Office 2010: Definitely Worth Upgrading Your System

Now that Office 2010 is available, companies should consider whether to invest in the latest version of the software. My answer is: It depends, with a strong leaning toward “yes!”

The “it depends” part considers the current state of your business’ hardware, what version of Office you are currently using, how your firm’s other software applications integrate with an upgrade and most importantly, your technology budget.

Office 2010: The Latest
According to Microsoft, the Office 2010 suite is designed to make work flows more efficient; to effectively use Web applications to make work available anywhere; and to make collaboration with others much easier.

When considering whether to upgrade to Office 2010, Outlook’s integration with Exchange Server 2010 may be a consideration or some firms.

Exchange Server 2010 is designed to reduce deployment costs; simplify high availability and disaster recovery, ease administration and provide greater mobility and flexible access.

Your Hardware and Operating Systems
For some, the decision about whether to upgrade to Office 2010 may depend on where your business is in its hardware life cycle. If you have older machines that might not support the increased hardware requirements of Office 2010, it is probably best to wait for the upgrade to coincide with your hardware refresh.

For businesses that still use Windows XP, upgrading to 2010 may not be an option, since the newest software program will probably not run efficiently on the older operating system.

Your Current Version of Office
Many companies are still using Office 2000 or Office 2003, so their choices may be between forging ahead with Office 2007 or jumping straight to Office 2010.

The learning curve is an issue to consider. Office 2007 and Office 2010 are strikingly different from the 2003 version, while Office 2010 has a more similar look and feel to Office 2007.

This is particularly true when it comes to the “ribbon,” the Office Fluent User Interface that replaced the traditional menu and toolbars in Office 2007.

Firms that are upgrading from Office 2007 to 2010 will have fewer training issues than those that are still using Office 2003 or Office 2000.

Integration Issues
Integration issues should always be a concern for any business considering new technologies.

Integration with your billing, document management, client relationship management, and calendaring software should all be considered. Often, third-party applications will require patches or updates in order to work seamlessly with Office 2010.

Communicate beforehand with your vendors to ensure that all applications will function without a hitch during and after the installation of Office 2010.

Proper planning is key, but so is testing. Testing should include both compatibility and usability.

The staff that will use the software should have an opportunity to examine it – they’ll be the best judge of how much additional training will be required.

Budgetary Issues
Now more than ever, small businesses need to get the biggest bang for their technology buck. It is not the time to roll out a new software program that may be buggy or have integration issues.

For firms with limited IT budgets, the more-proven Office 2007 could be the smarter choice, especially if the new version of Office is purchased with Microsoft Software Assurance, which gives you upgrade rights in the future to Office 2010.

Regardless of the decision your firm makes about upgrading to Office 2010, preparation is the key.

You’ll need to prepare your staff for any changes and plan for a reduction in productivity during the intial roll out.

Planning is extremely important, to ensure that the integration proceeds smoothly and the firm employees can reap all of the benefits they expect – and that they have paid for.