Microstiff - Microsoft Outings of the Third Kind

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Microstiff – Office Live: Take it From Someone Who's Installed and Modified It!

Early detractors of Office Live know not of what they speak! Microsofties and small businesses at large don’t seem to have a clue to the possibilities ALREADY inherent in this “umbrella of online programs” all accessible from a single location and all seemingly designed for the small American business to sell more and keep track of things… all for a very modest price!

Whose fault is it that no one yet knows? You guessed it: Microsoft. But, the trouble lies not so much in the quality and capability of this set of small business solutions, made available without one penny of SMB software investment but, in the enthusiastic promotion of these solutions.

Now, I am not one who usually congratulates Microsoft for anything, lately. This is because with Vista and Office 12, they have lost their compass. However, Office Live is different, dear hearts. Office Live is different.

I know this because I am in the process of completing the installation of a robust Office Live application, complete with modified databases, for a local computerized cash register company. Let me tell you, piece by piece, what Office Live means or will mean to them:

Domain Registration: Easy and straightforward. Registered it one day and it was usable the next. Readers have said that deleting a domain they don’t actually want is...a bear. I chalk that up to the typical “exceptions programming” within any new product. The mainstream activities ALWAYS get the most developmental attention.

Website Creation: Simple and straightforward. Pictures, fonts, links were all intuitive to use. Basic templates are very professional. Maps, data collection, slide show and weather are just a few of the “modules” that can be embedded into a page. And, they can now shut down their laboriously-slow in house website, free up its server and never pay a webmaster another dime!

Email for their Employees: Twenty-five (25) for free. Yourname@yourwebsiteaddress. Uses Hotmail which is ok but takes a loooooonnnnngg time to load. Microsoft should do something about this. Cash register support and management can now talk to each other where they couldn’t before, at least using a unified website address. They love this and now know if the CEO sends them an email, they better be reading it. Great tool!

Note: Success of group email in small companies is dependent on insisting that the CEO embrace - and enforce - employee communication using email as a necessary tool. Follow up is often required by the consultant to insure its use.

Contacts: Customers are in process for being entered into the contacts database. These customers as well as vendors, employees and partners can be accessed by other Office Live included modules (Project Management, Customer Support, shared Calendars).

Customer Support: Present customers require ongoing support for their computerized cash registers both in a restaurant and school environment. The current solution is online but outmoded. Microsoft’s solution allows for modifications, which were made for this client, so that the new customer support database is more comprehensive and sort/selectable on a myriad of screen reports, all online.

Project Management: Projects are being established in Gantt and other formats for the scrutiny of new customers (typically school districts) and ongoing modifications to and review of project register installation timelines are simple and graphic.

Sales: Products and proposals can be entered into their own databases to create proposals and quotes. Corporate documents, proposal formats, basic documents, etc. will soon be attached so all employees and SOME customers can access for usage, by password. This project is not yet started but…will be, soon. Squeaky wheel.

Calendaring – What used to be a hodge podge of phone tag and yellow sticky notes regarding the whereabouts of any manager and/or support person is morphing into a great shared calendar capability using the premium calendar services. Additionally, resources such as register demo machine(s), LCD projectors and customer training rooms are easily reserved.

So, there you have it. This is all in process and represents a considerable upgrade to this company’s way of doing business with very little training and expense! This company gets this all for $40 a month! As volume increases, so will the Mb charges but, they are very reasonable.

So, don’t tell me that Microsoft doesn’t know what they are doing when it comes to Office Live. Now, Ray Ozzie, find a way to tell the rest of the world! And…keep making it better.

P.S. Don’t forget, my client didn’t even use the FREE Microsoft Accounting Express 2007 which can or will be accessed by the Office Live modules mentioned above! More Office Live bang for the buck!

DISCLAIMER: I do not work for the Evil Empire and while I find their corporate behavior generally abhorrent, I believe their solution to help small businesses throughout the United States with this umbrella of online, single point solutions...is a great step toward proving they care about more than partners and stock prices.

Mini-Microsoft: The Good Manager, etc, etc, ...

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