Scheduler Comes to Microsoft 365

Posted on June 8, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Microsoft 365 with 37 Comments

Microsoft today announced Scheduler, a new extra-cost Microsoft 365 service that makes it easier to schedule meetings in an organization.

“It’s not just you: weekly meetings have increased by 148 percent and the time that employees spend trying to schedule meetings both inside and outside of their organization is climbing,” Microsoft’s Gabriel Valdez Malpartida writes in the announcement post. “With the average time to schedule a meeting taking 6 to 29 minutes, Scheduler aims to give you back time to focus on the important things by making it easier, faster, and being available 24/7 to schedule meetings for you, and it’s available starting today.”

Scheduler works with Cortana so that you can use natural language to initiate meetings with your coworkers. You can send an email from Outlook mobile or Outlook on the web that contains text like “Cortana, please find a time to meet next week” or “Cortana, please find us 45 minutes in the last week of the month in the morning for Pacific time and make it a Teams meeting,” and Cortana will either create the meeting or ask you clarifying questions.

Microsoft describes Scheduler as a back-end service that provides scheduling intelligence and workflow services including looking up attendee availability, negotiating times over email, sending calendar invites, and rescheduling or canceling a meeting if needed. It can be enabled by a Microsoft 365 administrator along with a special Scheduler custom mailbox.

Scheduler, alas, isn’t free, and it isn’t included with any Microsoft 365 commercial SKUs. You can purchase Scheduler for $10 per month per user for those with a Microsoft 365 E3, A3, E5, A5, Business Basic, Business, Business Standard, Business Premium, Office 365 E1, A1, E3, A3, E5, A5, Business Essentials, Business Premium, or Exchange Online Plan 1 or Plan 2 license.

You can learn more about Microsoft Scheduler here.

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Comments (37)

37 responses to “Scheduler Comes to Microsoft 365”

  1. winner

    For $10/month, you can talk with Cortana!

  2. red.radar

    I got to wonder how useful this tool really is. The issue has never been finding a free spot to place a meeting but rather knowing what to double book over for high value participants.

    • hrlngrv

      Is any computerized system allowed to check a high-value participant's calendar? Or does one need to go through said high valued participant's personal assistant?

      The real value here is cross-departmental meetings in which the highest level participants from each department are on the same level, so they're forced to cooperate rather than the highest level person telling other potential participants which times are available.

      • wright_is

        At the places I've worked at, everyone can see when the CEO etc. are booked, they just can't see what is booked.

        i.e. you book a meeting with CEO or a manager and Outlook shows you whether they are free or not, but you usually don't get to see what they are doing.

  3. sott3

    That price is laughable. I thought it was a misprint.

    • hrlngrv

      C'mon. Some enterprise wants this for, say, 2,000 employees. You're going to quibble about MSFT receiving US$240,000 annually from that enterprise?

      Then again, for those working for enterprises which already use SalesForce for scheduling meetings (as I do), maybe no new revenues for MSFT.

      • wright_is

        We use Outlook to schedule meetings. 90% of them are internal, so you can see when people are free or not, the rest are made whilst on a call with somebody external. For us, I don't see a benefit, let alone a benefit that is worth paying for. Also, like the subtitles in Teams, I'm guessing English only at launch, so excludes about 95% of our users.

  4. sykeward

    I see a lot of people here making a mockery of this offering and the fact that it costs $10/mo/user and who even needs a tool that does this we just need to look at the calendar etc etc. That’s fine! This product probably isn’t for you, and I think it was a mistake for MS to position it that way in this announcement.

    I work in an healthcare organization with 15,000 employees—a geographically dispersed, regulated, service-based industry. We routinely have meetings with 50+ stakeholders (some with many more, read: COVID preparations), who may have delegation paths if they’re not available. Projects can take 2+ months to begin rolling because meetings have to be booked that far in advance just to ensure that all the decision makers are present. And with 7 hospitals and 40+ clinic locations, plus ancillary services, there can absolutely be that many stakeholders. A single major meeting can take hours of labor time just to schedule. People don’t update their calendars, or they accept meetings they’re not actually planning to attend “just in case”. And in summertime, when long weekends and vacations are everywhere? Yikes.

    I’ve seen the demos of how this product works. If it’s anything like that in the real world, it could be a godsend, and I could absolutely see my company jumping at the chance to outfit admin assistants and project managers with this capability. That’s the type of customer this product is for, and they will pay handsomely for it.

    • navarac

      Thta's the problem with a lot of Health Services - far too much Admin and not enough nursing/doctoring. Who needs 50+ workers in healthcare at a meeting? You've got to be mad.

