a very common scenario the impact in the market is not substantial.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

We for sure are proud of the speed we managed to switch to the Azure AD 2.0 Auth flow.

What we learned

We learned a lot about the sheer volume of Microsoft account users.

What's next for Mail Responder for Outlook

We will wait and see what feedback we now get from this larger audience and decide then where to take the Mail Responder next :-)

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