Enterprise User Experience

Building on the ubiquity of Office in the enterprise, I think Microsoft
is promoting a very compelling trend
and something to seriously consider in
regard to delivering an enterprise user experience that feels
seamless or natural.

 

Essentially, it’s
an obvious goal: Give users an interface that they already know and use daily.

 

Specifically the key to
providing this enterprise utopia is with Microsoft’s soon-to-be released "Office
2003 System". IMHO and if all goes well, Microsoft will finally deliver a
malleable front-end framework that lets developers tap into the specific work-flow
processes that people accomplish everyday in each of the main Office
applications (Word, Excel, Outlook and perhaps PowerPoint and Access)

 

Long block-quote from
an article on CNET: Microsoft
buddies up with new Office

 

"…
back-end software makers want to buddy up to Microsoft. Partnering with the
software giant means they get to tap into those proprietary add-ons, which
means they can offer Office applications as a way to view and manipulate
back-end data. Given that no enterprise software maker can offer a user
interface as familiar as Microsoft Word
, that’s a compelling advantage.

 

"It’s
a very usable user interface, and people spend a lot of time there," said
Susan Funke, an analyst for research firm IDC. "I think that’s a big part
of why–if you look at somebody like a J.D. Edwards–(enterprise software
companies are) definitely looking at Office 2003 in their strategy."

 

By giving workers a familiar interface, Office 2003 can
help remove a roadblock that has helped prevent wider adoption of CRM software

and other enterprise
technology, Microsoft’s Leach said. "One of the biggest challenges with
these back-end systems is the tremendous ramp-up people have to go through, to
get proficient at using it," he said.

 

Microsoft’s integration of XML offers even more benefits
for companies involved in the nascent Web services field, as it allows them to
insert those services into Office applications. Microsoft gets to promote new
whiz-bang services that make Office more useful, and service providers can
offer their wares in the environment where office workers spend most of their
day.

 

Factiva signed a partnership agreement with Microsoft last
year to enable its research and information services to be folded into Office
2003 applications. Customers could click on a company name in a Word
document, for instance, and quickly get basic corporate data from Factiva
sources
.

 

"It slows people down if they have to open a browser
and start a search engine or launch some new application to get a piece of
information,"
Leach said. "If I can do that from within Word, I’m much more likely to
build that into my day-to-day routine. That’s a tremendous business advantage
for companies offering these kinds of services."

Also, this goes without saying, but I think this applies to Open Source solutions that are looking for better enterprise penetration. Personally I feel they would find a better footing with Office integration points that facilitate a specific pain, work-flow, or need within a business.