Outlook Web App provides more efficient calendar delegation and management than Gmail

Microsoft’s focus on business productivity in the cloud is unrivaled, and this is also true for the calendaring experience in Office 365.

To show how Office 365 can increase productivity for everyone, including top-level executives, I collected feedback from executive admins at companies that had considered Google Apps for business, but chose Office 365 for their cloud-based productivity solution. These executive admins feel quite adept at using calendar delegation in Outlook Web App (OWA), appreciate how convenient it is for them to manage executive calendars, and enjoy having the same calendar experience in OWA as they do in the desktop version of Outlook. Equally satisfying, for them and for me, is how the productivity gains they experience with Office 365 enable them to enhance the productivity of the executives they support.

OWA provides a clearer, more thorough and richer calendar delegation than Gmail. Key attributes that enhance the calendar delegation experience in OWA include:

1. Simplicity and ease of access: enabling the calendar sharing and delegation option in OWA is convenient and intuitive (which is by no means the case in Gmail!)

OWA displays the calendar share button at the top right corner of the calendar, making it easily visible and accessible. This design approach is duplicated by Gmail, and yet in Gmail the Share button is not used to share the calendar, but instead to post on Google+, which prioritizes public sharing over business productivity. This can confuse users who want to manage and share their calendars. To access the calendar sharing feature in Gmail, one has to navigate to Settings and then click on Calendar Sharing.

OWA calendar share

Users can click SHARE in the top right corner of the calendar module. Users can also do this by right-clicking Calendar to open a context menu, and can then click Share Calendar.

Outlook - Calendar sharing

Gmail calendar share

Gmail has a SHARE button on the top right corner, but it is NOT used to share the calendar. Instead, it is for sharing on Google+. Users must click on the Settings icon to navigate to the calendar sharing feature.

Google - calendar sharing

Once users click on Settings, they must navigate to the Calendar section to be able to access calendar sharing capabilities.

2. Advanced delegate feature: OWA has a specific feature called “delegate” whereas Gmail only has sharing options. Users have to work around the sharing capability in Gmail to enable delegation. In OWA, by contrast, multiple levels of delegation can be enabled which include:

  • Delegate only
  • Both delegate and me (both the user and the delegate can respond to meeting requests)
  • Delegate only. Send me notifications (if a user wants to know they have a meeting request but doesn’t want to take action on it, they can select “Delegate only. Send me notifications”)

Gmail has only one option, called “make changes and manage sharing.” Using this option, users can permit other people to make changes to their calendar, but they can’t customize it any further.

Accessing the calendar delegate feature in OWA

Outlook - Accessing the calendar delegate feature

Accessing the calendar delegate feature in Gmail

Upon navigating to calendar sharing in Settings, users can choose the option, “Make Changes & Manage Sharing,” to allow someone else to make changes to their calendar. This is the closest option to delegation.

Google - Accessing the calendar delegate feature

3. Ability to hide private events from delegates: In OWA, userscan choose to hide the visibility of private events from their delegates. This can be done by simply marking the relevant events as private and unchecking the box, “Allow viewing of private appointments.” This cannot be done in Google Calendar.

Outlook - hide private events

4. Keeping users informed: Users like to know what is going to happen when they select a particular option, and they want to know they have made the right decision. In OWA, an Informational message is displayed before users confirm delegate access to their calendar. No such informational message is displayed in Google Calendar.

5. Revoking delegate access: To remove delegate access, OWA users can edit the calendar permissions to either downgrade a delegate to “view only” access (either full details or limited details or availability only) or completely revoke a delegate’s access at any time by clicking the X on his card.

Outlook - remove delegate access

Also, a user may choose to continue giving a delegate access to the person, but redefine the delegate permission as either 1) Delegate only, or 2) Both delegate and me, or 3) Delegate only. Send me notifications.

Outlook - options to delegate access

In Google Calendar, users cannot downgrade delegate access. They have only four options to choose from when sharing the calendar.

Google calendar - delegate access options

Features in addition to delegation that provide a great calendaring experience in OWA include:

  1. Calendar search: With the introduction of calendar search in OWA, users can search their own calendars or group calendars for events in the past, present, and future. They can also search for other people’s calendars and overlay their calendars on top for quick comparison.
  2. Group calendar: Users can create calendars for specific groups and color-code them to differentiate. Every member of the group can add, delete, or edit any of the events in the group’s calendar. For more details about group calendars, refer to the Groups section in the blog on the evolution of email.

In addition, for desktop Outlook users it is highly recommended that they use Microsoft Exchange so that they can use all of the advanced delegate features and have a great calendaring experience overall. To be able to use Google Calendar in a desktop client, one has to use Google Apps to sync with Microsoft Outlook to access Google Calendar in Outlook. Even then, this enables only limited features of Google Calendar in the desktop version of Outlook.

Read more on why Office 365 is better than Google Apps.