How to Use Outlook for Approval Tracking
By Alan Sembera
Outlook's voting button provides a convenient way to submit items for approval to supervisors or team members. When the recipient votes for one of the choices, Outlook tracks the response and allows you to view a summary of the all the answers to a specific message. You can poll a single person or an entire group, providing simple choices such as "Approve/Reject" or more complicated options you make up yourself.
To track items you submitted for an approval or vote, your mail account must be on a Microsoft Exchange server. Exchange servers typically are used in office environments; your home and personal email accounts probably don't use an Exchange server unless you set up the account through your work or school. Also, the recipients of the email must use Outlook 2003 or later in order to cast a vote, although they don't need an Exchange account if they are only receiving the message.
Sending Your Approval Request
Submitting your email request using the tracking feature is fairly straightforward: Compose your email message as you would normally, including the question or document for which you require approval. Switch to the "Options" tab and click "Use Voting Buttons" on the ribbon. Outlook displays choices you can offer the recipients. Give them a choice to approve or reject, or request a simple Yes, No or Maybe. You can also select "Custom" to provide you own options; simply enter the options in the "Use Voting Buttons" field on the next screen, separating each option with a semicolon.
Using the Voting Buttons
When the recipient opens your message in Outlook, he'll see an alert at the top telling him the message includes voting buttons. By clicking the alert in Outlook 2013 and Outlook 2010, the recipient can display the voting options and click one. In versions 2007 and 2003, the voting options appear on the toolbar. After the person casts his vote, Outlook automatically sends a reply to the original sender notifying him of the selection.
Track the Results
In addition to being able to track the results from the subject lines, you can pull up a table that shows a summary of responses to a single question. This feature is particularly useful when you submit a question to a large group. Simply open one of the replies to your question and then click the person's response at the top of the message. Outlook displays another option to "View Voting Responses." Click the option to see all the votes, approvals or rejections submitted for this particular question.
Alan Sembera began writing for local newspapers in Texas and Louisiana. His professional career includes stints as a computer tech, information editor and income tax preparer. Sembera now writes full time about business and technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Texas A&M University.