Small and medium businesses have more options today as it relates to productivity software. The traditional approach that involves installing Microsoft Office 2010 as an on-premise solution is one alternative. A new, cloud alternative is Microsoft Office 365 (formerly Microsoft Business Online Productivity Suite).
The first step in 7 Ways Owners Are Utilizing Technology in Business was to develop standards. Office productivity suites should be no different. To develop standards in the organization, one needs to segment both users and usage. A framework for doing this is laid out in Computer Services For Small Businesses - 6 Steps To Proactivity.
Some classes of users that a typical small business might have are:
- Non-traveling back office workers
- Mobile sales people
- Marketing staff with frequent home use requirement
- Kiosk workers without a dedicated device
- Executives who have multiple devices
Some of the typical use requirements may be word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, e-mail, database needs and content generation. Creating a matrix of user types against use cases provides a good starting point for the end-state needed. Overlaying the inventory of which users have what offerings deployed then provides the basis for the gap analysis. For example, if an executive has three computers at work, a home computer and mobile devices she may have to worry about keeping multiple versions of Office in sync. In contrast, kiosk users may own no devices, but have access to one from time to time. In this example, Microsoft Office 365 may be a good solution, because everything is in the cloud, users do not need to worry about updating versions of software and users can access e-mail or productivity software from everywhere. On the other hand, a hard-core marketing professional that takes advantage of all of the client features of Microsoft Office and wants the ability to work on or offline from a laptop may be better suited for Office 2010. As for upgrading to Office 2010 from previous versions, there are some great new collaboration features in the new suite including the ability to work in the traditional client or the Web app, as well as a host of productivity improving capabilities. These include improved rule-generation capabilities to more easily filter incoming mail, Sparklines for Excel which generate in-line minigraphs, the Windows Snipping Tool for inserting screen shots directly in documents and the ability to broadcast slides to anyone on the Web from PowerPoint.
According to PC Magazine, as of November 2010, only 4% of users had converted to Microsoft Office 2010. Some of the reasons for slow adoption are likely due to alternatives such as cloud offerings, a user interface that may be new to many users as well as a lack of awareness of the business benefits of new features. Because of the abundance of new features, the best strategy is try and buy because it will be very difficult to assess how these new capabilities will improve user productivity without seeing it in action. The inventory and gap analysis is a good starting point, however, since it highlights over or underprovisioning and provides a way of thinking about cloud, on-premise or hybrid solutions for various classes of users and work.
Another alternative is to move away from Microsoft altogether to Open Office or Google Apps. This may be a fit for certain low-end use cases, but it is important to recognize that licensing cost is a fraction of the overall cost to operate any software due to user support, productivity differences and collaboration costs to name a few.