Scenario

Let’s consider the following scenario: Your company is working with a partner. All support requests are being submitted via email.

scenario1

You have a a team of people submitting requests:

scenario2

Furthermore, sometimes you need to include additional people on your side. The communication channels might get even more complicated (the more employees you have working on this, the more complicated it gets :-)).

scenario3

The real problem here is email as communication channel. Email is a great tool, easy to use and everything. But the problem is that knowledge from each conversation is lost in a personal inbox. If the receiver does not forward the email to other team members he will be the only one able to solve the problem.

This is where SharePoint kicks-in; in this article I am going to describe a simple procedure to automate the knowledge capture with SharePoint (WSS included :-)).

scenario4

We are going to configure SharePoint to receive emails and stores them to a document library, and configure Outlook clients to forward all emails coming from Partner directly to SharePoint.

Step by step guide to set it up

SharePoint configuration

I will try to explain how you could setup this solution. I will use Microsoft as my partner but you can adjust this solution to match your settings.

  • Create a document library (e.g. Microsoft Support – Knowledge Base), we are going to use this it as knowledge repository for this partner.
  • Enable incoming e-mail integration (learn more about Enabling and configuring e-mail support for a list or library) for it.
    I am using the following e-mail integration settings:

    incoming-email-settings1

  • Create an email alert for all members in your team to be alerted when new item is created (use Alert me functionality or a workflow)

Outlook configuration

The next step is to configure a rule in Outlook to forward all the emails to your Knowledge base library, I created the following rule:

Apply this rule after the message arrives
from Microsoft Support
 and contains Re: in the subject
forward to ms-knowledgebase@intranet.local

My Outlook is going to forward each email sent by Microsoft support and containing “Re:” (sometimes we are getting some other emails and I do not want these to be forwarded). Each email will be received by SharePoint and stored to your online knowledge base.

knowledge-base

Conclusion

Benefits of this solution:

  • Everything is automated. Once you set it up, you do not need to do anything else
  • Every team member is being alerted when there is new information in the Knowledge base
  • You can benefit from SharePoint search capabilities to search it:
    • New team members can use your Knowledge base to learn more about previous support requests. This is very important!
    • Other people from your company can also check the knowledge base periodically

Potential problems:

  • Although Outlook rules can be Exported/Imported this procedure is not so trivial. So you will probably need to instruct each team member on how to create rule
    • Maintaining rules might also be problematic
  • Sometimes support requests cannot be solved with just one email. When you are having a multiple emails going back and forward between you and your partner (all being part of one support request), under proposed incoming email settings, SharePoint will create one folder for each reply.
    Change the incoming email setting to match your needs. Configuration options are limited, but it is something we can live with.

6 Comments

  1. Penis Pills - All Natural Male Stimulant Says

    Thanks for that informative message. Can you please forward some links where I can find some more information.

  2. Jason Says

    Thank you for the informative article, though I have a quick question. After experiencing the issue myself with our company’s site I have since googled it and found it to be an on going issue. We have found that alerts auto-matically forwarding emails to a SharePoint list are not accepted by SharePoint and are not posted. The only difference between our two setups is perhaps that I was using a list (testing now with a Library and the user) and you were using a library. But I was wondering if you came across the issue yourself and if so, what you did to avoid it? Thank you!

  3. Toni Frankola Says

    Have you checked the permissions of the user forwarding the item? If so make sure you incoming email setting allow all users to forward emails.

    In some cases we even used SharePoint libraries to accept incoming error reports (a lot of them) and these were always received correctly.

  4. ocyc Says

    Jason wrote:
    >> We have found that alerts auto-matically forwarding emails to a SharePoint list are not accepted by SharePoint and are not posted.

    I have the same problem. The account used to auto-forward the email is Administrator with all of the permissions, but no joy.

    Any ideas?

  5. Toni Frankola Says

    @ocyc: Can you check your SharePoint logs for errors, can you check if these emails are stored to the Drop folder on your server?

  6. ocyc Says

    I found the ‘problem.’ The feature was not enabled in Exahange 2007. The fix is to open Exchange Management Console then
    Organization Configuration > Hub Transport > right click Default > Properties > select tab ‘Format of original message sent as attachment to journal report’ > select check boxes ‘Allow automatic forward’ and ‘Allow automatic replies’ > OK. Exit

    The forwarding rules are now working. Lots of joy.

    (The Sharepoint logs and the Event logs did not show errors.)

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