Today’s update for Office 2016’s click-to-run version (16.0.6965.2053) brings a long anticipated feature – the ability to send messages via Skype for Business to contacts that are currently offline (offline messaging). In order to take advantage of this feature, you need to be running the latest version and the feature must be enabled in the tenant configuration (more about this later).
The feature works by sending the message directly to the user’s mailbox and is only available for peer-to-peer IMs. You will no longer see the “UserXXX can’t receive IMs right now. Status is unavailable or offline.” message when trying to IM an offline contact, instead you will get “UserXXX is offline, but they’ll still get your IM as a missed message.” You can see how it looks like on the screenshot on the right.
In turn, the other party will receive notification in Skype for Business, via Windows alert and also in their mailbox. Unfortunately, in my test this part wasn’t working as expected, and the only thing I received was an email notification in my mailbox, as seen on the screenshot below. For examples on how the notifications in the Skype for Business client and Windows would look like, check the support article here: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Use-offline-messaging-in-Skype-for-Business-ffdc6a43-71a1-40ee-bfcc-640d21324a3d?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US
Now, a few words about controlling the feature. First, a new cmdlet has been made available for controlling this feature, namely the Get/Set-CsImConfiguration cmdlet. The cmdlet seems to be unavailable for my tenant yet, so again I cannot show actual examples. The usage is pretty simple however, basically you turn the feature on and off using the EnableOfflineIm paramter as detailed in this article: https://support.office.com/en-us/article/Turn-on-or-off-Offline-Messages-for-admins-8967a77f-caa2-4680-aa22-8faa32c716e4?ui=en-US&rs=en-US&ad=US.
The feature actually depends on the interoperability with some other settings as well, namely the EnableIMAutoArchiving and the DisableSavingIM parameters of the Client policy. This is summarized in the following table (stolen from the article above):
|Auto Archiving setting (EnableIMAutoArchiving) is on or off
|Saving IM setting (DisableSavingIM) is on or off
|Offline IM setting (EnableOfflineIm) is on or off||On||On||On||Off||On||Off||Off||Off|
|Does Offline IM work for your users?||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No|
As seen from the table, the only combination in which Offline messaging will work is when you have EnableIMAutoArchiving enabled and DisableSavingIM disabled, which is the default configuration. In other words, unless you are using any of the “NoArchiving” policies, you should be all set.
Some other remarks – there’s a delay of few minutes between sending the message and any sort of notification appears, which of course can hardly be an issue considering the other party was offline at the time of sending. Still, something to be aware of. Another thing to note is that the feature is not yet supported in OWA.