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Achieving Inbox Zero with Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Yammer, and Other Tools

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First in a series about Outlook productivity for Microsoft CRM users

I had an unusually relaxing Memorial Day weekend.  Not because we took in a baseball game or enjoyed a cookout or stared at the ocean.  Just before the weekend started late Friday afternoon, I enjoyed the rare sight of  Inbox Items: 0.  It took a little discipline, Microsoft CRM and SharePoint integration, and a quixotic focus on an achievement that only I would notice.  This is how I got there.

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1. Discipline.  Merlin Mann published a great piece called “Inbox Zero” back in 2006. It focused on the general question of what to do when you get an email.  It’s a great starting point for achieving this goal and lays out the ‘Process’ framework. The basic tenant is that for each email, you either delete, delegate, respond, defer, or do.  I would add ‘collaborate’ to that list and utilize the Microsoft productivity tools like Microsoft Dynamics CRM, SharePoint, OneNote and Yammer.  Your discipline comes from always deciding what action to take with an email or email chain.  When you do that, is up to you.  I like to make those decisions at the end of the work day when many of the back and forth conversations have run their course.  The important thing is having a schedule and a plan and sticking to it.

 

2. Run Clean Up Folder.  (Folder>Clean Up Folder) This removes redundant messages from every item in your folder.  The twelve back and forth messages between two people get consolidated into the final email.  If extra recipients participated during the middle of your conversation, then those will be saved (separately) as well.  This not only makes your inbox smaller, but it aids in making your Track in CRM records more meaningful and easier to consume.

 

  • Move Meeting Notes to OneNote.  I take all of my meeting notes in OneNote.  Most people don’t.  Often, notes are taken in the form of an email and distributed to the attendees and interested parties.  After I move to OneNote, I typically track the email in CRM to the Project or Opportunity.
  • Create Appointments.  This is one of the most useful features. If a follow-up is required, I use the Respond > Create an appointment button immediately.  Not only does it auto-populate the attendees, but the purpose and context of the meeting stays in the body of the text and helps with future meeting prep for all involved. These can be tracked in CRM.
  • Create Tasks. If you know that a email is actually a task, then tag it as such and move the email out.  Outlook makes this easy with HOME > Tags > Follow Up.  You can customize the start and due date and reminder notice.  These too can be tracked in CRM.
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  • Create a Streamlined Email Folder Hierarchy.  Even with Track in CRM, you will need a few personal email folders.  Not everything needs to be shared out.  I have six folders, organized by internal department and external company type (vendors and customers).  I put these in there manually after I have read, responded and tracked.  I have one folder for what I call incubation emails.  These are ideas or personal project related emails that are not currently actionable, but I don’t want them to clog the Inbox.
  • Track in CRM.  Seems pretty obvious to CRM users, but without organizational and personal best practices, this can be tricky.  I put this towards the end because I like to Respond, create OneNotes, and Clean Up Folders before this step.  The organizational best practices dictate your Set Regarding.  Do you track to just the individual sending the message (that’s automatic)? Do you track to the parent company?  The Opportunity?  They Project?  If these things are stated and practiced at the organizational level, then they aid greatly in collaboration and visibility.
  • Drag to SharePoint.  Sometimes I get documents that need to go directly to SharePoint.  Once I track the Email in CRM, I typically drag the attachment off of the email and post it into the correct SharePoint folder, via the MSCRM – SharePoint integration.  This reduces a step for anyone who needs access to this document. (Otherwise, they would have to scroll through all of the tracked emails).
  • Use Yammer.  We are beginning our Yammer journey at Customer Effective.  This has proven to be an effective tool for decreasing the amount of general question emails that typically are posted to entire teams or departments.  Old habits are hard to break though and when an email is posted this way, some of our designated Yammer police gently remind them of our new policy, and they reply in the email with Yammer’s Post to Group feature.  A note goes to <groupname>+<network name>.com@yammer.com, reminding them of how more effective Yammer is these type of conversations.

by Customer Effective

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