Updating contacts across multiple contact lists

New Contributor

In our organisation we use Outlook (Office 365) to manage a large number of contacts, and we use contact lists (or "contact groups" in the Outlook app) to categorize those contacts.


It's quite common for individual contacts to be added to multiple contact lists, for example freelancers or partners that are part of multiple projects. Unfortunately, updating contacts in one place, whether that's in a contact list or the address book, does not automatically update them in other places like the other contact lists they're part of. So when someone changes their e-mail address, we have to manually go through all the contact lists to update their information. We have thousands of contacts, updates come in frequently, and there's no way to search contact lists for a particular name or e-mail address, so this has become quite a nuisance.


This is explicitly stated when you add or edit a contact list: "The email addresses in a contact list are not connected to your saved contacts." So this appears to be by design (or necessity).


Are we doing this wrong, and is there perhaps another way to achieve this in Outlook? If not, are there any third-party tools or add-ins we can use? Or do we need to look at other products to manage our contacts?

3 Replies

If you want to "share" those contacts between multiple users/departments in your organizations, either create them directly in the GAL, or use a shared mailbox or similar. In other words, one central store, which all other users can access as needed, thus eliminating the need to update addresses multiple times. Even a SharePoint list should do (although you cannot sync it to mobiles).


Few years back Microsoft introduced the Outlook Customer Manager for such scenarios, but it has been pretty much gone into oblivion since then. Other options would be to use some CRM solution, meaning spend some $$$.

Thanks for your input, Vasil.

Sharing of contacts centrally within the organisation is another issue we're facing, but I'm confident we can solve that one, and I'll take your suggestions when I look into that later.

What we're running into now is that we have multiple Contact Lists that we use as mailing lists to reach out to certain people. For example, we might have a Contact List with acoustic guitar teachers, and another with bass guitar teachers. Some of the guitar teachers might also teach bass guitar, however, so those would appear in both lists. If we update the information of a teacher in the list of bass guitar teachers (or in their main Contacts card), their information would not be updated anywhere else. We'd have to go through all the relevant lists to see if the same person needs to be updated in any of them.

We could take these contact lists out of Outlook and into a third-party solution, but we still use Outlook for e-mail, so that would not be ideal. I seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, and I'm frankly surprised this isn't possible with Outlook, because what's the point of having Contact Lists if there's no synchronization and they quickly become outdated?

Tagging or labeling contacts would also be fine as an alternative way to categorize them, but that doesn't seem to be possible either.

Any other ideas would be most welcome!

Outlook simply regards those as "personal", thus no sync mechanism. Evaluate the options I listed above, they are intended for "sharing" contacts.