A review of the SharePoint Outlook integration tool by harmon.ie
Product analysis by Vlad Catrinescu – requested by harmon.ie, but thoughts are my own.
You might have heard it one thousand times, but one of the most important things in any SharePoint Project is User Adoption. The majority of the users embrace technology changes as long as it makes their life easier and the changes benefit THEM and not only the company. Forcing your users to do 3-4 extra steps for each document they work on daily only for the company to have it on SharePoint might in a lack of adoption. The old “standard” of transferring documents is sending them through email, mostly Microsoft Outlook.
The best practice and what organizations aim for is users to upload the document to SharePoint and then send the link through email. It would be the perfect scenario, however since users need to do that extra step, they might just go the old way and exchange documents by email. And that’s where third party applications such as harmon.ie for Outlook come in!
In this Blog Post, I will review the Free Edition of harmon.ie SharePoint Outlook Integration plugin and see how well it integrates with SharePoint and if it makes my life as a SharePoint user easier!
Let’s first start with what this tool is. Harmon.ie for outlook is an Outlook Plugin that you can access directly from your top bar.
Once you click on the “Show Sidebar” you will eventually see your SharePoint Site and the documents inside a document library. It looks something like this:
I said eventually, because for it to show in there, you have to add your site manually before it can display it. However, with the enterprise edition, the network administrators can have a Centralized Distribution and every user will have a set of SharePoint Sites directly available in their sidebar. Once you click on the “Add Site” button you can enter the SharePoint Site you wish to add and select your authentication method. Since I installed it on my home PC, I selected “Custom Credentials”, however if your PC is in the same domain as your SharePoint you can simply use your Windows Credentials!
Once we added our site we can play around a little and see how we navigate, but the big “wow” factor comes when we send an email with an attachment! When we click send, we get the popup from harmon.ie that asks us if we want to upload the document to SharePoint and change the attachment from the email to SharePoint!
We also see the option of “Replace attachments with links”. Does that mean I don’t have to go to SharePoint, upload my document? Yes! Harmon.ie will upload the document for you to the SharePoint library of your choice and delete the attachments from the email and insert a link instead. The email your recipients will receive will look something like this:
In my opinion, that alone makes the product great, however let’s take a look at the other features the product offers. If ever a client or somebody else not using the product sends you something by email as an attachments, you can easily right click on it and send it to SharePoint.
The product has plenty of other features such as document check out and check-in, “Show preview” that use Office Web Apps to show your documents.
And of course you can have Versions…. All this directly from outlook!
Continuing on Document Management, there are many things you can do with harmon.ie directly from outlook. For example, you can edit a documents metadata or content type without having to open the browser. You can also Drag and Drop documents from the Desktop or from a mail attachment and they will be uploaded directly in SharePoint. While I am not showing screenshots of it, you can approve documents and publish Major versions of documents to your team! Furthermore, you can also create a new document directly from outlook!
The New document icon is the “Document with a Plus”, however at the begging I had problems finding it since it was gray so I thought it was a “disabled” or not active button.
A point I have talked about briefly but would like to show a bit more is the way you navigate in the document library to find your documents. First of all, you can filter by views so if you have a personalized view you can only see what is relevant
We also have the breadcrumb you are used to in SharePoint at the bottom of the add-in. You can then click on any of the previous titles to go back there.
And we also have the ability to Search Documents. If you are not sure in which of your site or document library it is, you can Search it as you would do in SharePoint and find the relevant results!
Lastly, one of the points I really liked is that it integrates well with Yammer. You can view and reply to discussions, and can easily switch between Networks and Groups.
I found the harmon.ie SharePoint for Outlook add-in very easy to use and very rich in features. I had already tried an “Outlook and SharePoint” integration plugin before, however it was only to send documents from outlook to SharePoint… and that’s what I thought harmon.ie would do as well… but I was wrong. Actually replacing the attachments with the URL of the document in SharePoint alone would make the product awesome and increase user adoption. The fact that people can do pretty advanced SharePoint operations such as check out/ check in, change metadata and content types, approve documents , preview documents and… Yammer is the cherry on top of the cake. In my opinion, this product can clearly be a game changer in the adoption of a new SharePoint implementation and I won’t hesitate to suggest it to clients.
To learn more about harmon.ie for Outlook please go to harmon.ie’s website.