Gates made the comments in an executive email sent to customers, partners and the media before his keynote to 100 chief executives attending Microsoft's annual CEO Summit at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash.
In the memo, Gate said companies face a "deluge of data" generated every day, and lack the tools to effectively find the information needed. As a result, businesses spend an estimated $18,000 each year per information worker in lost productivity from time spent searching for information.
"What's required is a comprehensive approach to enterprise information management that spans information creation, collection and use and helps ensure that organizations can unlock the full value of their investment in both information and people," Gates said.
To that end, Microsoft is focusing on enterprise search and software to boost productivity and collaboration among workers and improve business intelligence and workflow.
In business intelligence, Microsoft is focusing on software that supports advanced visualization and modeling of information to help workers find patterns in the data collected everyday. Smarter workflow software is expected to automate the movement of approvals, alerts and exceptions, while also having "the intelligence to recognize inefficiencies in existing processes and make improvements," Gates said.
New online meeting technologies under development would simplify collaboration on documents and plans, while also capturing and storing all of the interactions as part of a company's institutional knowledge. To improve productivity, Microsoft is working on tools to help information workers prioritize work. The software maker also plans to provide unified communication products that offer a single entry point to all tools used to communicate with coworkers and customers.
For enterprise search, Microsoft believes software needs to be tuned to search all types of data stored in an enterprise from emails to information stored in business applications and corporate databases.
In taking steps to meet those goals, Microsoft plans to roll out several products in the next 12 months, including Windows Vista, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 and Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 in the 2007 Office System, Gates said. Also planned for release in the near future is Knowledge Network for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007, an add-on that will track expertise and relationships in an organization so information workers can find people with the right skills and knowledge.