Okay, so I'm a sucker for nostalgia. But being on the same stage as Gilda Radner and John Belushi and John Candy and Tina Fey was a thrill. And being in the same studio where Elvis Costello and the Attractions stopped "Less Than Zero" after a few bars and jumped into "Radio Radio" in defiance of NBC's wishes brought a rebellious, empowered smile to my face.
NBC's Studio 8H, home of Saturday Night Live, is where Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 yesterday. It was a short, punchy, customer-filled event. These products are the latest in the "Wave 14" product set, a ginormous (as my 9-year old says) overhaul of the Office product line. And they're beauts. Here's my (admittedly enthusiastic) analysis of what Microsoft has accomplished with this product.
- The lion awakens and roars.
Microsoft's Office business has taken a battering in the press as journalists chase stories about the important innovations from nimble startup competitors, open source alternatives, and Web-based productivity tools. But let's face it. Microsoft doesn't have 500,000,000 people using its tools for no reason. And while three years is a long time to wait for a product release (especially in this era of instant innovation via the Internet), Microsoft has re-confirmed its position as the most important driver of business productivity on the planet. This launch will crush the dreams of a 100 entrepreneurs and force another 1,000 to rethink their companies. That's okay. It's what happens when Microsoft turns a niche product for a geeky few into a global feature that anybody can use. As an economy, we need it.
The empowerment is real.
Microsoft is the original empowerer. Together with IBM and Intel, Microsoft created the premier groundswell technology, the PC. The company has always focused on bringing more power to more people. That's the heart and soul of empowerment — give people the tools to solve the problems they need to solve. This 2010 product launch just confirms Microsoft's dominant place in empowering HEROes to solve customer problems. As a sidebar to the 2010 launch, you should expect to see your employees start using Office Web Apps on their Hotmail account to collaborate with customers and partners. It's basically Google Docs but with Microsoft documents.
- The features feel good.
There's something in here for everybody. Outlook 2010 lets you work with conversations rather than messages, and suck in your Facebook and LinkedIn contacts, and ignore the email noise that's driving you crazy. SharePoint 2010 lets you browse the organizational directory using a Silverlight gadget, and use real social features, and a whole bunch of other stuff. Excel 2010 manipulates a million or more rows at lightning speed in memory. Backstage gives you a "cockpit for the document" so you can more easily manage, publish, and print it. PowerPoint 2010 lets you edit a video and compress it for sharing. Office Web Apps works in IE, Firefox, and Safari. And my favorite, SharePoint 2010 with the Office 2010 tools or Web tools let you co-author a document and see the changes of your co-author in real time. The feel-good feature list goes on and on and on.
- The timing is spectacular.
We're coming out of the recession. We have a real operating system in Windows 7 to upgrade. We're looking to lock in the savings that the recession forced us to make in avoiding travel and improve collaboration. Our computers are aging. It all adds up to a perfect storm of opportunity to sweep out the old and bring in the new. I'm not sure I'd recommend throwing out the Office 2007 that you just implemented, but anybody still running 2003 or older has no excuse not to upgrade. And for advanced information workers, the 2010 toolset makes it worth upgrading from 2007. And it's probably worth pausing your new SharePoint 2007 rollout and migrating it to 2010 first.
- The economics make sense.
Forrester has done some custom analysis of Total Economic Impact (ROI on steroids) of the entire 2010 product family. I participated in the user interviews and helped build the models. We heard over and over and over again from clients what the economic benefits of the 2010 product family are. They fall into several categories, including productivity improvements from better collaboration and productivity tools (two weeks a year per advanced information worker), email storage savings (2-4X in some cases), and much easier IT administration. It's a profound improvement over the 2007 product line and especially over the 2003 product line. And as usual, Microsoft has bundled in tools that you previously paid another vendor to provide. Storage, social tools, basic archiving, email filtering, etc. Add it all up, and the economics just make sense.
- The cloud strategy is significant.
Software + Service is in fact a real strategy at Microsoft. The company has made a huge bet on hosting these applications in a true multi-tenant environment. Later this year, Microsoft will upgrade its Business Productivity Online Suite with the 2010 product line. It's a big deal to be able to buy these services — virtually all of them, including SharePoint — as a cheap subscription. Email list price is $5/user/month. Add in the full collaboration and SharePoint stack, and the list price is $15/user/month. That's chump change to a business manager with a $15M payroll. Add to this the ability to serve some employees from the cloud and others from the data center, and you have a compelling opportunity to offload cost and hassle to Microsoft.
Of course, the hard work lies ahead.
Now, the reality check. These are not upgrades. They are migrations. Sure, Office 2010 uses the same document formats as 2007. But you will need to staff up or buy help to implement these technologies. Don't do it without also overhauling your delivery infrastructure (Windows 7 on the client and Windows Server 2008 R2 on the server), consolidating your systems, redeploying staff and servers, and retiring redundant third-party tools.
No, it's not a perfect solution. But it's one that you as an information and knowledge management professional should feel good about. Let the wild rumpus start. Care to share? Please do.