All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

Central Email Signatures

All recent version of Microsoft’s Exchange email server have been tightly integrated with the Windows Active Directory (AD). For those who aren’t familiar with Windows nastiness, AD is a domain’s central resource directory, managing users, security policies, hardware resources and such. Exchange is (rightly IMO) tied neatly into the AD, so that a user and their email account are all managed in one place. For any given user, the AD has fields for vast amounts of information from name and phone number right through to company structural data such as department and manager.

Any brand-conscious company is aware for the need to have any outgoing email consistently formatted, be that in plain text or rich. It’s important to have employee sign-offs, contact info and legal disclaimers looking neat and tidy and presenting the most up-to-date information. Many companies include a brief marketing message too – nothing wrong with that so long as it’s not an essay.

So this is easy. We have a central mail server that holds all the data we could ever want. We have dozens/hundreds/thousands of employees all using Outlook and needing to send consistent looking emails. So we just sent up a signature template on the server for Outlook to fetch and merge with the employee’s name, phone number and everything and place at the bottom of any new outgoing emails. Right? Wrong.

Here’s what I want:

<signature type=“global”>

{user.firstname} {user.surname}
{user.position}, {user.department}

Email: {}
Phone: {} – empowering online transactions since 1948!

I don’t think it can be done. This is insane. Email signatures are configured at the client – so they’re not even centralized for a single user if they make use of more than one computer or profile. If you need to make a change to outgoing email signatures and still keep them personalized to each users details, you have to make the change for each profile on each machine for each user in your company. That’s expensive!

Please, please someone tell me I’ve got this wrong.

Drew. (who in his other life has the misfortune of needing to consider such things as Exchange servers).