Office 2007 beta testers explore upgrade options

Customer adoption of Microsoft Office 2007 has posed few challenges for two Microsoft partners participating in the new system’s beta and rapid deployment programs.

“This is a cultural type of change, not necessarily technology related,” said Chuck Ma, director of consulting services at Buchanan Associates, a solution provider based in Mississauga, Ont. Ma was one of two Microsoft partners the company corralled to discuss its forthcoming release in a teleconferernce on Friday.

For users, “technology is an enabler which allows them to work together on documents without having to, for instance, e-mail things back and forth.” Having that type of collaboration capability present in Office 2007 will be a key driver for adoption, added Ma.

Buchanan currently has two customers in production with Microsoft Office 2007.

“When we presented the new capabilities and features to one of the customer’s IT directors, he brought in some business executives and once they saw the new interface and functionality, they wanted it on their desktops immediately,” he said.

Accruent, an ISV that provides real estate management solutions for over 340 North American retail and corporate customers, has been involved in the beta program since last November.

“We’ve had a really good response from both customers and other partners we work with in terms of our own software integration with the Office system,” said Steven Wong, director of product management at Toronto-based Accruent Canada.

The ISV has extended its enterprise real estate solution into Microsoft Office 2007 through a product it will be releasing in Q1 called Accruent Desktop Connector.

“It extends and enables business workers to interact with their enterprise solution right from within Outlook, Excel and Word,” said Wong. “For us it was important to bring business processes and key business information from our system and marry them with the information that customers use on a regular basis.”

Wong added that with the new Office system, “a lot of simplicity is brought into the applications and it also provides ISVs like us the development tools to be able to integrate into that new platform.”

“Customers are excited about the way we can now mesh together our enterprise information with Office’s tools,” he said.

For additional margin potential on Microsoft Office 2007, Ma added that Buchanan could add layer opportunities such as security or an upgrade to an active directory.

“We also see opportunities related to the Exchange Server in Vista because that’s in the radar of our customers,” he said.

Also, “there’s additional business intelligence tools that can be layered on top of the Office system, such as a Microsoft Business Scorecard Manager,” added Ma. “We’re seeing interest in that from customers who want to take advantage of getting information to their key users, executives and drilling down to key performance indicators. 

From an ISV perspective, Wong said the integration with Microsoft Office 2007 increases the number of users that have access to Accruent’s platform and products.

“By leveraging technology like Office 2007 on both the client and server side, we’re really increasing the reach and scope of our products by the use of the Office suite,” he said.

Wong said Accruent’s customers are already seeing the value proposition of the new Office system.

“It’s about reducing cycle times, improving processes and achieving compliance and we’re able to quickly and easily show that by extending (our software) into the Office platform,” he said. “It’s giving them that competitive edge and achieve quicker time to market.”

According to Ma, the new Office suite will sell itself but, “we’ll be helping users understand the different capabilities that are there and those capabilities hit a lot of pain points for customers.”

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