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Office 2007 adoption hurdles shared by IT managers

With two major upgrades in the wings, IT managers balance the pros and cons of migrating to Office 2007 and Vista.

For some IT managers, migration to Office 2007 hinges on third-party vendors. For others, it is a matter of cost.

The Office 2007 suite will be launched today, along with Vista. Microsoft plans to make available its third major product, Exchange Server 2007, next month.

Mike MacNeill, director of technical operations for Cross Country Healthcare in Boca Raton, Fla., said he plans to roll out Office 2007 six to nine months after its launch.

One of the factors that may delay MacNeill's launch, however, will be waiting on third-party vendors such as Avaya Inc., Captaris Inc. and Symantec Corp. to certify plug-ins his company uses with Microsoft Outlook, he said.

"The Avaya voicemail plug-ins we use don't work with the latest beta of [Office 2007], and making sure everything works will be a priority before we make the choice to install," said MacNeill. "As things become more tied together, especially the unified communications platforms, throwing software upgrades out to the user is not an option."

Office 95 to Office 97 was an easy upgrade compared to what he expects with the whole new look and feature set of Office 2007.

"Back then it looked the same and worked the same, and Outlook was a barebones email client, so upgrading wasn't a big deal," MacNeill said. "Now [Outlook] is essential and, in cases like ours, has faxes and voicemail plugged into the application. If we upgrade to Office [2007], then all of these need to be upgraded as well."

New Office and Vista demand new hardware

Hardware is a major concern for Bruce D. Boyce, IT director at Legum & Norman Inc., a real estate management company in Alexandria, Va.

"The software does wonderful things only if the hardware can support it," Boyce said. "I'm hearing that Microsoft is saying you need about 512 MB to run [Vista and Office]. It's more like two times that. We'll have to start buying stuff with at least a gig on it."

His company's plan is to buy 10 new machines to support Vista each quarter and run Office 2007 only on those machines. "We won't bother putting Office 2007 on the old machines."

Many IT shops will most likely deploy Office 2007 with Vista, making the adoption rate faster than that of Office 2003 and XP, said Rob Helm, director of research on desktops for consulting firm Directions on Microsoft in Kirkland, Wash.

"It just makes sense to have a major upgrade once in the next two years rather than twice," said Helm, adding that corporations don't need Vista to migrate to Office 2007. "In fact, there aren't many benefits in Vista for Office 2007," he said.

Helm said the features in Office 2007 alone are compelling enough to warrant an upgrade for users, such as the collaboration features of SharePoint Server 2007 and much easier chart creation capabilities in the new Excel. He also pointed to simplified presentation creation within PowerPoint. It can cobble together material from several different sources, but still be able to give the presentation a uniform look.

There just isn't a rich enough feature set in Vista to justify a switch, said Steve Perry, IT director at Costello & Sons Insurance Brokers in San Rafael, Calif.

Costello & Sons also has a legacy insurance application that Perry said may not run with Vista or Office 2007. "About 65% to 70% of insurance agencies use Applied Systems [agency management software], and I think it will be a while before they integrate it with Office 2007," he said.

Still, Perry said his company will likely make the move to Office 2007 but probably not for two years. "Because [Vista is] an upgrade for some of our hardware, at this point it's not compelling enough for me," he said. "We use off-the-shelf products that give us the same functions and features that it would give us."

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