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1/25/2010
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Should SMBs Upgrade To Office 2010?

Just because Microsoft releases a new version of Office, does that mean you need to buy it? Just as important, if you do buy it, do you need to buy it for all the workers in your company?

A pair of Forrester Reports offer insight into what Microsoft Office 2010 offers for small and midsize companies, and whether companies should provide the same productivity tools to all their workers. For me, though, the operative question is whether everyone in your company needs the same productivity suite?

In A Glimpse At The Best And Worst Of Office 2010, Forrester Analyst Sheri McLeish writes that "with increasing competition and commoditization of productivity tools, Microsoft must convince... buyers that Office 2010 provides compelling value to justify the upgrade effort and costs." And just as important, considering best practices such as workforce segmentation, is it still necessary -- or desirable -- to buy a copy of Microsoft Office for every knowledge knowledge worker in your company?

But late last year, in Best Practices: Microsoft Office Enterprise Strategy, McLeish noted that user satisfaction with Office is generally high and that 78% of companies have no plans to implement Office alternatives.

Still, she notes that Forrester is already seeing firms planning to upgrade some workers to Office 2010, while moving other workers to Google Apps or Zoho. And at least one medical equipment manufacturer now "provides Google Apps to new recruits out of college because they aren’t as vested in Office, whereas older employees would revolt against such a change."

The big factor pushing these changes is that even SMBs big enough to get volume pricing from Microsoft are likely to find that Office remains by far the high-priced choice. And at the same time, Office alternatives are becoming increasingly compatible with the premium brand.


Don't Miss: Slideshow: 12+ New Microsoft Office 2010 Features


So what's the right approach to maximizing productivity at minimum cost? McLeish suggests that companies:

"Categorize iWorkers by what they need" and then "Move beyond a one-size-fits-all mentality." Survey workers about their Office use and what they really need and want, then "segment the workforce by level of collaboration, time spent working remotely, and attitudes toward the technologies." Finally use these variations to "drive cost savings and efficiencies that lean, fit-to-purpose software can offer." Just beware of "skewed or poor data," "creating too many segments," and "ignoring other dependencies." To avoid those problems, leverage your company's market research experts, keep to 6 segments or less, and add qualitative interviews to go deeper than the survey data.

"Leverage iWorker data to solve overprovisioning" and then "Get ready for the cloud." That means getting the best deal from Microsoft, and also making sure that each worker gets what they really need -- and whether that can come from Microsoft or other vendors online productivity offerings. "Eliminating MS license costs is an attractive possibility. But the decision to jump ship to a Web-based or Open Office alternative is reckless without knowing that it will meet the needs of your workforce and business processes." Creating several different scenarios can help support your purchasing decisions. Just be sure to allow enough prep time for purchasing negotiations and don't underestimate your company's negotiating position. Microsoft is fighting hard to keep its competitors at bay, and that gives even smaller companies some leverage.

"Optimize Office tools for effeciency and integration" and then "Know where mobile apps fit in your workforce." Most workers don't come close to maximizing the power of the Office apps. Both formal and informal learning can help, and automating repetitive manual tasks can significantly boost productivity -- if you can invest the development resources. There's a similar opportunity in using productivity apps on mobile devices, Forrester says, as mobile productivity expands in 2011. But the first step is to figure out who at your company needs to do what in a mobile environment.

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