Let’s consider the following scenario: Your company is working with a partner. All support requests are being submitted via email.
You have a a team of people submitting requests:
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 :-)).
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 :-)).
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
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:
- 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)
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 email@example.com
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.
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
- 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.