Announcement: Accelo + Microsoft 365 Integration

Accelo's New Integration with Microsoft 365

29-May 2020
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Hugh Cowling PRODUCT MANAGER

Microsoft, with its hundreds of millions of users and continued growth, is one of the world's major software providers. Their productivity offerings for individuals and businesses moved into the cloud several years ago as Office 365 - but not just Word and Excel as a service. You could have Office 365 host your Exchange server in the cloud to simplify email system management. This proved to be a big hit with businesses.

As companies continue to migrate from self-managed Exchange Servers to Office 365 in the cloud, we've been building a new integration with Office 365 so that it doesn't rely on the older Exchange Server technologies to keep your emails, calendars, contacts and tasks in sync, but instead takes full advantage of the latest Microsoft APIs to maximize performance, features and automation.

After several months of testing and improvements, we're proud to announce that the revamped integration is no longer in beta, and - to stay in line with Microsoft's current offerings - is known as Accelo's Microsoft 365 integration!

Whilst opening the door to a more robust connection of your contacts, calendar and emails with almost instantaneous syncing, switching over to this new integration on your Accelo account isn't automatic. You'll need to follow a couple of steps outlined later in this post.

Wait, what is Microsoft 365?!

A new product? No...it's simply the new name for Office 365. For some time now, Office 365 has given you more than just Outlook, Word and Excel. It comes with services like Exchange, OneDrive, Sharepoint, Teams and potentially more in the near future. This bundling of personal productivity tools with more enterprise-style services might be why the "Office" moniker is being slowly digested into the newer Microsoft 365 branding.

From the Accelo side, these additional services or apps aren't relevant - at least, not yet! We're still connecting with the features inside Exchange/Outlook - Email, Calendar, Contacts and Tasks.

Detect changes at lightning speed

Newer apps are implementing WebHooks in their APIs so that other connected apps can subscribe to specific events for instant notification when something changes. This is now available to us through the new Microsoft Graph API, meaning changes to contacts, calendar events and tasks can be updated into Accelo within seconds.

Perhaps the biggest win, though, is the ability to capture emails - sent or received in Microsoft 365 - into Accelo without delay. Previously it could take several minutes or more, as the burden was on our systems to regularly scan your Outlook account for new emails.

New Contact sync mechanism

We've overhauled the way we manage the synchronization of contact data between Accelo and Microsoft 365 by introducing a new data layer on our side. This new architecture gives us surgical-like management of the contact changes we send up to Outlook's AddressBook, maximizing the data integrity of both systems and making available a clear audit trail of every change.

Besides making it more robust, we've increased flexibility on what information can be shared between the systems - not an easy feat considering the vast differences between an Outlook contact and an Accelo one!

Updating contacts between Accelo and Outlook Contact List is faster and more comprehensive, with secondary emails, phones and addresses now included.

For starters, Outlook contacts only allow one company, and a limit of three email addresses - whereas our contacts can handled unlimited company associations, emails, phone numbers and business or mailing addresses. Fortunately, we can control things to ensure information on the Accelo contact's primary association (the main company) is prioritized first and foremost.

We've also improved the data matching to minimize duplication of contact. For example, when you first connect via the new integration, we can link your Microsoft 365 contacts with matching Accelo contacts and populate any missing detail on either end, such as addresses or phone numbers.

Smarter Calendar Sync

In this digital age there's been a surge in the volume of virtual client meetings, workshop webinars, remote meetings and calls scheduled at the last minute - all filling up your calendar and eating into productive hours. Tracking the utilization (time spent or time lost) for these activities is a function Accelo strives to help you with, which is why we've invested in smart syncronization of your Outlook calendar with Accelo.

We're continually enhancing our calendar sync features to automate how and where different events are captured into Accelo. For example, new to the Microsoft 365 integration are some goodies such as:

  • Add the corresponding Accelo alias (e.g. project+123@yourdomain.accelo.com) as an attendee when creating an Outlook event (recurring or a one-off) to ensure that event is captured on the right client project (or tickets or retainers) in Accelo. No more manually converting or moving the event in Accelo!

  • Scheduling blocks of work over multiple days via Accelo’s Booking Tool will now push to your 365 calendar as a fully recurring event. This allows you to easily move, edit or delete individual occurrences (or the entire series) and have the changes sync perfectly back to Accelo.

Updating Accelo to use the new Microsoft 365 connection

We highly encourage you to move across so you can realize all of the great benefits of our new integration, but it isn't mandatory. You can stay on the older style Exchange connection - we'll reach out with plenty of notice in the future if things change.

If you're an admin user in Accelo, then you can start the process by disconnecting from the "exchange" integration in Accelo and then connecting your user to Microsoft 365.

Once you (or any other admin user) has taken this step, the new integration will become available for the rest of your team.  For a step-by-step guide, please review the details about transitioning to Office 365 on our Help site.

If you're business is using a hosted (or self-managed) version of Exchange, then no worries. Your connection via the Exchange integration is still fully supported.

Finally, while we've done a lot to upgrade, you can't yet migrate your entire domain (all of your users) in one fell swoop. Each user needs to re-connect to take advantage of the integration.

And we should add: We're not "done" here. There's a little bit more automation we'd like to include in the near future, such as automatically importing contacts from your Outlook Contacts if you add them to a group/folder called "Accelo". If you have suggestions, you can share them with us through our Ideas forum

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