Friday, April 11, 2014

GAL Sync Wars - Smartphone users caught in the crossfire

Syncing the GAL to SmartPhones at odds with Outlook Social Connector

By Vern Weitzman

One of our customers is using a Cisco phone system.  They opted to place five digit phone extensions in the business phone number field in the GAL (Global Address List).  This makes it easy to choose a co-worker from the GAL to direct dial them.

Like a lot of companies, they also have several hundred users; most with iPhones, BlackBerry and Android.  However, when someone added a contact from the GAL to Outlook, or they did a GAL Lookup from their smartphone, they had a problem. When that five digit phone number became an Outlook Contact, the smartphone user had no easy way to dial an internal extension.  

The company also decided that they did not want employees manually adding, updating and deleting GAL contacts on their smartphone. They wanted an automated solution that would sync the GAL to an Outlook subfolder, and thus every smartphone. That’s where itrezzo Unified Contact Management came into the picture.  There was a simple Mandatory Contact List that synced the GAL to the iPhone.   They killed a few birds with one stone; they got the direct dial issue solved, all GAL contacts were automatically kept up to date, and now they also had full caller ID reverse lookup. When a co-worker called, smartphone users always see the persons name and picture.

They also solved a fourth problem. The contact automation allowed them to have a consistent phone number format in the business phone field. They prefixed every number with the country code (+1) and the proper 10 digit dialing format.  Now when senior staff were traveling internationally, the procedure for calling back to the home office worked flawlessly.

The Outlook (Anti) Social Connector

We got everything set up and running perfectly for hundreds of users. Mysteriously  the helpdesk got occasional reports that the five digit numbers were appearing in the Business Phone field of some contacts. AGAIN!

itrezzo automated contact updates

The customer had random updates for random users where the Business Phone Number got neutered. It was infrequent and in many instances, the itrezzo automated contact updates would eventually correct the issue. However, it still a fight that would never end. In the mean time, the smartphone user was a casualty of this war.

Of course itrezzo gets the first call on this, we are their contact management guru’s. Once we saw a screen snapshot of a sample contact, we knew instantly from the Notes field of the contact that it was modified by the Outlook Social Connector. OSC is the mischief maker that periodically grabs information from the GAL and updates contacts.  It seems almost random because Outlook has to be running. Even then it seems to run infrequently and it sneaks in and overwrites the Business Number with the 5 digit extension. In this case, the VP of sales had a miserable time trying to call his assistant when he was on the road.  When he was back in the office, one of the helpdesk technicians paid him a visit and changed his laptop and Desktop by disabling the OSC. In many instances, people just want to completely disable the entire OSC. However, the VP was a serious dealmaker and a networker -- he needed the LinkedIn functionality of OSC.  We had to leave OSC intact and instead we made a registry hack to “DisableContactGALSync”.

Outlook Social Connector (OSC) File

You can also establish a domain policy that will achieve this exact scenario without having to make visits to user desktops.  Click here for detailed technical settings on OSC.

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