I was trying to explain to a few people today where I think we need to focus our solution thinking in the Office 12 timeframe and I came up with this model that I thought I’d share with you all.

If I look at the information worker solution space, I think about horizontal solutions as a triangle with three scenario areas at the corners as follows:

I used to run the Microsoft Consulting Services practice for Solutions and this is how I organised it.  I had 3 teams of consultants that worked in these core areas.  We put them in one practice because we felt intuitively that they belonged together yet in reality they worked independently.  Looking back, I think it was maybe ahead of its time and when I think about Office 12, I can see that it can become a reality.

As we move into the Office 12 wave, each of these corners evolves and improves but more interestingly, new scenarios emerge which bring together ideas from each corner.  I think about this as focussing on the sides, not the corners.

So when it comes to solutions thinking, the danger is that we focus only on what we already know and just try to enhance the “corner” scenarios.  Sure, these are much improved in Office 12 but they are a continuation of existing thinking.  The intelligent company or partner will invest in the “sides” where the new opportunities lie and where Office 12 enables us to solve new business problems. 

I have noticed that when I look at the skills of our partners, they have often mirrored this model – either by specialising in one corner skill or running capabilities mapping to the corners.  We have a challenge to make the skills development leap technically and in our sales organisations to sell the new value in the sides.  Expect to see partners remodel their businesses and form alliances with other MS partners to deliver on the new opportunities together.

The thinking at the corners already has momentum and to some extent, that will evolve naturally as Office 12 emerges.  As strategic thinkers, we need to start the harder job of fleshing out the new scenarios and solution offerings at the sides.  Those who do this will soon lead the market, creating tangible advantages over their competitors.