Understanding Your Exchange Users' Requirements

How well do you understand the needs and requirements of your end users? Everytime I ask this, I get the same response: "Fully." When I ask about conducting an email survey, it usually falls in deaf ears, because IT folks feel it is a waste of time to survey people on topics they already know everything about. 

I asked a customer to give me a figure, "What is the expectation for uptime on your Exchange platform?" Five 9s, course. I was allowed to do the survey regardless. What did I discover? 70% of the users said that as long as Exchange was available between 8:00 and 5:00, that was sufficient. 

I would encourage everyone to take end user surveys about email features, usage and expectations. The results can be quite enlightening. The most important aspect of any survey is to ensure that the questions you ask do not facilitate an expected response. For example, never ask end users how many nines of uptime they require, for they will always say five. Instead, you need to ask questions that allow you to make your own conclusions. 

It is also important to note that many features of Exchange (such as performance and unlimited mailbox stores) are incompatible. Rather than asking questions that will ultimately commit you to providing both, force users to set priorities (see last section of survey below) and use those priorities in the design of your service level agreements and design criteria. 

Below is a smaple of the questionnaire that I like to ask. This particular one was written with Microsoft Office InfoPath, so that I could use the XML import feature in Access to aggregate results and fully automate the reporting process. You could just as easily create a web site or SharePoint site to design the survey. In the future, I'll talk about how this information might be used to deisgn SLAs with end users, something that most of my federated customers dread discussing.


First Name: Last Name:
Department: Title:
Select the role from the list at the right that most closely matches your title and role within the organization:
How did you obtain MOST of your training on using email and calendaring?
How would you rate yourself as an email user compared to others throughout your organization?
In general, how many email messages do you process on a typical day and what percentage of your total workload is handled with email (versus telephone, onsite visits, meetings, etc.). Receive:   Send:    Job Percentage:  %
Tell us about your regular work schedule. 

For simplification purposes, choose the hours you typically work (even if they are somewhat different from day to day) and the days of the week you are normally scheduled for.  If you start or leave on the half hour, please round accordingly (example: 8:30 AM would be 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM would by 5:00 PM).



 Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday

Saturday Sunday


Please indicate how often you use the following messaging-related tools, features and services. Rarely means that you use the feature only a few times a year, and occasionally means that you use the feature a few times a month.

Feature Never Rarely Occasionally Regularly
I send email to team members and others within my organization
I send email to customers, or other business-related contacts
I use email to send attachments
I maintain my own calendar appointments
I view the calendar appointment details of others
I maintain the calendar of another (such as an admin assistant)
I share external contacts with members of my team or department
I require access to Free/Busy time of others to schedule appointments
I use inbox rules to manage my incoming mail
I belong to distribution groups (Teams, Special Interest, etc.)
I own or maintain membership of a distribution group
I maintain a personal address books of external contacts
I store information in public messaging stores (news groups, public folders, etc.)
I send or receive faxes through the current email system
I remove items from the email server and place them into local files
I notify external users when I am out of the office (automated replies)
I notify internal colleagues when I am out of the office (automated replies)
I find people I need to contact by searching the global address list
I find people I need to contact by browsing the global address list
I send email that must be digitally signed (authenticated)
I send email that must be encrypted (privacy)
I receive spam or unsolicited email (phishing schemes, etc.)
I receive viruses or malicious code from people I know or don't know
I send email outside the organization that is sensitive or restricted
I access my mailbox from home during non-working hours
I access my mailbox on weekends
I access my mailbox on holidays
I've been unable to access my email at a time when it was critical to my job
I've been unable to access email for a period greater than four hours (with or without notification) when I needed it.
My job performance is affected by unplanned downtime of the email service
With advance notice, I could tolerate 4 hours of planned downtime for maintenance
I Contact information technology group to recover email items or entire mailbox
I access my mail from a desktop computer (fixed location)
I access my mail primarily from a work-issued laptop (roaming)
I access my email or calendar from other computers owned by our organization
I access my email from public computers in airports or coffee shops, etc.
I access my email or calendar from a hand-held device
I access my email from my home PC


The following features and functions are generally incompatible, from a deployment view. Please rank the services in their order of importance to you. Each service or feature must be assigned an ordered priority, no two attributes can be the same priority.

High Availability (Less than 8 Hours Downtime Annually)
Lack of data corruption for mailbox and calendar items
Access to delegate or manager's calendar
Clear and concise escalation path when I have technical issues
Access to my mailbox from a mobile device
Fast Recovery of Mailbox Items (2 hours or less)
Reliability, even if it meant weekly maintenance of 4 hours (off-peak)
Remote access to email from my laptop or public computer
Retention of accidentally deleted items
Unlimited Mailbox Store