Import contacts into Exchange Global Address List GAL

Many companies have their customer contact information stored in application as a CRM or ERP system – perfect for managing contact information of customers and suppliers.

But the communication normally does not take place in the ERP system or CRM application, but in email application as e.g. Outlook for a computer, or the mail and phone application on the employees smartphone – using Microsoft Exchange as a global storage for the contact information.

The problem: importing contact information from ERP and CRM software into Microsoft Exchange

Getting accurate, up – to – date information from your ERP or CRM system into Exchange is not always available as a module from the software vendor. We have faced this problem, too.

Potential solutions are

Import-Csv Cmdlet – import a csv file to exchange

You need to export the data with specific columns in the CSV file format. Using Windows PowerShell you can import this file into Exchange.

Pro: quick, easy, free

Cons: can get complicated; not all contact information available; requires an Exchange-expert; matching/updating of existing contacts not possible

Further reading: Microsoft Using the Import-CSV Cmdlet

Import csv file to Outlook

If the contact information shall only be used by one employee/user in Outlook, it is also possible to import the contact information directly in the Outlook client.

Pro: simple, free

Cons: limited to one user, not available for other employees

Further reading: Microsoft Import email, contacts and other data to your account

Using Powershell and enable-mailcontact / new-mailcontact

Similar to the Import-CSV Cmdlet there are cmdlets for Exchange to create a new (mail-enabled) contact called New-MailContact or to mail-enable an already existing contact using Enable-MailContact – this allows to add new contacts one by one using Microsoft PowerShell. Unfortunately not all attributes as phone numbers, … are available, and also updating of existing contacts is not possible. Also quite complicate, to synchronize and push the contact information into the Microsoft Exchange GAL.

Pro: free, working

Cons: not all contact properties available, complicated; requires an Exchange expert

Further reading:

Using An ActiveDirectory Import-/Export tools available on the market

There are a handful of applications designed to import/export data into Active Directory, the storage engine that is also used by Microsoft Exchange to persist the user and contact information. These tools are mostly very powerful and profile features and functions for a lot of use cases and might be used to import and synchronize contact information.

Pro: very powerful

Cons: too complicated for this task; mostly very expensive, especially for bigger contact lists; needs an Exchange expert to set them up

A better solution?

Faced with this situation we decided to develop a better solution, especially targeted to the import/synchronization of contact lists into the Exchange GAL (Global Address List).

Our assumptions

  • Nearly every contact application can export the information into a CSV or Excel file.
  • Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Outlook and modern smartphones are used by most businesses. The solution should use the default functions provided by Microsoft, and enrich + extend them with additional and smart features.
  • It should easily be possible to import and automatically update the contacts from the CSV/Excel file into the Exchange GAL of the organization. This process should be fast, make it possible to detect and add new contacts, check for updates of existing contacts and also detect contacts that have been deleted in the ERP/CRM software but not (yet) in Exchange.
  • This solution should work for a few thousand contacts, but also 30-500k addresses.
  • The pricing should be fair.