Information is a critical asset which is typically unmanaged and underutilized across organisations. Siloed in personal inboxes, are critical business records and knowledge which could facilitate better collaboration, knowledge and ultimately provide for a 'smarter' business.
Across different devices, many of us spend a great proportion of our day in Microsoft Outlook. An intuitive and consistent experience was envisaged to enable users to be more productive and engaged with solutions on cloud platforms such as Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint.
We wanted a familiar experience for end users to save both emails and attachments from Outlook and also access content from cloud platforms such as Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint. Ultimately, helping achieve greater information sharing and governance across organizations.
How we built it
OnePlaceMail needed to be fast. It also needed to provide an intuitive and consistent office experience across different devices / Microsoft Outlook implementations. These are our guiding principles for all architectural decisions and capabilities.
OnePlaceMail for SharePoint is both an Outlook Add-in (App) and an Office 365 App. The solution uses a number of technologies/frameworks, including:
- Microsoft Azure
- Angular 2, including ahead of time (AOT) compiling
- Office UI Fabric
- Microsoft Graph (Where possible)
- EWS (Exchange) Rest API
- SharePoint Rest API
- Office JS, including the Dialog API
Challenges we ran into
There have been a few:
- All the technology stacks are relatively new, some were in beta during the development and even now, all technology stacks are constantly evolving at a rapid rate
- The Authentication piece: When running as a 'container' inside Microsoft Outlook and trying to Authenticate against Office 365, SharePoint, EWS it is inconsistent across different Outlook environments/platforms
- Inconsistencies and limitations across different environments, especially the Auth. and Command bar area and what is available on what platform (based on the Office JS supported)
- Automated testing of an Office app is difficult as the app can only run in the context of an Outlook session and isn’t a standalone app
Accomplishments that we're proud of
There are many:
- How fast the OnePlaceMail Add-in loads - our aim was sub 1 second
- Making the solutions look & feel like Office/Outlook
- The speed for users to perform an end to end process of saving emails/attachments
- The Dev Ops process to enable an efficient and short cadence for solution updates
What we learned
A few lessons have been learnt and we expect many more:
- The Dev Ops process takes time to setup but is worth the effort
What's next for OnePlaceMail for SharePoint
We will continue listening to our customers during the preview period and after we release. This has always provided us the best insight as to what we should be delivering. The backlog of enhancements and capabilities is already growing but we also have a lot of knowledge from our existing OnePlaceMail (Desktop Client) implemented under the previous VSTO technology. As the Outlook Add-in model matures, we will further enhance the capabilities.