Committing to an upgrade was simply a matter of time, he says. “A lot of clients were moving ahead of us and sending us data in Excel spreadsheets that simply weren’t compatible.”

By the summer of 2008, the firm was asked to work on some time sensitive spreadsheets that required a fast turnaround. “We couldn’t open the documents right away and having to contact the customer and ask for the conversion just created problems,” says Roth. “We had planned to upgrade in 2008. But when that happened we fast tracked our plans. That alone made the jump to 2007 worthwhile.”

Stuart Crawford of Bulletproof IT in Calgary – a Microsoft Gold Partner and Small Business Specialist – notes that Downey Swainson Roth’s case is not unusual. “Compatibility of older formats is becoming an issue with a lot of companies. Tackling that issue with an upgrade helps you communicate with your partners much more effectively. It also saves you the time associated with having to ask people to convert new files into older formats so you can read them.”

Timing is everything

For business owners that may have been holding back on upgrading their Microsoft Office software, now is the opportune time he adds. Until July 3, 2009, commercial purchasers can get a rebate of up to $300 per eligible license when they purchase qualifying Open licenses for Microsoft Office Professional Plus 2007 or Microsoft Office Standard 2007. (Academic, government and charity customers are not eligible for this promotion.)
Purchasers can enjoy all the benefits of:

  • A complete, powerful suite of productivity, collaboration and database software.
  • A new collaboration infrastructure that allows teams to work together anytime, anywhere with easy-to-use tools.
  • Advanced electronic forms and workflow tools to automate business processes, including content management.
  • A broad array of advanced search, information management and analysis technologies.

“Besides the dollar savings, the productivity gains alone make it worth your while,” Crawford explains. “If you consider that the integration features can save you 25 mouse clicks per day person – that adds up.” Once the firm made the move Roth agrees there was more to be gained than simply speed. “We found some very nice features that we hadn’t expected.”

The biggest selling feature in his mind is the interoperability between programs and the ability to collaborate with his peers. “I can open and save a document and attach it quickly and efficiently, which saves me all sorts of time during the day.”

Another significant time and money saver is the Microsoft Save as PDF add-in, a download that allows you to export and save to the PDF format in eight 2007 Microsoft Office programs. It also allows you to send files as e-mail attachments in the PDF format in a subset of these programs. “Not only does this save time, you don’t have to invest in additional Adobe software,” says Crawford.

An added bonus is the fact that it’s a simple matter to create professional looking documents. “It’s really, really easy,” says Crawford. “Especially with features like SmartArt in PowerPoint 2007 which allows you to create professional presentations with a couple of clicks. All the templates and tools are available to do it.”

Making the transition

Those that might be daunted by the prospect of an upgrade will be pleased to hear it’s all relatively seamless – and painless. The job was completed overnight, since the office is set up on a virtualized server configuration, so it only required a single installation on the terminal server and the applications could be pushed out to the desktops which operate as thin clients. “From an IT perspective, you just put in the CD and install it – that’s pretty much it,” explains Crawford.

When firms standardize on Microsoft Office 2007, immediately they can pull information from many lines of business applications and services including SharePoint, MS CRM, Great Plains, Navasion, Windows Mobile, SBS Server and Microsoft Exchange.

Both Crawford and Roth admit there is a bit of a learning curve involved when first using Office 2007, since the contextual tabs in the new version take a bit of getting used to. “But once you do it, you will never want to go back,” says Crawford. “It changes the way you think about creating information and using the tools, while following the normal workflow many information workers use on a day to day basis.”

Roth reports it only took a couple of days to get up to speed on the new look and feel of the program – with a little help from Bulletproof IT. “Admittedly we needed to learn where the new commands were on the screen but it wasn’t long before we were all comfortable with program – from administration who generally work in Word to accounting, where we mostly use Excel.”

He adds that an especially “nice feature” for the accounting team is the enhanced graphics. “Since our group uses Excel, we’ve found the graphics to be a lot better for some spreadsheets, especially the organizational charts that we use in tax planning. There are just a lot more visual images we can use, including shading and colours for borders, which it makes our reports much more professional looking.”

Roth is also finding that document management is much more seamless. Documents are sent to the centralized document management system where they can be accessed for emails, printing and scanning. “We’re finding that retrieving documents is a lot faster and simpler,” says Roth. “Before we were working with an older version of Outlook so had to convert Excel documents and downgrade them to Office 2000 to get them to work. Now we don’t have to do that extra step when corresponding back and forth with clients.”

Crawford notes that many small businesses may still be waiting to see what the rest of their peers are doing when it comes to upgrading to Office 2007, but ultimately, “Any client that do the switch wonder why they waited so long. It just makes doing business so much better.”

Learn more about the Microsoft Office 2007 promotion.

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