[updated 9th May 2013 with additional content]
In my role, I see a lot of different issues that customers face. Not just my customers past and present, but through talking to my colleagues about their customers.
Over time, you do start to see some issues that occur time and again... and again... and again. Sometimes this can be in the same customer, but as staff come and go, I'm the one that suffers deja vu as I have the same conversation for the nth time in the same customer.
One of these topics is Calendars. In particular, the sanctity of the calendar of an executive, with a PA/EA, and a mobile device... sometimes two (devices... not PAs).
These issues are always hard to resolve because it's commonly not a software issue, and sometimes not just people and/or process. It's usually a combination of factors.
Troubleshooting is hard because the impacted people are generally hard to pin down to get some troubleshooting time, but also have the loudest voices.
Is there a Silver Bullet? Sure. Ban mobile devices and delegated mailboxes and ensure the executive only uses Outlook or OWA. Yeah, good luck with that. But it would solve the problem. I guarantee it.
So, back to reality. What to do in this situation?
There are some really good articles that Microsoft and others have already written on this topic, so I won't attempt to re-write what has already been published.
The following articles are aimed at IT folks but they articulate the broad issue and solutions in great detail:
Comprehensive Guide on Addressing Exchange Calendaring IssuesLost Appointments, Duplicate Appointments, Odd Delegate Issues, etchttp://www.networkworld.com/community/ExchangeCalendaringProblemSolutions
Exchange Outlook Calendaring Problems (lost meetings, delegate problems, etc)Solving Exchange Outlook Calendaring Delegation Lost Meeting Problemshttp://www.networkworld.com/community/blog/exchange-outlook-calendaring-problems-lost-me
The quintessential document that should be printed out and stuck in the cubicle of every EA/PA and Executive is this one:
If using Outlook 2000, Outlook 2002/XP, or Outlook 2003 (aside from the fact that you really, REALLY need to upgrade!):
Outlook meeting requests: Essential do’s and don’tshttp://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/outlook-meeting-requests-essential-dos-and-donts-HA001127678.aspx
If using Outlook 2007, Outlook 2010, or Outlook 2013:
Best practices when using the Outlook Calendarhttp://office.microsoft.com/en-us/outlook-help/best-practices-when-using-the-outlook-calendar-HA104004449.aspx
The following article very neatly consolidates much of our guidance that are in more in-depth KB articles and talks specifically to best practices when using mobile devices:
Exchange Calendaring Issues: Best Practices for Outlook and Mobile Device Users & their Delegateshttp://ike.its.uiowa.edu/article/3521
Some best practices when working with Outlook Calendarhttp://blogs.technet.com/b/outlooking/archive/2010/03/29/some-best-practices-when-working-with-outlook-calendar.aspx
Lastly, some Microsoft troubleshooting guides and general resources to stay on top of:
Description of common scenarios in which Calendar information may be removed from the Calendar or may be inaccuratehttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/899704
How to troubleshoot missing and duplicate appointments in Outlookhttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/890436
Current issues with Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and third-party deviceshttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/2563324
There were technical issues that contributed to an increase in calendaring issue when Apple released iOS6 and existed in iOS 6.0, 6.0.1 and 6.0.2. The issue is well documented on the internet and broadly called "meeting hijacking" so if you have iOS users, ensure they upgrade. References:
Meeting in Attendee’s Calendar Loses Track of the Meeting Organizerhttp://support.microsoft.com/kb/2768774
So, what if nothing is working out and you need to call Microsoft for assistance? Firstly, get yourself some Premier Support if you don't have it already (see my earlier post about Premier Support). Now, in preparation, read the following TechNet article:
Working with support to troubleshoot the Outlook calendar in an Exchange environmenthttp://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc891495(v=Office.12).aspx
May your mobile devices and Exchange (and Executives and their Assistants) all play nicely together and let you get on with more important stuff!
P.S. A big thank you to my colleague Quoc Lai, a Senior Premier Field Engineer in the Messaging space here at Microsoft, who has done many Exchange Risk Assessments with me and my customers and drilled into me all of the above! I know he does it in the hope that I'll stop ringing him every 6 months saying "Hey Quoc, customer X are having a major calendaring issue. Do you think you could come on-site with me... Quoc? Hello? Huh... I seem to have strong mobile signal but the line went dead... Quoc?"
P.P.S. Hi Steve and thanks for reading my blog :)