Driving Usage for the Bookings with Me App
The January 12 announcement that bookable time is coming to Outlook (OWA) is no more than a Microsoft attempt to drive usage of the Bookings with Me app. There’s nothing wrong with that tactic, even if it might make some people think that the announcement brings news of a brand new feature.
Microsoft also refers to bookable time as “Bookings in Outlook” and asserts that the apps helps to reduce “the back and forth in scheduling while helping you [to] maintain control of your calendar.” Bookable time in Outlook is available to users with the following licenses:
- Office 365: A3, A5, E1, E3, E5, F1, F3
- Microsoft 365: A3, A5, E1, E3, E5, F1, F3, Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium
The Magic of Controlled Scheduling
This magic happens through uses creating a personal bookings page where they publish slots where they are available to meet people who care to make a booking through the page. The control Microsoft mentions comes about by the user establishing a schedule of available time slots when the user will accept 1:1 meetings (Figure 1).
Microsoft’s documentation for Bookings with Me explains the various settings.
It’s important to emphasize that bookings are regular Outlook meetings that show up in a user calendar alongside other events. There’s absolutely nothing different between a meeting scheduled in the normal way and one created using Bookings with Me. The intelligence in the Bookings with Me app is entirely in the user interface to define available slots and the processing that publishes those slots and allows people to make bookings. Users can edit the settings of their booking pages by going to the Booking app.
Not everyone will want to or be interested in Bookings with Me. Within a company, it’s a facility that people like HR consultants might use to allow employees to easily set up meetings to seek advice, Externally, people need an Azure AD account (school or work account) to book an appointment using Bookings with Me. The calendar owner remains in full control at all time and can reschedule or cancel appointments made with them at any time. Those who request meetings can also cancel or reschedule appointments (with the calendar owner’s assent).
Publishing and Using a Booking Page
When the schedule is ready, the user can publish (share) their availability for meetings. If the user hasn’t published a booking schedule before, the app generates a URL that the user can share with people who might want an appointment (Figure 2). For instance, they could include the URL in their email signature or publish it in their Teams status.
Clicking the link displays the user’s personalized booking page and exposes the available time slots based on the schedule established by the user (Figure 3).
Bookings and Bookings with Me
Some are confused between Bookings with Me and Microsoft Bookings. The differences are straightforward:
- Bookings with me is for personal use and deals with 1:1 meetings only. It is an Outlook feature that can schedule Teams online meetings. All events are in the user’s calendar.
- Microsoft Bookings is a separate application with its own (scheduling) mailboxes intended for use by a group or other entity.
Whether the advent of bookable time in OWA will convince more people to create Bookings with Me pages to allow others to schedule meetings with them remains to be seen. If you need a feature like this, it’s nice to have Bookings with Me. If not, it’s very safe to ignore bookable time.
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