REDMOND, Wash., May 18, 2005 -- From engaging in global business collaboration to managing overwhelming streams of information, the demands facing organizations and individuals in today's always-on, always-connected digital work environment are more complex than ever. Information technology continues to play a critical role -- both in transforming the business environment and in helping organizations address new business challenges. Through it all, though, one constant remains: the talents of information workers are what enable organizations to innovate and adapt.
These and other workplace trends shaping the "New World of Work" are at the center of discussion at the ninth annual Microsoft CEO Summit taking place Thursday and Friday (May 19-20) on the company's Redmond campus. To learn more about how the next wave of Microsoft Office products, servers and services will deliver the advanced tools and solutions needed to empower customers to succeed in this evolving landscape, PressPass spoke with Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group.
PressPass: How has the world of information work evolved since the October 2003 release of the Microsoft Office System?
Capossela: Technology innovation continues to drive phenomenal changes in the way people work. The volume of documents, e-mails, instant messages, financial reports and other content that workers need to sort through every day has grown exponentially. As a result, workers and organizations are fast becoming overwhelmed by the challenges of converting information into usable business insight while staying focused on high-priority tasks. Also, as wireless connectivity has become even more pervasive in the last few years, people are finding themselves always connected and pressured to be available 24-by-7 for work-related demands.
In today's global market, companies have had to reconsider their communications strategies. We've seen an explosion in the demand for information workers at all levels of an organization to collaborate -- often on the spur of the moment -- with colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers. This increasing need to efficiently and securely share information across geographic boundaries, time zones and company firewalls has introduced new challenges for IT departments. They need technology that allows them to maintain control over sensitive data, as well as make the collaboration infrastructure work seamlessly so that information is not only easy to find but also is kept up to date.
Interestingly, the same technologies that make information sharing so fast and easy are also compelling organizations to become more transparent and accountable to governments, investors and consumers. Balancing those new compliance responsibilities with issues of data security, confidentiality and storage will require improved technologies that enable companies to manage their internal data in less burdensome and more insightful ways.
At Microsoft, we refer to the intersection of these emerging trends as the "New World of Work," and we view it as a landscape in which our customers will be more challenged to conduct business while being faced with even greater expectations for results. In this environment, business value and competitive advantage will increasingly stem from the intellectual property, strategic insights, innovative processes and service personalization that organizations deliver. Microsoft has been innovating on behalf of millions of information workers for more than two decades, and the release of Microsoft Office 2003 has done a great job of beginning to address new workplace challenges. However, we recognize that there's more we can do to give people even greater control over their information, their time, their jobs and their results. We're excited to show information workers around the world a better way to deal with the rapidly changing workplace via the next wave of Microsoft Office products, currently code-named "Office 12."
PressPass: In light of these trends, what is the overall future direction for Microsoft Office?
Capossela: We're focused on evolving the next wave of Microsoft Office products, currently code-named "Office 12," beyond its already strong support for personal productivity to deliver huge advances in meeting both specialized and everyday information work needs. The design focuses on five general areas that customers have identified as important needs: individual impact, collaboration, knowledge discovery and insight, enterprise content lifecycle, and information solution IT fundamentals.
PressPass: How did the development team identify these five areas as the best way to meet customer needs in the changing workplace?
Capossela: We've done thousands of hours of primary research that includes visiting customers in what we call "Office 9 to 5 Studies," where we watch how people work to see where they're experiencing the most pain. Our customer advisory councils and partner advisory councils also have provided detailed feedback about how our plans measure up to their expectations and needs. Plus, we have digital connection tools built right into the Office programs that let customers notify us via the Web whenever they encounter a problem or have other feedback. All of these input sources feed directly to the Microsoft Office development teams. No other software company dedicates more time and financial resources toward building a deep connection to customers.
We feel great about the next wave of Microsoft Office products because we know that it will be customer-driven and innovative in solving real challenges. Plus, one of the fun parts about shipping new software is getting it into the hands of real users who can give us feedback early in the product's development. We're anticipating that more customers will help us test "Office 12" than we've ever involved in previous releases of Office. The next wave will cap more than three years of intense effort throughout our company, and I'm confident that these will continue to be the productivity tools that everyone is going to want at their fingertips.
