You may have recently noticed a new message in your Admin Center letting you know that a new feature is enabled in your tenant called Direct to Calendar Invites. Like this:
I wanted to explain this feature a little bit better than Microsoft did since it may not be immediately clear by reading what’s given here. Picture the following use-case: You’re in a fairly large company and you’ve got someone who is responsible for sending out invites to a lot of folks for a specific event in which everyone is expected to attend. Normally, that user would send out a meeting invite to the masses and then they would have to deal with the ensuing barrage of Accepted, Declined, etc… With the Direct to Calendar feature, that same user can now send that same meeting invite, but THIS time, the invite goes directly into the recipients calendar as Accepted. No notification to the recipient (if you choose – more on that later), no backscatter to the poor sender. It’s a win-win (in most cases – there will, of course, be those users who would be miffed at something getting “automatically” accepted in their calendar, but I digress. Let’s celebrate the spirit of this new feature.)
The steps involved are fairly straight forward and the directions on how to do so are here. If you notice, this is all done by using Transport Rules (under Mail Flow in ECP for you GUI-types). There are two types of associated rules (also not made completely obvious as to what they do in the TechNet article):
- The first Transport Rule to identify WHO can actually do this. This one is super important for a few reasons, chief of which being that you don’t want just anyone to be able to shove calendar invites in someone else’s calendar. These people need to be selected carefully. Additionally, the user does NOT get this right directly. You have to assign the feature to a Shared Mailbox (a dedicated standard mailbox is also acceptable, but you need to burn a license for that. Why would you do that if Shared Mailboxes work just as well without having to burn the license? DO whatever makes sense for your environment) in which these users have access so that user can log into said Shared Mailbox and create the invite. The reason for this is that if you apply this rule directly to a user, ALL invites that user sends out will be treated as Direct to Calendar. This is obviously not a desirable state. So your best bet is to create a Shared Mailbox specific to the invite, give the user access to the mailbox, have the user log into the mailbox, and create the invite from there. You can also set the invite to be marked as Accepted, Tentative, or Declined (although, why would you send out an invite to be mass-declined? Whatever – it’s an option haha)
- The second Transport Rule is optional. This rule is to prevent the meeting notifications ending up in the recipients mailbox. It essentially creates the invite in the recipients calendar and deletes the request right away. I call this “Stealth Ninja Meeting Invite Rule“. 🙂
As with any new feature like this, I recommend TESTING it out first to see what it does and how it does it.
Hope that clears up any confusion for those of you out there looking to implement this useful feature in Exchange Online.