Why We Need to Revisit the Office Suite

Slowly but surely, managers are beginning to realize that facilitating efficient collaboration amongst their legions of knowledge workers is a strategic priority.  Time for the office to evolveWhile this will certainly come through the deployment of improved knowledge sharing and collaboration tools, few managers know which tools they should consider deploying, so inertia sets in and they make few if any changes.

This is unfortunate because tools that were leading edge five or more years ago simply do not have the type of functionality to support the way we need to work today and in the coming years.

Let’s take word processing, for example.  In many respects, these tools have changed relatively little from the word processing hardware introduced by IBM in the 1960s.  That early hardware supported text entry, editing, and printing, and yet even as more features have been added over time, the way people use word processing tools has changed very little.  A Basex survey in early 2010 revealed that 25% of knowledge workers still print out their documents to compare the comments and edits they get from colleagues.

Today, companies have a choice in their core desktop productivity tools.  Not only does Microsoft offer the now-ubiquitous Office suite (the 2010 version was just released), but Google offers a cloud-based suite and OpenOffice.org offers an open-source solution.

While these three offerings will all competently compose documents, present slides, and crunch some numbers, their capabilities vary greatly when viewed in the context of how knowledge workers actually work.  To dig deeper into the differences between these offerings, we developed an entirely new version of our Knowledge Worker Impact Quotient, a tool we use to help potential users of an offering to understand the potential positive or negative impacts the piece of software might present.  We then applied this analysis to the offerings from Google, Microsoft, and OpenOffice.org, with somewhat surprising results.  There was little difference between the offerings in terms of very basic functionality but once any kind of collaborative or knowledge sharing processes were applied, significant differences became apparent.

Our findings and recommendations are available in two reports, “:What’s New in Microsoft Office 2010″: and “:Three Variations on a Theme: An In-Depth Analysis of Office Suites from Google, Microsoft, and OpenOffice.org”: – online here at http://www.basex.com/2010

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

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