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Three Basic Ways of Dealing with Double-Booked Resources in the Sumatra cmdlet

There are three basic ways of automatically dealing with double-booked resources in the Sumatra cmdlet suDoubleBookedMeetings. You guys wo...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Three Basic Ways of Dealing with Double-Booked Resources in the Sumatra cmdlet

There are three basic ways of automatically dealing with double-booked resources in the Sumatra cmdlet suDoubleBookedMeetings.
  1. You guys work it out. aka Alert both (all) parties
  2. The early bird gets the room.  aka First one who booked wins
  3. Rank has its privileges.  aka VIPs win.  (Unless there's two of them then see 1.)
Let's look at the cases for each of those with this real-world double-booked meeting in Room 222 which both Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix have booked.

You guys work it out
You could think of this as the kinder-gentler "We're going to inform you but not enforce any changes" option.

Using this command:
Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings -ExchangeVersion 2013 -EWSurl "https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.ASMX" `
-PrimarySMTPAddress "room222@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-EmailOrganizers `
-ImpersonationAccount "ADMIN@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-Credential $LiveCred `
-bw 18 `
-licensefile "c:\users\ADMIN\Desktop\suDoubleBook\license.txt"

Each of them receives this notification and nothing is removed from the conference calendar.

The early bird gets the room:
using this command:

Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings -ExchangeVersion 2013 -EWSurl "https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.ASMX" `
-PrimarySMTPAddress "room222@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-DeclineConflicts `
-ImpersonationAccount "ADMIN@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-Credential $LiveCred `
-bw 10 `
-licensefile "c:\users\ADMIN\Desktop\suDoubleBook\license.txt"

Since Jimi Hendrix booked this slot in Room 222 before Janis Joplin did, under this scenario the room goes to Jimi and Janis is notified (Note that this notification comes directly from Microsoft Exchange):

Rank has its privileges
But let's say that Janis Joplin is a VIP and Jimi Hendrix is not.  Then, using this command:

Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings -ExchangeVersion 2013 `
-EWSurl "https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.ASMX" `
-PrimarySMTPAddress "room222@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-DeclineConflicts `
-VIPfile "c:\users\ADMIN\Desktop\suDoubleBook\vips.txt" `
-VIPsGetBookingPreference `
-ImpersonationAccount "ADMIN@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-Credential $LiveCred `
-bw 180 `
-licensefile "c:\users\ADMIN\Desktop\suDoubleBook\license.txt"

Janis gets the room and Jimi is declined by the conference room.  Note that this results in the exact OPPOSITE of the situation just described above.

We think this covers all the social hierarchy choices you should have to make with the conference room, but please feel free to let us know.

$LiveCred is a variable we've set up to store credentials to the Exchange server in PowerShell.  Check out our earlier postings if you're unsure how to do this.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

How the Sumatra Double-Booking cmdlet works

First: you can always get help at the PowerShell prompt with:
get-help Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings

Let's say that we have the following calendar for Room 222:

Clearly there is some double-booking here.  

Keep in mind neither Jimi Hendrix not Janis Joplin have any way of knowing from their own calendars that a conflict is imminent.

If you execute the cmdlet in this way say a week before this is to unfold:
Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings -ExchangeVersion 2013 -EWSurl "https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.ASMX" `
-PrimarySMTPAddress "room222@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-VIPfile "c:\users\Admin\Desktop\suDoubleBook\vips.txt" `
-DeclineConflicts `
-EmailOrganizers `
-VIPsGetBookingPreference `
-ImpersonationAccount "ADMIN@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-Credential $LiveCred `
-bw 10 `
-Verbose -Debug `
-licensefile "c:\users\Admin\Desktop\suDoubleBook\license.txt"

You will generate notifications to Jimi Hendrix that look like this:

Note also that we cover the case of a managed conference room where a Delegate might be putting appointments into the room calendar.  In this case even though the time is listed as FREE, we notify both parties.  We have no way of knowing WHAT is there, but there is the potential for conflict and we need to alert users to it.

If you want to get a little more proactive, we could define Janis Joplin as a "VIP" so that her meetings take priority over everyone else's.  Look at her conflict with Jimi Hendrix here:

We execute this command:

Get-suDoubleBookedMeetings `
-writeHTML `
-HTMLFile "c:\users\Admin\Desktop\suDoubleBook\MyHtml.html" `
-ExchangeVersion 2013 `
-EWSurl "https://outlook.office365.com/EWS/Exchange.ASMX" `
-PrimarySMTPAddress "room222@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" `
-ImpersonationAccount "ADMIN@sumatra.onmicrosoft.com" -Credential $LiveCred -bw 16 `
-VIPFile ($myPath + "vips.txt") `
-VIPsGetBookingPreference `
-DeclineConflicts `
-licensefile "c:\users\Admin\Desktop\suDoubleBook\license.txt" 

And immediately the resource calendar looks like this:

And Jimi is notified that the resource has declined his request

We think this is a very elegant solution to the problem of managing double-booking in the real world.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Callable PowerShell script to report on double booked resources in Exchange 2016 / Office 365

Sumatra is recognized as the expert in Exchange Calendaring.  Even so, we were surprised at the sudden influx of requests for info on the problem of double booked conference rooms.

