Editor's Note, Sept. 26, 2003: The list of Office Solution Accelerators in the accompanying list has been updated.
REDMOND, Wash., Sept. 22, 2003 — The business lessons learned and technologies mastered during the current economic downturn will not fade away once the economy rights itself. Business owners and managers continue to look for ways to cut costs and increase productivity.
With its new Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators, Microsoft has taken another step toward fulfilling the vision of the Microsoft Office System to help enterprises continue to cut costs, increase productivity and grow their businesses.
Designed for and built on the Microsoft Office System, Office Solution Accelerators comprise an integrated set of components, templates and best practices designed to solve specific problems common to various organizations. (See list in sidebar.) Each Office Solution Accelerator enables customers and partners to build an end-to-end solution that addresses a key enterprise need, such as streamlining the heavy administrative load associated with recruiting in human resources departments. The new Office Solution Accelerators will start to become available in October in conjunction with the release of the Microsoft Office System.
PressPass spoke with Anders Brown , group product manager in Microsoft's Information Worker New Markets group -- which focuses on enabling information workers, teams and organizations to optimize productivity and maximize their return on software investment -- about how Microsoft came to develop the Office Solution Accelerators and how they'll benefit customers.
PressPass: What are the Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators, and how do they tie into the overall Office System?
Anders: We built Office Solution Accelerators in response to customers who say they want to get more out of the software they already own. It's another way that Microsoft is striving to deliver more value to customers and at the same time help customers and our industry partners alike grow their businesses.
The overall Microsoft Office System contains programs, servers, services and solutions. Office Solution Accelerators are the solutions piece of this package. Office Solutions Accelerators provide software components, templates and architectural guidance that augment the core Office System by helping solve very specific business problems.
We're targeting Office Solution Accelerators at information workers in common organizational areas, such as finance, operations, sales and human resources. For example, many HR processes are very information worker-centric. Our HR customers tell us that administrative tasks such as interview scheduling can take up to 50 percent of their time.
So we built an Accelerator for Recruiting for workers looking to speed up the recruiting process. We did this by integrating our core Office System applications like InfoPath, Outlook and SharePoint Portal Server into a targeted software offering with tools that automate recruiting tasks, in turn saving time and increasing productivity.
Anders Brown, group product manager, Microsoft Information Worker New Markets.
PressPass: How did you identify the specific challenges business customers face?
Anders: We talked to customers about their business problems and how they currently use the Microsoft Office System. It was clear that many customers wanted to know how to get the most out of their Office software in the context of their businesses. That's why we chose to focus on common organizational business problems in order to help people streamline processes and increase productivity in the context of what they do each day.
For instance, sales professionals are very focused on writing and managing proposals. Often, they use Microsoft Word to write a proposal, and we know that customers want a better solution to make that process easier. The Microsoft Office Solution Accelerator for Proposals, when combined with a partner solution offering, improves on the Microsoft Office System to resolve problems that sales professionals typically face when creating proposals.
PressPass: What role do Microsoft partners play in delivering the Accelerators?
Anders: Customers tell us repeatedly that they want a complete, end-to-end solution. What that means to them is software, services, maintenance, training and customization. Office Solution Accelerators are aimed at enabling partners to deliver end-to-end solutions for information workers. Microsoft's industry partners play an integral part in achieving this full solution and in helping to customize the Office Solution Accelerator for each customer.
The Office Solution Accelerator program also lets partners extend their core skills -- technology services and implementation --into new service offerings. For instance, a partner that has invested in a SharePoint Portal Server offering can deliver that service, in conjunction with the corresponding Office Solution Accelerator, into the HR, sales and finance departments, among others.
PressPass: How can Accelerators enable customers to get more value out of the Microsoft products they already own?
Anders: Office Solution Accelerators will allow companies to increase productivity, shorten business cycles, streamline business processes and eventually lower the overall cost of doing business. For example, time saved with the Office Solution Accelerator for Proposals will let customers focus on increasing revenue and profits instead of struggling with proposal management.
We've built these Office Accelerators to take advantage of the investments that customers have already made in training employees on Office. Today, many customers don't want to roll out new software that requires large training investments. By building Office Solution Accelerators on top of the new Microsoft Office System, customers leverage what they already have.
PressPass: Do customers need the Microsoft Office 2003 editions to use the accelerators?
Anders: That's correct. We developed the Office Solution Accelerators to take advantage of the new capabilities in the Microsoft Office 2003 editions, such as the deep support for XML and XML Web Services. Adopting an industry-specific Office Solution Accelerator will be a perfect opportunity for customers to take advantage of the greater value and functionality in the Microsoft Office System.