Yesterday's presentations were to two groups of sales managers from Computacenter to whom I attempted to convey something of the Office System in 40 minutes. I'm not sure I got it across all that effectively. It is pretty hard to get through the 15 desktop applications and 6 servers in a short pitch and leave people with some sort of coherent picture. Of course most people still think of Office as Word, PowerPoint and Excel so our challenge in 2007 is to expand the vision of Office to encompass the whole environment, client and server. This is the reason why we named it the 2007 Microsoft Office system to make sure we always talk about the system not just the apps. But how to get that across to people in a short presentation? Approaches I have used to overcome this have been:

Tack 1: People Ready business and the New World of Work

   

The PRB messaging is built on a simple premise. No matter how your company is looking to achieve success, it is through empowering the brilliance of your people which will be the foundation. Our Office System vision enables people to make decisions, make connections and create insight which delivers on multiple fronts. We believe that software has a unique capacity to amplify the good work that people do. The New World of Work research helps to back this up too (whitepaper here), aligning trends in the workplace with technology investment areas. This all leads naturally into talking about the core personal experience of using the desktop applications and hooking them into a richer Office system. So that works OK - its a bit marketing so can annoy a more technical audience but can be a good way to frame the debate.

   Tack 2: Capabilities

   

The capabilities are another way we talk about what the Office system can do by grouping the functions into these four solution areas:

  • Comms and Collaboration
  • Business Intelligence
  • Enterprise Content Management
  • Enterprise Project Management

These areas are often regarded in isolation by many and treated as problems solved by widely different software solutions. We see them converging and we see them tightly integrated with where people live and work today - in the heartland of the office applications like Word, Excel and Outlook. All of these capabilities are built on the same elegant architecture and so there is much less integration work for us to do to enable powerful solutions. The Office system becomes a platform for building applications and solutions. The bedrock of this architecture being SharePoint.

Boiling it down

The question I am often asked is "OK this is great but can you boil it down to one message for us?". This seems like an impossible question but the answer came to me as I started to prepare today's presentation which was an overview of SharePoint for one of our gold partners, Ratio One. I wasn't happy with my presentation yesterday because it felt too client side and didn't really illustrate the Office system in action. I rewrote my pitch to focus much more on SharePoint because everything connects to SharePoint. SharePoint Server 2007 continues to be the spearhead of the server side of the Office system and as such is central to people understanding the more expansive vision we have of Office generally. All the desktop application integrate with SharePoint and every capability depends on it. Some examples of what I mean:

  • All the desktop applications can save to team sites direct from the save as dialogue
  • Access integrates with SharePoint lists, putting data on the server
  • Excel services enables spreadsheets to run on the SharePoint server
  • Groove workspaces integrate with SharePoint doc libraries
  • Outlook takes documents offline directly from the actions button in SharePoint and maintains the links
  • InfoPath posts results directly to the document library
  • PowerPoint publishes slides to a special SharePoint slide library
  • Outlook consumes lists using RSS directly from any list in SharePoint
  • Excel can connect to data sources held in the business data catalogue in SharePoint
  • Project Server is built on SharePoint
  • Forms Server is part of SharePoint enabling rendering of infopath forms to the browse
  • Presence of people shows in all SharePoint lists, integrating it with Communicator
  • CMS is now part of SharePoint
  • Workflow is built in to the SharePoint platform
  • SharePoint Designer, the evolution of Frontpage 12, enables the customisation of SharePoint sites

So in summary, what is the one piece of advice? Well if you force me to boil it down to one thing its this:

Go SharePoint and good things happen.

Like Active Directory, which all solutions built on Microsoft products and technologies utterly depend on, SharePoint is the rock on which all Office System goodness is built on. With SharePoint Server, many scenarios will just work out of the box and combined with the 2007 release on the desktop, lots of the capability-style scenarios will begin to emerge naturally.

What made SharePoint great was that it was a triple whammy out of the box. SharePoint was with three great solutions in one - document management, portal and search. That worked because these problems always come together. If you know you have a problem managing your documents, you almost certainly will get benefit from search. If you know you need better search, you probably are thinking about how to build better intranet portals as well. The new SharePoint Server 2007 (note we dropped the word "portal" because SharePoint is so much more now), pulls together all the new scenarios in the one platform. These areas spill over into each other and lead from one to the next. To put it another way, we see a lot of convergence in these technology challenges. So SharePoint continues to unite the Office system. In that sense it continues in the tradition of what made it successful in 2001.

So there you have it - if you want to dive into the heart of Office - my advice is start with SharePoint.