Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Microsoft Unveils Office ‘Fourth Pillar’

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In an effort to make its Office System more useful in common organizational
tasks — and give partners a stepped up sales pitch — Microsoft Monday unleashed one last surprise in its vision of what
constitutes its new system, with the unveiling of the Microsoft Office
Solution Accelerator program.

The program brings Office into the solutions space by focusing on providing
packages that will help customers take their existing Microsoft
applications and systems and streamline organizational tasks, like
implementing compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or jumpstarting Six
Sigma implementations.

Anders Brown, group product manager of the Information Worker New Markets
Group at Microsoft, told internetnews.com that Office System —
slated to launch on Oct. 21 — now consists of four main pillars: programs,
servers, services and now solutions.

“An Office Solution Accelerator is really an integrated set of software
components, templates and architectural guidance,” Brown said.

The idea is to give Microsoft partners the tools to go beyond just
integration by helping them provide a complete, end-to-end solution to
customers, based around integrating, configuring and customizing Office
Solution Accelerators. Through the Accelerator packages, Brown said
partners will be able to spend less time integrating Microsoft products and
dedicate more time on higher value-add services specific to their

“The Office Solution Accelerators will allow us to quickly relate customers
pains to demonstrable solutions; this capability was always expensive and
time-consuming in the past,” said Rob O’Dell, National Solutions director
for Immedient, a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in solution
deployment and integration. “They enable customers to quickly leverage
their investments in the Microsoft platform, while being assured of the
best architectural approach and ongoing enhancements in functionality. This
will positively impact the top and bottom line for customers.”

This isn’t the first time Microsoft has ventured into the solutions space
with its products (it offers Management Pack Modules, out-of-the-box
solutions for its servers and applications), but it is the first time it
has done so with Office, Joe Wilcox, Microsoft analyst with Jupiter
Research, told internetnews.com. Wilcox said the program synchs with
Microsoft’s new thinking when it comes to its productivity suite.

“In the past, Microsoft sold Office on the features. What has it got? Now
Microsoft is stepping back and trying to sell Office more on what you can
do with it,” Wilcox said.

“Microsoft is really trying to reinvent Office and shift the focus away
from the individual applications toward what businesses can do with the
entire package,” he said. “So the company has been working on what it calls
‘scenarios’ around which businesses might use Office. You’ll see this same
approach adopted with other products, particularly as Microsoft begins to
advance its Windows Longhorn platform. The benefit is really for
Microsoft’s channel partners, probably more than the customer.”

Wilcox explained that Microsoft does not have a broad sales force. Instead,
it relies on local resellers and system integrators to go out into the
field and sell its products.

“The company has every incentive to try to help them do that,” he said.

He added, “Microsoft wants to communicate the value of Office 2003. The
company wants people to adopt the new product as quickly as possible. These
packages are one way to do that.”

Brown noted that the company is training its partners to sell the new
solutions, and will host 200 partners at its Redmond campus for a training
event next week.

“We fully expect partners to trade service offerings around these,” Brown

Microsoft will begin releasing the first seven accelerators this fall.
Brown said the initial packages aim to streamline tasks in areas like
finance, operations, sales and human resources. Future efforts will focus
on additional packages aimed at information workers in those areas.

Initial packages will include:

  • Office Solution Accelerator for Sarbanes-Oxley, which Microsoft said
    will help organizations address key compliance needs like business process
    documentation and distributed certification
  • Office Solution Accelerator for XBRL, aimed at streamlining the
    financial reporting process through the utilization of Extensible Business
    Reporting Language , which the company said would allow
    customers to standardize internal and external financial information
    management processes, in order to provide increased financial transparency
    and support for new financial compliance legislation

  • Office Solution Accelerator for Recruiting, designed to help human
    resources departments integrate recruiting tools
  • Office Solution Accelerator for Proposals, intended to streamline the
    proposal creation process
  • Office Solution Accelerator for Six Sigma, which seeks to help
    organizations manage Six Sigma projects
  • Office Solution Accelerator for Business Scorecards, which aims to
    simplify management of key performance initiatives
  • Office Solution Accelerator for Excel Reporting, which seeks to extend
    Excel’s reporting capabilities for freeform analysis and reporting,
    streamlining report creation.

“All of them are essentially built on top of the Office System,” Brown
said. He added, “This is really about listening to customer feedback.
They’re saying ‘hey, we want more ongoing value in-between large releases
of Office.'”

Brown said Microsoft will provide guidance on pricing and licensing at a
later date.

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