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12/2/2011
02:19 PM
Eric  Lundquist
Eric Lundquist
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Microsoft Office, Enjoy Your Retirement

This nearly 30-year-old product should be headed for the sunset villa in this age of smartphones, cloud computing, and Facebook.

Please join me for the retirement party for the productivity software suite.

Our good friend word/spreadsheet/presentation has been an exemplary employee, even as he gained a few pounds as contact management, calendaring, and all sorts of other bits and pieces of the office routine were piled on. And while we can have fun arguing about which was the first such software product (Framework in 1984, Lotus Symphony at about the same time), we can all agree that Microsoft Office started occupying the corner office in 1989. So thank you very much for your service. Here's your gold watch. Now go play some golf.

It's hard to believe that a nearly 30-year-old product is still synonymous with office productivity during a period that has included the rise of the Internet, smartphones, cloud computing, and Facebook. So with the retirement party over, what's the shape of the new office suite?

Let's start with social. Believe me when I say your employees aren't spending their free moments creating PowerPoint decks. They're going to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites to manage their lives and check on friends. Companies that try to restrict this activity are fighting a losing battle. Go down the hall and talk to your marketing department; they're all about inbound marketing, where brand activity on social networks translates into new customer leads and sales.

How about making your company's social networking goals an integral part of your employee social network activities? Instead of going through a Word upgrade, maybe Hootsuite or Nimble should be a central part of your productivity suite.

Application No. 2 has to be internal collaboration. Employees have escaped their cubes and are now mobile. Trying to communicate, make decisions, and manage projects in these far-flung companies is way beyond the capabilities of email and instant messaging. Maybe Box.com, Dropbox, Yammer, or, yes, Chatter, the product of Salesforce.com and its ever-effervescent CEO, Marc Benioff, should be the glue that ties collaboration together.

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No piece of that retiring office suite needs to slide into that sunset villa more desperately than slideware. It's beyond mathematics to fathom how many PowerPoint slides have been created since 1990, but let's just say it's a lot.

How many hours of productivity have been lost to decks of 100 or more slides featuring goofy animations and eye-chart-challenging rows of numbers? We may have missed our chance at a second renaissance while squinting at pie and bar charts. From now on the presentation program is all multimedia, including video of the boss talking while answering tweets from employees.

Social network management, collaboration, and lively presentation are ready to take on the office productivity duties as soon as word/spreadsheet/slideware clears out its desk.

Eric Lundquist,
VP and Editorial Analyst, InformationWeek
[email protected]

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