As much as the new cloud computing era has brought us new services and tools to manage information, organize data, and get work done, there are still some people who will say you must pry Microsoft Office from their cold, dead hands.

That’s the intimation made by San Mateo, Calif.-based Apttus Corp. with its new X-Author Chatter for Microsoft Office that ties together the productivity suite with a company’s data and Chatter feed. Rather than migrating employees out of Office software and into a new interface on Salesforce, the Apttus approach flips that notion on its head and allows employees to access Salesforce features and data without leaving Word, Excel, Outlook, or PowerPoint.

“What Salesforce lacks is a high speed, Excel-like interface,” says Jules Ehrlich, general manager of advanced solutions for Apttus. “Even though the applications have been migrated, the end-users often go back to Excel.”

Office users can access the company Chatter feed from a right-hand window pane added to each application. For Excel, a special X-Author Designer application is required to create special spreadsheets that call Salesforce data into specific rows and columns. Also, a new tab is added to Excel that allows users to call up different data sets.

A list of product inventory is added to a spreadsheet in a demonstration given by Nick McCoy, sales engineer at Apttus. Then Excel can be used to edit the quantity of items, the pricing of them, and then be used to generate a purchase order or invoice. When the data is saved, it is updated in Salesforce, he says. If the Salesforce data is changed within Salesforce, then it will be reflected in the Excel spreadsheet.

The system eliminates the need to store Excel templates and create new copies for each project you’re creating. Instead, a company would just store one central spreadsheet for each process.

Office content and files can be shared to Chatter feeds from within the applications to gather feedback from employees. Salesforce data can be revealed to employees based on their clearance settings.

It turns Excel into a real-time editor for Salesforce data, and that means you no longer have to convince your users to give it up, Ehrlich says.

“They’re used to it, they love it, it’s familiar,” he says. “They need it to get work done quickly.”

X-Author and X-Author Designer are available now for download from the Apttus website. Pricing is on a licencing model.

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