  5. ken_loewen

    I hope they leave FindTime - there are numerous opportunities to improve it but, at a basic level, it works.

  6. shark47

    I think the service looks useful. I also think it should be free. My guess is, their pitch is, "you won't need an admin assistant." It's still stupid.

  7. ghostrider

    Subscriptions will be the end of everything as we know it. Companies like MS (especially MS actually) are milking these subs for all they're worth - honestly though, $10 per user PER MONTH to schedule your calendar! I can only image MS accountants are wetting themselves in anticipation of a few more billion coming in every year off the back of this. It's getting out of hand now, and I've said this many times, cloud services exist for one reason - continuous revenue. If they weren't making money hand over fist, they wouldn't do it.

  8. bogglegox

    I think this actually makes sense, if it's only needed by a few people in an organisation. Imagine how much of an executive PA's time could be saved using this. That would be worth 10 bucks a month for their exec. You wouldn't buy it for everyone, just your main administrators. Keep basic find time and doodle for the plebs and small meetings, use this as a power feature for those who book a lot of meetings across the org.

  9. smsteven

    Scheduling meetings with a large number of attendees both internally and outside the company is the white whale of problems for me. I just don't believe this is going to work well. It needs to be 100% rock-solid and not be "cute" (I'm looking at your Cortana).

  10. Scottie Tooley

    Did they build this and realize they hate it? I see no other reason why they wouldn't make it standard AND charge $10/month. We use FindTime and it's adequate enough (assuming I hold my coworkers hands through the most basic of voting tasks).

  11. vladimir

    10 dollars per user per month can’t be right, or maybe I am missing something. It costs more than the entire m365 for each user?

  12. navarac

    ...and another subscription. It's getting to be a disease!

  13. will

    $10 a year maybe, but not $10 per month.

  14. bluvg

    $10/month/user?! They. must. be. joking.

    Syntex, Scheduler, etc.--these are wayyy too expensive for the value added. Even high-level exec assistants that might appreciate the value of this wouldn't use it this way.

  15. bluvg

    This cost just makes zero sense. You can get an entire Exchange mailbox for $48/year. As a home user, you can get the entire Office Suite for $70/year. O365 Biz Std gives you the Office Suite plus Exchange, SharePoint, Teams, and OneDrive for $150/year. That's a great value.

    $120/year for... a calendar helper? When the calendar itself is $48/year? Ridiculous.

    • brettscoast

      You make a valid point, we are blessed with many options around email\office I can only seeing this being a useful value add on for businesses\big corporates with many employees.

  16. jdjan

    Does it also make coffee?

  17. awright18

    This is targeted at businesses. Lots of add-ons for businesses for business applications are x dollars per month per user, that's just how they sell stuff. They charge that much because businesses will pay it, its only $10 per month per user. Imagine how much time is wasted trying to schedule meetings. I'd say for managers and up this is probably of great value in large enterprises.

    • bluvg

      When a niche, supplemental 1st party feature costs far more than entire feature set of the very platform it's supplementing, they've lost the plot.

    • mike2k

      Who's spending/wasting time scheduling meetings? This is not worth $10 a month

    • campbell

      Office E3 is 18 GBP per month per user. I get a spectrum of products and services for that cost.

      Are we saying that this feature is really worth 50% of that license? I think you’ve got a point, at large complex organisations it could be useful.

    • hrlngrv

      It ain't rocket science to have all user's calendars represented in a 2D array of users across one dimension and time in 5 minute intervals across the other dimension with 0 for booked and 1 for free in each person-time cell, sum across selected people, then find the largest sum across a 30 minute period between 8:00 AM and 4:00 PM Central Time Tu-Th in the next 2 weeks. The only trick would be ensuring all users have scheduled time off fully recorded in their calendars, so would appear as 1 in cells in the array above. Could even prioretize some potential participants over others by scoring them and using a dot product when summing across people.

      TBH, this is CS 102 type stuff. Well, except for the fantabulous Cortana feature.

  18. campbell

    What a waste of money. I’ll quite happily use FindTime for this….for free.


    • David Mundy

      We use Findtime at work. Also works outside your organisation for meetings with customers. Works great and is free.

      • vladimir

        Findtime belongs to Microsoft and I guess they will pull it, otherwise I don’t see how anyone will ever buy scheduler. I guess we are left with doodle, which works very well

  19. Rallicat

    OK but ... there already /is/ a Microsoft free scheduling product called 'FindTime' - so ... is that gonna be killed off?

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