PressPass: What is in store for individuals who want to increase their business impact using "Office 12"?
Capossela: We recognize that a lot of our customers would like to use more of the power of Microsoft Office software but have struggled to discover the tools that are available and figure out how to use them. The next wave will help people get better results faster. For instance, there will be new tools in Microsoft Office PowerPoint that automatically apply professional-quality formatting and layout to slides so people can focus their attention on the content. In the end, the people within an organization are really its heroes -- they're the driving force behind business innovation and competitive advantage, and we want to put the right tools in their hands to help them bring their unique skills and perspective to bear. We think "Office 12" will achieve this by helping them create more dynamic documents with less effort than they ever imagined possible.
Chris Capossela, Corporate Vice President, Information Worker Product Management Group
PressPass: How will "Office 12" improve collaboration?
Capossela: The opportunities in this area are centered on further integrating all the different modes of communication that information workers use -- from instant messaging to phones to Web portal sites to e-mail and so on -- so that end users can effortlessly share information between these different channels without really having to think about which one they're using. We're also addressing the IT complexity that comes with enabling collaboration over corporate boundaries by making it easier to set up and use shared workspaces in Microsoft Office SharePoint Portal Server. To complement that work, the team is also looking at how best to incorporate peer-to-peer collaboration capabilities from Groove Networks. Personally, I'm excited about upcoming advances in "Office 12" that will let me securely connect with a trusted partner outside of my corporate firewall to share documents and track issues at a moment's notice, from anywhere and at any time that we have Internet access.
PressPass: How will "Office 12" enhance workers' ability to locate, understand and act upon important information?
Capossela: We think of this as effective data visualization, and our focus in the next wave of Microsoft Office products is aimed at ensuring that information workers can use the Office tools they love in order to more easily consume the vast amounts of data that exist inside of their corporations. When I say 'consume,' I mean being able to view the data in meaningful ways, easily share the insights gained with others and confidently make business decisions that give organizations a competitive advantage. A great example of this is the work we're doing with Microsoft Office Excel to let users create real-time visual dashboards and scorecards directly from the data within their spreadsheets, then share that business intelligence in a central Microsoft Office SharePoint portal site or workspace for others to view and expand upon with their insights. This enables teams and organization to gain a single and up-to-date version of the truth about their business instead of always trying to reconcile information from multiple spreadsheets that are floating around in e-mail.
PressPass: What enhancements can IT managers look forward to in "Office 12?"
Capossela: We know our customers experience a tremendous amount of pain in managing the vast quantity of digital content that gets produced inside a company every year. In addition to the work we've put into making content easy to create with Microsoft Office, we're going to make it just as easy for IT departments to manage that content inside an organization using "Office 12" servers and services. For example, organizations will be able to centrally define expiration and archival policies for the content, as well as establish the consistent approval workflows needed to meet compliance, reporting and accuracy standards. This means that IT managers gain the control they need while information workers can continue using Microsoft Office Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint tools to create content that naturally respects the central content lifecycle policies. Ultimately, giving everyone in an organization the ability to control the production, lifespan and distribution of information directly from within the applications they know is just plain good business sense.
PressPass: What are the highlights of the upcoming Office release for developers and partners?
Capossela: We have a huge focus on embracing open XML standards in "Office 12" to make it far easier for the software to interoperate effectively with companies' back-end systems. This deeper incorporation of XML will allow corporate developers and Microsoft partners to build unique solutions on top of the work that we've already done. In other words, integrating familiar Microsoft Office tools with enterprise resource management systems will become easier, and developers also can create rich applications for specialized industry needs. Another exciting scenario that this enriched XML support will open up is the ability to create easy-to-use Microsoft Office InfoPath forms that allow workers, such as a company's sales force, to extract and analyze data from their company's customer relationship management system without ever leaving the Office interface or having to worry about what's taking place on back-end systems.
PressPass: When will customers get their first look at "Office 12"?
Capossela: Microsoft "Office 12" development is well under way, and we expect to deliver the final programs, servers and services in the second half of 2006. This fall, we'll begin a series of extensive beta testing cycles that will give a broad range of audiences a chance to try the new technologies for themselves.