Microsoft Office is still heavyweight in the workplace, Forrester survey finds

Microsoft Corp.’s Office 2013 is still the top choice among workplace productivity tools, although cloud-based email is steadily gaining some ground, according to a new study from technology and market research firm Forrester Research Inc.

Releasing its report on Oct. 15, Forrester polled about 155 IT decision-makers back in July. It found above all else, about 77 per cent of respondents want their solutions to be compatible with Microsoft Office. To them, that’s more important than having mobile apps, collaboration features, or integration with collaboration tools. And less than 10 per cent of people polled said their organization had an alternative to Office for their co-workers.

(Image: Forrester Research Inc.) Click for larger image.
(Image: Forrester Research Inc.) Click for larger image.

Right now, a lot of companies are still running Office 2010, but many are planning to upgrade to Office 2013 soon. Sixteen per cent of respondents said they planned to upgrade within a year, while 20 per cent said they’d upgrade later than that. Still, for the 32 per cent who haven’t made any plans to bump up to the next level of Office, they said they felt there was no “compelling business reason to upgrade.”

However, that being said, Google Docs and Google Drive seemed to have gained traction over Office Web Apps, even though more organizations were using Office 365 than Google Apps.

Still, cloud-based email seems to be moving on up. Half of the organizations surveyed have a number of employees still accessing their emails from on-premises servers, but another 25 per cent said they planned to start using cloud email.

(Image: Forrester Research Inc.) Click for larger image.
(Image: Forrester Research Inc.) Click for larger image.

“IT pros complain that they are paying for an office productivity suite with a lot more functionality than most employees need. Web mail represents a step in changing how firms work,” wrote Philipp Karcher, the author of the report.

“If IT can wean employees off standalone software like Microsoft Outlook and IBM Notes and adopt lightweight, cloud-connected applications for email, they will be part of the way to accepting browser-based document, spreadsheet, and presentation editing tools. Many organizations using cloud email, however, are happy to continue using Outlook, which is also part of Office 365.”

The report went on to say that for the most part, on-premises collaboration using Microsoft is by far the option of choice for most organizations. About 78 per cent of companies in the survey are using Microsoft Exchange Server, and 82 per cent are running SharePoint Server. That put Microsoft Exchange far ahead of competitors like IBM Notes.

With all of this mind, the Forrester report indicates there hasn’t been much room for open source alternatives. In its last survey, conducted two years ago, Forrester found 13 per cent of those polled said they were supporting at least one variant of OpenOffice. Now, that number has dropped to about five per cent.

“OpenOffice and LibreOffice are still serviceable lightweight alternatives on the desktop, but they have been overshadowed by web-based tools that differentiate with superior support for mobile devices and collaborative document editing,” Karcher wrote.

“However, those features may be unimportant for firms that just want a stripped-down solution for workers with basic needs.”

Still, for bigger organizations, Microsoft Office isn’t going away any time soon, Karcher added. A major reason for that is employees don’t really want change – it’s only IT departments that are pushing for a move away from Office in favour of something cheaper, he wrote.

“Microsoft Office already is the consumer leader. Many employees have been using Microsoft Office all their lives at home, in school, and at work. If they wanted to use alternative tools, they could – and some do choose to complement or replace their use of Office with alternatives,” he wrote.

Although some employees do go for free consumer options, like Google or Apple iWork for the new iPhone, it may take some time before Microsoft Office loses its status in the workplace, he said.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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