Microsoft Office 2010: Three Upgrade Tips for Enterprises

Enterprises considering upgrades to Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010 will face disruptions due to new features and integration with social networking and Web-based tools. Here are a few bits of advice from Forrester on how to plan ahead.

Government agencies and smaller businesses may be moving to low-cost online productivity suites like Google Apps, but enterprises, mostly because of security fears and Office compatibility, are still going the desktop route.

A November survey of 2,000 IT decision-makers by research firm Forrester revealed that 80 percent of companies surveyed support some version of Microsoft Office, and 78 percent have no plans for implementing an alternative to Microsoft Office.

Also, last June Forrester surveyed 152 IT decision-makers at companies of all sizes, and 92 percent were supporting either Office 2007 or Office 2003 or earlier. Only 3.3 percent were using Google Apps; 2.6 percent were using Sun StarOffice 8 or 9; and 1.9 percent were using Lotus Symphony.

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As enterprises plan for or deploy Windows 7, upgrades to Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, both now in beta and set for general release in first half of this year, are more likely to be part of an overhaul strategy, according to a recent report from research firm Forrester.

Yet the changes that come with software upgrades can be difficult to manage. The Forrester report offers advice on how to deal the disruptions that will come with enterprise upgrades to Office 2010, which includes new and unproven social networking and Web-based features.

For its part, Microsoft launched an Office 2010 Application Compatibility Program in October to give IT professionals tools to test for compatibility with code, add-ins, macros and third-party applications.

Here are three upgrade tips from Forrester that enterprises should consider:

Assess Licensing Program Options

Companies with license programs that allow free upgrades should plan to move to Office 2010 early in the year, writes Forrester, especially for power users that will make good use of productivity-enhancing features in Excel or benefit from the external collaboration updates with SharePoint.

Deal with Files Proactively, Not as Afterthoughts

The same policies and tools for managing an enterprise's IT infrastructure should apply to managing Office files. Report author and Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish writes: "Given the potential disruption that can result from broken links and macros, file incompatibility, and other unforeseen challenges, firms will benefit from understanding what content is active and what is archived."

Know Where Social Media Technologies Fit with Productivity

With Office 2010, Microsoft is attempting to reinvent the e-mail inbox by integrating Outlook with social networking sites such as LinkedIn. But Forrester warns that it's not clear if and how this will boost productivity versus being a distraction and possible security risk.

To keep such features from becoming a hindrance, the social media integration tool, called Outlook Social Connector, can be turned off or limited to internal social sites such as SharePoint.

"As enterprises increasingly block access to sites like Facebook, it's important to know where greater connectivity and context can improve collaboration," writes McLeish.

Shane O'Neill is a senior writer at CIO.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/smoneill. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter at twitter.com/CIOonline.

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