Q

Is it really cost efficient to offer users the latest versions of software?

It is very nice to see people talk about the great savings that the latest versions of Office will deliver. My experience as a business person/IT professional/part time college professor is that the vast majority of office workers could and should continue to work with Office 97 since 100% of the functionality they desire or ever need is delivered by that office suite.

But 99% of office workers wouldn't know XML if they tripped over it. I usually recommend putting the money into training staff to use existing software rather than buying the latest and greatest which serves to make a lot of extra work for the IT department and provides virtually no return on investment for any organization other than Microsoft. What?s your take on this?
I respectfully disagree with you (not about your XML comment, though). Many of these features work behind the scenes helping users become more productive without them even knowing about it.

I can personally attest to the benefit of many of the new features in Office 2003 and how they affect my productivity as a user. For example, Outlook 2003 is far and away a better application than Outlook 2002, Outlook 2002, and earlier. The spam filter works tremendously well and helps me avoid hundreds of useless messages each day. The new Folder Pane most definitely makes navigating mail folders less time consuming. The new Search Folders feature almost ensures that I won't loose important messages and helps me to follow up important messages on a timely basis. That's Outlook 2003. In Word 2003 there are features like the Research Pane that make looking up nitpicky facts more productive. The new Reading View makes proof reading documents less tiresome on my eyes. I'm convinced that these and many other features would benefit most office users.

And you're not taking into account what it costs to manage and maintain these programs over time (which is the majority of the total cost of ownership). The management features in Office 2003 far outshine the capabilities of Office 97. Companies definitely save money by moving away from Office 97 and to at least Office XP.

This was first published in November 2003
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