At the release of Office 2010 last week, Microsoft talked about its ability to increase worker productivity (the carrot). However, clients that I’ve talked to are moving to Office 2010 because Microsoft gives them little choice (the stick).
Let me explain. At the Office 2010 announcement event in New York last week, Microsoft asserted that Office 2010 would lead to significant productivity gains. The second paragraph in the press release quotes Stephen Elop as saying, “Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 define the future of productivity.” The third paragraph highlights a Forrester Consulting study (commissioned by Microsoft) that noted, “the ROI to be 301 percent with a payback period of 7.4 months after deployment.”
Having used Office 2010 for the past three months, I must admit I’m skeptical of claims of noticable productivity gains, especially when Office is used as a standalone productivity suite. Many of the changes are UI tweaks (e.g., font effects, improved slide transitions) or affect a small segment of the user base (e.g., users can now edit videos in PowerPoint). However, to be fair, I haven’t read the Forrester study yet, so I could be converted–we’ll see.
The interesting part, however, is that when clients call asking for advice about whether to move to Office 2010, they never start off asking about the possible productivity gains; the discussion always centers around licensing and pricing. A typical call is along the lines of, “We’re on Office 2003 and we’ve got to get off of it. [Mainstream support for Office 2003 ended on April 14, 2009; extended support will continue until April 8, 2014.] Our enterprise agreement covers Office 2007; if we want to go to Office 2010 we’ll have to pay more money. What should we do?” When I ask about Office 2003, they’re typically very happy with it. They’d continue to run it and not spend the money for an upgrade if they could. The only reason they’re moving is because Microsoft is withdrawing support for it.
So while I believe Office 2010 will sell quite well, I would not attribute it to the reason that Microsoft gives: an enterprise desire to increase worker productivity. Instead, I would read it as enterprises moving to the next version of Office because they have to. (Largely driven by how Microsoft structures the Enterprise Agreement; but that’s a topic for another post.)