Report: Companies use Word out of habit, not necessity

A Forrester report said companies are using Microsoft Word for word processing out of habit rather than necessity and are considering other alternatives.

Companies may use Microsoft Word for word processing out of habit rather than necessity and are beginning to consider other alternatives as the Web has changed the way people create and share documents, according to a Forrester Research report.

The report, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Microsoft Word Love Story," by analyst Sheri McLeish, suggests that businesses may still be using Word because it is familiar to users or because they have a legacy investment in the application, not because it is the best option.

"Because Word has become so entrenched in the enterprise in the last 25 years, organizations cannot easily move off of it," she wrote. "So despite the noise made by the new Web-based authoring tools -- most of which are free for a limited number of users -- they have failed thus far to realize enterprise adoption."

But these other options now in the market, including Web-hosted applications from Google, Adobe Systems and Zoho, to name a few, make sharing documents and online collaboration more intuitive and easier for users, and are more cost-effective, she wrote.

They are gaining traction among small- to medium-sized businesses where Microsoft does not compete as effectively with the Office suite, McLeish said Friday in an interview about the report.

"Microsoft Office has been a cash cow for them for years," she said. "But what people are finding is they are questioning that investment. It is relatively high next to some other options on the market."

Perhaps responding to this pressure, Microsoft said this week it is expanding the features of its Office Live Workspace online document-sharing and storage application to allow people to create and edit documents online. Previously, people had to use the desktop version of Office to create documents that could then be posted and annotated through Office Live Workspace.

Microsoft's move points to another reason Google Docs, Adobe Acrobat.com and Zoho Writer applications are gaining traction with some businesses. The Web's evolution as a platform on which companies can run their businesses has changed the game for how people create, store and share word-processing documents, and collaborative, Web-based word-processing applications facilitate these new methods, McLeish noted in her report.

"Teams of information workers often use wikis in the place of early draft documents that might have formerly been circulated to a group via e-mail or posted on a shared site," she said. "Blogs bypass a document view entirely. Enterprise Web 2.0 may have just arrived but can deliver high value, particularly by being able to enhance content by associating it with peers and experts."

While enterprises still have security and integration concerns that keep them from diving into adopting the software-as-a-service model for documents head first, this trend is also another incentive for Microsoft to evolve Word and other Office applications to stay competitive, according to McLeish.

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Elizabeth Montalbano

IDG News Service

1 Comment

Anonymous

1

It's not habit! It's MSOSffice bound business processes!

<i>The report, "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: The Microsoft Word Love Story," by analyst Sheri McLeish, suggests that businesses may still be using Word because it is familiar to users or because they have a legacy investment in the application, not because it is the best option.

"Because Word has become so entrenched in the enterprise in the last 25 years, organizations cannot easily move off of it," she wrote. "So despite the noise made by the new Web-based authoring tools -- most of which are free for a limited number of users -- they have failed thus far to realize enterprise adoption."</i>

I wonder if Forrester is capable of determining when it is that necessity becomes habit? Or is it a matter of convenience? The evidence is clear from the many ODF pilot studies that it is the MSOffice bound business processes that are the impossible barrier. Years of client/server development around the Microsoft Office productivity environment has left Microsoft owning the "client" in "client/server".

No doubt these desktop bound business systems will transition to the Web. The productivity gains of doing so are extraordinary. The question is, will this transition be done through a "replacement" of MSOffice and the surrounding productivity environment? Or will it be a gradual re-purposing of that environment?

The ODF pilots scream loudly that rip-out-and-replace efforts are costly and disruptive. Which leaves us with this sad observation: if OpenOffice can't crack into existing MSOffice bound workgroups and workflows, then neither can the Linux Desktop.

Massachusetts and California determined from their ODF pilots that the only reasonable way forward was that of "re-purposing" MSOffice, moving to open and Web ready document formats using the same route that Microsoft used to transition to OOXML-XAML: the Microsoft Compatibility Pack ( a plug-in to MSOffice editors).

Replace or re-purpose? Unfortunately for Google, Zoho, BuzzWORD and other Web centric replacement efforts, there is still the workgroup problem of costly disruption. The truth is; conversion breaks documents. And does so at both the fidelity level and, most importantly, at the business process level.

Still, there is no reason for a non workgroup user to not move immediately to OpenOffice or Google-docs. HTML-CSS/JSSS is the most ubiquitously interoperable format ever to reach critical mass. For MSOffice bound workgroups though, HTML-JSSS is not an option. Microsoft has made sure of that. Instead, Microsoft offers users a very high level transition from binary to OOXML to XAML "fixed/flow". XAML is of course the proprietary Web format/layout model that is part of the platform specific Windows Presentation Foundation.

Users of MSOffice can of course choose Open Web formats, protocols, and interfaces; but at the cost of breaking both document fidelity richness and, the complex-compound business process richness of workgroup documents. Reuter's Rule: conversion breaks documents! Still, MSOffice users do have the choice between broken but Open Web compliant document formats, or, rich, compound business documents useful across the emerging sprawl of the MS WebStack-Cloud-RiA model.

One of the problems Microsoft Web competitors face is that there is no barrier to Microsoft's embracing Open Web productivity with proprietary formats, protocols and interfaces. Yet these same competitors are totally locked out of the MSOffice bound business system transition to anything other than the MS WebStack-Cloud-RiA model.

Does the Open Web even have a worthy alternative to XAML "fixed/flow"? I would argue that the WebKit layout and document format model is certainly rich enough (edge running HTML5-CSS3-JS-SVG-DOM2). But they still can't penetrate those MSOffice bound business processes!

Time to concentrate on Open Web re-purposing of MSOffice. Where's wiki-WORD when you really need it?

~ge~
<a href="http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dghfk5w9_165f7ntr6cz">It's the bound business process!</a>

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