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How Does Microsoft Office Affect Your Small Business?

How Does Microsoft Office Affect Your Small Business

Today we will be continuing our series on IT products and we'll be talking about Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is the first killer application for the personal computer. Everybody's is familiar with Microsoft Office and the suite of products that it includes: Microsoft word, Microsoft excel, PowerPoint, and outlook. There are a number of different versions of Microsoft Office that include some additional products like Access and so on.

Popularity of Office

Microsoft Office was a major player in helping Microsoft to become the dominant force within the operating system environment. Microsoft Office, as an application, was just so popular, so easy to use, and so commonplace that I think it lead a lot of people to using Microsoft Windows as their operating system. That certainly helped Microsoft to defeat Macintosh back in that earlier battle that they had in the late 80s and early 90s to become the dominant player within the operating system environment. In fact people are so comfortable and so accustomed to Microsoft Office that some people, if you ask them what type of computer they have, they will respond to you with a version of Office! "What computer do you have?" "I have Microsoft Office 2010." They choose this application to identify their computer as opposed to the at hardware vendor. Whether that was an HP or a Dell, that's not what they respond. They don't respond with which operating system they are using, which version of windows. They respond back with this application. It's just a critical application. If you look at people's time and work effort, you'll see that people send a large proportion of the time working within that Office productivity suite. Other than expert systems, I would say this is probably the number one thing. For many people it's going to be the number one thing that they are working at all day is creating word documents, excel spreadsheets, PowerPoint documents and writing email in outlook probably makes up, I would estimate, 70 or 80% of office workers activities.

Competitors to Office

There have been some new competitors and new trends that have come into the marketplace that may have an effect on Microsoft Office's domination. I would say the largest one of those is Google docs. Google docs is a cloud-based productivity suite Users of Google dos create their documents in the cloud, on the web. Those documents are available to them wherever they go physically and also on a large number of devices, including tablets and smart phones and all those different types of devices. Will Google docs and these cloud-based productivity suites surpass Microsoft Office in terms of market share? I think an important thing to always look at is what's the behaviour of the youth in our culture? What I have seen is that Google docs is very popular with young people. There are a lot of young people whose entire life is in Google docs. They don't have files on their workstation. They don't have files on their laptop. All their information is stored within Google docs. They gain the benefits of that great mobility. For them there is no cut-over. There is no change. This isn't a situation where they have 10,000 word documents and are now moving to something new. They have been using Google docs since they started producing documents. Microsoft has tried to combat this threat by producing a product called Office 365, which is their cloud-based Microsoft Office solution. All those same things that I said about Google docs: that it is available on any browser, available on any device, available in any location, all those things are apply to Microsoft Office 365 as well. So we'll see what happens between these two competing products.

Effect on your Small Business

How does affect you as a small business owner in Calgary, Alberta? I think that the first thing to realize is that Microsoft Office still is a dominant force within the market. It is a defacto standard of what your suppliers are going to be using, what your partners are going to be using, what your customers are going to be using. Often times, if you want to communicate with them, you want to be using the same product that they are. However this trend from youth rising is always something that you need to be watching. At a certain point if you're an existing business you are going to be hiring individuals who have been using Google docs for their entire life in terms of all the documents that they have produced. They're going to have expectations. They are going to have those same expectations of flexibility of device, flexibility of location, that they've enjoyed for all these years. That will start to put a pressure on you to change your choice of productivity software. it's going to be very interesting to see as this demographic ages and enters the workforce as entry level positions and ultimately as they move into management positions and as they become entrepreneurs and leaders within the environment. That may cause a shift. Will that cause a change in the choice of products that small businesses are using? I think the others scenario that's important to look at is the case of a new business venture. If you're creating a new business venture in 2012, the cloud is not something that you can ignore. It is something that you should consider and see if your long-term needs might best be satisfied by choosing that solution. There are a number of benefits as I've already outlined. It's important for you to get some good advice and choose the right product that going to help you in your new venture to be successful. This has been Jonathan Nituch from Fortress Technology Planners, an IT support company in Calgary, Alberta. We will speak to you tomorrow.

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