This subject is really trending on our blog.

We're taking a two-pronged approach that helps both Exchange end-users and Exchange Admins:

First, for the DIY crowd, we released a FREE PowerShell script to report on double bookings – open source, under the MIT license.  This blog post covers the script.

Second, for the enterprise, we will release a cmdlet that does everything the free version does, and a whole lot more:
  • Reports double booked meetings.
  • Sends email notification to each meeting organizer about those upcoming conflicts and ask them to resolve the conflict. 
  • Removes conflicts by cancelling conflicting meeting occurrences that Exchange allowed (even though there was already an existing meeting booked for that room/date/time.)
  • Preferentially keep conflicting bookings for company VIPs, and,
  • Designed to receive piped input from Exchange PowerShell cmdlets.

This cmdlet will be a paid, licensed version.

So first, the script.

It's available for download here.  It's a text file, you'll need to rename it as a .PS1.  We do this or else your anti-virus software will get huffy. 

Successfully generating your report will give you results like this:

which will tell you the room with conflicts (not surprising since you have specified it, see below), the organizers, start and end date of the conflict and the number of other parties involved?

Number of parties?  Yes.  Note that one of the meetings above is triple-booked.

The text file is meant to be self-documenting, but in case you need some examples, here you go.

To get a report for a single resource (with some specific examples):

To generate a report for ALL resources, piped in from Get-Mailbox:
To generate reports for multiple rooms from a file:
This generates reports to the Exchange Administrator.

These examples in more general form are in a text file here.

Those of you who know PowerShell know you only need to import the function once per PowerShell session and then can invoke just the command suDoubleBookedMeetings.  If you did not know this before, you do now.

Looking to pull your Exchange Admin out of the loop on what to do with the information next?  

So glad you asked.

Watch this space for news of our cmdlet that automatically informs meeting organizers.

Monday, March 20, 2017

PowerShell cmdlet for Determining Double Booked Meetings

As we've said before, we've seen a lot of interest in this.

Here's a preview of the syntax we're using:

If you want to get in on testing this in your environment, drop us a line.

No guarantees on any of this yet, but we're so far into it we're definitely going to finish it.

Russ is spending his time with it in on-premises Exchange 2016 and Zyg is using it in our Office 365 test bed.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Detecting Resource Double Bookings in Office 365

So if you have Microsoft Exchange / Office 365 settings for resources which ALLOW for double bookings, sometimes you need to FIND where these double booking are.

Take this screen shot of the calendar for Conference Room 222

We aren't showing you the email notifications yet (because it's not done) but it's easy to find and generate the list of conflicts (notice we also have some in the next week).

Monday, March 06, 2017

New York Times: Four Ways to Be More Effective in Meetings

From The New York Times a good, succinct article: Four Ways to Be More Effective in Meetings.

Often you'll see people try to institute applications in schedulers for some of these points.

Usually it doesn't work.  

The best scheduler applications are the ones that handle timing selection, communication, and resource booking and leave the social interaction to the human social environment.  Don't over-complicate these things.  Down that path lies much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

The best advice we ever see is: don't propose a meeting without an agenda. 

'Nuff said.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Sumatra DBA: Double Booking Alert for Resources in Microsoft Exchange and Office 365

We started to get curious when what we thought was a dry, technical issue of double booked conference rooms became one of the most-read posts on our blog.  We DO pay attention to this stuff.

I refer of course to Double-Booked Meeting Rooms in Office 365 (and how to avoid them).

In the space-time-convenience continuum which is always a struggle with different views of how to optimize your Microsoft Exchange calendaring experience, Outlook and Exchange 2016 do a good job of warning you at booking time of future conflicts with resources and recurring meetings.

But 1.) time management is a very dynamic entity so conflicts creep in at awkward times and 2.) it's easy to procrastinate and then lose track of future conflicts.

The best summary of the problem was here:
We are not happy; our users are not happy.

This brought us down a path of looking at simple means to accomplish checking for double bookings and (more importantly!) to make fixing double bookings actionable on the part of end users! 

We found a serviceable script (from the author of the above quote) at Auditing Exchange Rooms for Double Bookings.

This has a few problems: it's very good at saying "yes there are double bookings in your resources, Mr. Administrator."   And then what the heck is supposed to happen?

We thought it best to let the Exchange Administrator do what they're good at (managing Exchange, installing and maintaining software, handling permissions) and to create a mechanism to get the information where it is most needed -- into the hands of he affected meeting organizers.

To this end we've created Sumatra DBA: Double Booking Alert.

Sumatra DBA: Double Booking Alert

We see the following advantages of our approach:
  • Installs and runs Server-side (no Outlook add-ins to distribute / manage)
  • Pro-active instead of reactive
  • No user training involved (notices come to the inbox of meeting organizers)
  • Admin configurable
  • Notifications configurable by site
Stay tuned for screenshots and examples.

Want in on early testing?  Contact us.