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Office 365 business users who want to achieve Inbox Zero may be able to get there with Microsoft's Clutter email feature.
The new tool helps end users become more productive by automatically decluttering their inboxes and placing lower-priority messages into a Clutter folder. It uses Microsoft's Office Graph machine to understand end-user behavior for reading, setting aside or deleting emails and predict whether incoming messages are important or not.
Microsoft demonstrated Clutter earlier this year at its Microsoft Exchange Conference, where some IT pros questioned whether this feature would take away users' control over their inboxes. To prevent important emails from erroneously ending up in the Clutter email folder, end users will have to check both their Inbox and Clutter folders for messages.
Months later, however, IT professionals seem to have changed their tune, especially as more and more emails flood inboxes and end users try to achieve the holy grail of Inbox Zero.
"It is a tool that is desperately needed by people as they deal with all the chaos in their inbox," said Brian Katz, director of mobile innovation for a large pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey.
Katz said he wonders how much information Microsoft ends up with after users train the application. He also cautioned that too much reliance on Clutter could result in users missing important messages.
But providing a way for a user to manage an unruly inbox with hundreds of unread emails could become a competitive feature for Office 365. Since CEO Satya Nadella took the helm of the $87 billion company earlier this year, his mission has been to get Microsoft back to its roots by enabling users to become more productive while incorporating the cloud first, mobile first mantra.
Brian Katzdirector of mobile innovation with a large pharmaceutical company
The tool is designed to ensure end users see relevant information first, and that non-critical items are in the background, said Wes Miller, vice president of research at Directions of Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash. "It's all about surfacing context-critical information to users," he said.
The new feature joins a number of third-party email offerings that provide similar functionality, such as SaneBox, Mailbox and others. Google recently began beta-testing Inbox, a new Gmail interface designed to help end users declutter their inboxes by automatically categorizing incoming emails and enabling users to deal with emails immediately or later.
Clutter should be viewed in the broader context of other products such as Delve, Lync, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business and Yammer that are reinventing how workers communicate and receive information, said Chris Hertz, president and CEO of New Signature, an IT consulting company in Washington, D.C., specializing in Office 365.
Microsoft will begin rolling out Clutter to Office 365 first-release customers now and later this month for standard Office 365 tenants. The feature will be disabled as a default but can be turned on in the Outlook Web App. End users can customize their Clutter folders with actions to clean and delete messages.