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Understanding Office 365 Contacts

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Microsoft Office 365 offers many different types of contacts, but not all types of contacts can be created by every Office 365 user and some of them are not visible to all the users in Office 365. Therefore, you have to carefully consider the pros and cons before you decide which types of contacts should be used within your organization.

The following table describes the different types of contacts that are available in Office 365 and points out their advantages and disadvantages. Once you understand the different types of contacts, you can then decide which one you are going to use for your organization. It is best to plan your contacts strategy before you migrate to Office 365 and then train the users on how to use them. You can download a PDF file of this table for offline use.



Type of Contact Description of Contact Advantages Disadvantages
Office 365 Contacts Office 365 contacts are created by the administrators and are available under People to all users in Office 365. The contacts are visible to all users in Microsoft Outlook, Outlook on the Web, and mobile devices. These contacts can only be created and updated by Office 365 administrators.

You can’t add custom fields for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.

SharePoint Contacts SharePoint Contacts app can be used to store business contacts for SharePoint Online users. The contacts will be visible not only on the SharePoint site, but also on the SharePoint mobile app. Users who have access to the SharePoint team sites and SharePoint mobile apps will be able to see and update these contacts.

The contacts are flexible and can use custom fields, views, workflows, etc.

These contacts cannot be used outside SharePoint in Outlook or People in Office 365.

Requires some basic knowledge of the SharePoint lists.

Microsoft Access Contacts You can use the Access Contacts app to store your customers contacts. They will be visible in Access, or in a SharePoint site if hosted there. User who have access to Access app or SharePoint site that hosts the app will be able to see and update the contacts.

Contacts will be much more customizable and useful because you will be able to take advantage of the functionality in Access.

Unless your Office 365 plan already includes Access, you’ll have to purchase it.

Only users that are familiar with Access will be able to take advantage of this contact solution.

Dynamics CRM Online Contacts If you have purchased Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, you can use it to store and manage your customer contacts, along with other customer relationship management (CRM) features.

Using this for contacts will only make sense if you plan to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM in your business.

Dynamics completely integrates with Office 365 so there won’t be a need to have another contact list in Office 365 or SharePoint. More complicated than other options and will require customization.

Pretty expensive as a “contacts” solution on its own. Even if you are a one-person shop, Dynamics CRM will cost you at least $250/month.

Third-Party Contacts One of the above contacts should be sufficient for you, but if for some reason you want to use a third-party contact, you can either use a third-party app available in the office Store or purchase a third-party contact software that integrates with Office 365. These types of contacts are rarely needed in Office 365. These will be likely to cost much more than other contacts in Office 365 (except for Dynamics, which will be most expensive), unless you find a third-party contact app in the Office Store. However, you are likely to get many more features in a third-party app. Depending on the level of integration, you may need a separate login.

The type of integration with Office 365 may be questionable.

You have to rely on the third-party for technical support.

You will find the above information useful to make a decision for your organization. In my experience, the vast majority of organizations need to use Office 365 contacts because they can be used throughout the Office 365 environment. The above list is in order of common usage. For example, Office 365 contacts are the most used and the third-party contacts are the least used.

  1. Office 365 Contacts
    It doesn’t matter if you are in SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, Mail, Calendar, OneDrive, Tasks, Planner, Flow, Dynamics 365, Forms, or any other Office 365 apps, you will be able to use the Office 365 contacts everywhere.
  2. SharePoint Contacts
    The SharePoint contacts are limited to SharePoint sites so the only time you want to use these contacts will be when you don’t care about using them in email or anywhere else in other Office 365 apps (e.g. Mail, Calendar, etc.). Needless to say, this is not a common scenario.
  3. Microsoft Access Contacts
    Microsoft Access contacts are also rarely used because they can be only used in SharePoint site or Access. Microsoft is discouraging the use of Access anyway because it’s old technology and you would only use Access contacts if all your users know how to use Access. In addition, not all Office 365 subscriptions include Access, which means you may have to purchase Access licenses.
  4. Dynamics CRM Online Contacts
    Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online is designed for large organizations, but there is nothing stopping from a small organization using it. Unlike some other applications, Microsoft hasn’t made Dynamics CRM affordable to the masses. Therefore, smaller businesses with five or less employees rarely use this application. Small businesses, independent contractors, and sole proprietors make up the majority of business owners in the United States. However, Microsoft is not going after that market at the time I wrote this article. Currently the minimum price for purchasing Microsoft Dynamics CRM is $250/month. That’s $50/month per user with a mandatory purchase of 5 licenses. So, a sole proprietor who doesn’t have any employees will have to buy 5 licenses for herself, or find another solution that may not integrate with Office 365. For businesses who use Dynamics CRM, using CRM contacts is a fantastic option as long as they can afford it. This solution is overall a bit more complex and requires user training in Dynamics CRM. Also, keep in mind that if you have 5,000 users you will have to purchase 5,000 Dynamics CRM licenses.
  5. Third-Party Contacts
    These types of contacts are rare because of the cost. Businesses also have to make sure that their third-party contact solution integrates well with Office 365, which they often will if they are advertised as Office 365 integrated solutions. However, you will have to rely on the third-party for technical support. If you call Microsoft, they may ask you to remove the third-party application before they can help you troubleshoot any problems and they would be justifiable in making that request. Therefore, it’s not common for organizations to use third-party applications for contacts.

Download a PDF file of the above table for offline use.

Thanks for reading my article. If you are interested in IT training & consulting services, please reach out to me. Visit ZubairAlexander.com for information on my professional background.

Copyright © 2017 SeattlePro Enterprises, LLC. All rights reserved.

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