With the new, remote-first world we find ourselves in, the number of meetings we have each week has increased. Overall, Microsoft’s 2021 Work Trend Index report found that weekly meetings have increased by 148%. This substantial increase in meetings has caused us to spend more time coordinating schedules with colleagues and people outside our organization. Scheduler for Microsoft 365 gives us more time to focus on important work by making it easier to schedule meetings.
What is Scheduler for Microsoft 365?
Scheduler for Microsoft 365 is a service that delegates meeting and appointment scheduling to Cortana, Microsoft’s digital personal assistant. It can interpret emails sent to Cortana and finds time for attendees to meet, sending calendar invites on behalf of the meeting organizer. Scheduler uses a combo of AI (via Cortana) and human intelligence to complete scheduling requests.
Once we send a meeting request to Cortana, they will find a time based on availabilities of internal attendees and negotiate a meeting time with external attendees. Once Scheduler finds an agreeable time, it creates a Teams meeting and send out the meeting invites. Scheduler can work with internal and external users to coordinate times across up to time zones. It can schedule, reschedule, and cancel meetings on behalf of the organizer.
If you find yourself regularly scheduling small meetings with five or less attendees, Scheduler will save you time! Business functions like recruiting, sales, procurement, or legal can also benefit from delegating meeting coordination to Scheduler.
How do we set it up?
Sounds awesome, right? It is! So how do we set up Scheduler for our organization? To get started, we need to cover three prerequisites:
- Cortana Mailbox – We will need to set a mailbox to serve as the Cortana mailbox. Microsoft recommends giving the mailbox a simple name like “Cortana”, “CortanaScheduler”, or “Cortana.Scheduler”. This helps make it clear this mailbox is not operated by a human.
- We need to run some PowerShell to designate this mailbox as the Scheduler Assistant.
- Set-mailbox firstname.lastname@example.org -SchedulerAssistant:$true
- The meeting organizer needs to have an Exchange Online mailbox and calendar, and a Scheduler license.
- Scheduler is an add-on license, currently priced at $10 per user per month.
- Here’s the Microsoft pricing page if you want more information.
As of now, Scheduler isn’t available to GCC, GCC High or DoD tenants.
$120 dollars a year may seem like a hefty price to pay for scheduling meetings. However, we have to think about the value of the time we lose trying to schedule and negotiate meeting times ourselves. Let’s say Scheduler only saves us 20 minutes a week on scheduling meetings. Over the course of the year we gain 16 hours back! That is two full days gained to leverage our expertise and add value with our core job function.
How do we use it?
When we want to use Scheduler, we simply email our attendees and CC our Scheduler Assistant (ex. email@example.com). In the email, we can tell Cortana to schedule a meeting. Cortana understands human language, but it’s best to keep our message to them concise.
We want to use the pattern of: “Schedule a [length of time] meeting [range of time]”. Here’s some examples:
- “Schedule a 45-minute meeting next week”
- “Find 1 hour for us to meet in September”
- “Find 30 minutes the first week of May that works for Greenwich Mean Time”
Without a specific a time range to book within, Scheduler will book the meeting as soon as the next business day. If we have internal attendees, Cortana uses the organizer’s access to attendees free/busy info within Outlook, picks a time that works for everyone, and sends out the invite. If we have external attendees, Cortana will communicate with them to negotiate a time based on the organizer’s availability. Once those attendees confirm a time, Scheduler will follow up with a meeting invite.
Sometimes, Cortana may ask us for guidance via email. We simply follow Cortana’s directions and reply with the reply button in Cortana’s emails. If we need to reschedule or cancel a meeting Cortana scheduled for us, we only have to reply in our thread with Cortana and ask her to “Reschedule” or “Cancel”.
Consultants like Total Solutions often bill by the hour. If we free up at least 16 hours a year, then that would pay for the license cost of scheduler, and then some. If we want to schedule multiple meetings every week, Scheduler for Microsoft 365 can give us weeks, or even months, back in our hands. The time we get by using Scheduler can increase our ability to do complex work that can’t be easily delegated.