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How to configure SharePoint 2010 to scan Outlook 2010 for colleagues

Most users think social networking involves updating their Facebook status. Configure SharePoint and Outlook 2010 to help them connect with colleagues for work purposes instead.

One way to get the most out of your company’s SharePoint 2010 investment is by configuring SharePoint and Outlook to automatically connect like-minded employees.

Both SharePoint 2010 and Outlook 2010 automatically scan the contents of your users’ Outlook 2010 Sent Items folders in search of frequently contacted users and keywords. With that info, both systems provide Suggested Colleagues to help users collaborate.   

The Colleagues scan is turned on by default. However, the default settings don’t always work as they should and you may want to disable one or more of the mechanisms SharePoint uses to automatically add colleagues.

This tip details the steps necessary to manually configure both SharePoint 2010 and Outlook 2010 to scan for colleagues.

Colleague support in SharePoint 2010
The first step is to make sure that each SharePoint user has a profile; users without profiles cannot be added as colleagues. After verifying that your users have profiles, launch the User Profile Service Application.

SharePoint has three separate colleague-related policies that need to be enabled. These policies are accessed through the SharePoint Central Administration console. Open the console and click on Application Management. Next, click on the Manage Service Applications link, which is found in the Service Applications section.

Next, navigate to the User Profile Service Application, verify that the service is running and then click the User Profile Service Application link. Now click the Manage Policies link found in the People section as shown in Figure 1.

Click the Manage Policies link in SharePoint 2010 to begin the colleague addition process.

Figure 1. The Manage Policies link is located in the People section in SharePoint 2010.

When the Manage Policies page appears, go to the My Colleagues section (Figure 2). Click on the Colleagues on My Site option and then click the Edit Policy button. Make sure that the policy setting is set to Enabled and click OK. This turns SharePoint 2010’s colleagues feature on.

Turn SharePoint 2010’s colleagues feature on.

Figure 2. Turn SharePoint 2010’s colleagues feature on in the My Colleagues section.

After you've turned the colleagues feature on, click on Auto-Population of Colleagues from Organizations, then click the Edit Policy button. This policy has a tendency to cause confusing behavior. If it is enabled, SharePoint will use Active Directory attributes to determine user relationships -- such as who the user’s boss is and who his peers are. SharePoint will automatically define these users as colleagues if this policy setting is enabled. After you decide whether or not to enable this policy, click OK.

Finally, click on Colleague Recommendations and then click the Edit Policy button. This setting allows SharePoint to receive colleague recommendations from Outlook 2010. Set the policy to Enabled, as shown in Figure 3, and click OK.

Enable the Colleague Recommendations policy.

Figure 3. Enable the Colleague Recommendations policy in SharePoint 2010.

Configuring Outlook 2010 to use the Colleagues feature
Now that you've configured SharePoint 2010, you must configure Outlook 2010. Open Outlook and click on the File tab. Next, click on Options, then Add-ins. Verify that the Microsoft SharePoint Server Colleague Import Add-in is enabled, as shown in Figure 4.

Make sure the Microsoft SharePoint Server Colleague Import Add-in is enabled.

Figure 4. Enable the Microsoft SharePoint Server Colleague Import Add-In in Outlook 2010.

Click the Advanced tab. Scroll through the options to the Other section. Select the Allow Analysis of Sent E-Mails to Identify People You Commonly E-Mail and Subjects You Commonly Discuss check box, as well as the Upload This Information to the Default SharePoint Server check box, as shown in Figure 5.

Enable Outlook 2010 to analyze email messages.

Figure 5. Before scanning for colleagues, you must enable Outlook 2010 to analyze email messages.

This method works well when testing the colleagues feature, but it's usually more practical to configure Outlook using group policy settings. To do so, you must install the Administrative Templates for Microsoft Office 2010.

After you've installed the administrative template, you can either enable or disable colleague suggestions with the Enable Colleague Import Outlook Add-In to Work With Microsoft SharePoint Server setting. This is found in the Group Policy Management Editor at User Configuration -> Policies -> Administrative Templates -> Administrative Templates: Policy Definitions (ADMX Files) Retrieved From the Central Store -> Microsoft Office 2010 -> Server Settings -> SharePoint Server, as shown in Figure 6.

Enable or disable the colleague import Outlook add-in to work with SharePoint.

Figure 6. Use group policy settings to enable or disable the Colleague Import Outlook Add-In.

Verifying that the Colleagues feature has been enabled in SharePoint 2010
The last step is to verify that colleague support has been enabled in SharePoint 2010. To do so, log in as a user and navigate to My Site. Click on My Profile and then click the Colleagues tab, as shown in Figure 7.

SharePoint 2010 users can now access the Colleagues tab.

Figure 7. The Colleagues tab will now appear as a part of your users' profiles in SharePoint 2010.

Remember that it may take a while for colleagues to be added, as SharePoint takes some time to analyze all the available Outlook data.

Brien Posey is an eight-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as a CIO for a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation’s largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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