Businesses who operate in the B2B sphere are often in the ‘SME’ category – that is ‘small to medium sized enterprises’. They often operate in a kind of ecosystem where relationships between clients and providers form a structure that sustains all different kinds of businesses, from those who other companies outsource to to their own suppliers. One thing that is important in managing this kind of complexity is having good productivity and admin tools, and for the past 20 years or so, the go to solutions here have been found within the MS Office suite.
The MS Office Suite
The core MS Office products – Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook – are household names that just about anybody who has ever worked in an office is familiar with, and which are also popular with home users, students, and other people who need word processing or spreadsheet capabilities for their lives outside of work. MS Office also has a vast range of other more specialized tools under its brand, like MS Project, which is used for project management tasks like assigning resources and producing Gantt charts, and
, which is used to create diagrams.
Office was largely client software – as in it resided on your own PC where you had your own local, licensed copy which you could customize with your own preferences up until recently when Office 365 made use of the web based, cloud based infrastructure that Google’s office apps had been using. Now, businesses have the option to keep to the original way of doing things with local copies of office, or go for a cloud based service that makes collaboration easy. However, despite
Microsoft adding Office 365 to their strategy
and thereby quashing the unique selling points of Google’s offerings, Google are still gearing up to try and take over the office productivity market from Microsoft.
Google’s Office Web Apps
Google’s Google Drive web apps for office style working were designed to offer on demand, web based alternatives to MS Office’s client based offerings. While their use of the cloud and online capabilities are matched by Office 365, they do still have one selling point that allows them to compete with MS Office, even though they have admitted
they only intend to offer 85-90% of MS Office’s functionality
, believing that the remaining 10-15% is rarely used and unimportant to the vast majority of people (which is true, assuming they pick the right 10-15%!). MS Office licenses can be a big cost overhead for businesses, whereas like all Google stuff, you can use the Google apps for free.
Because of this, many people already use Google at home, and so you would think that for a business changing to Google from Office would not be unappealing – it does most of what Office does, it saves you software license costs, and most people you are likely to have working for you will be comfortable using it.
However, for SMEs, and by extension B2B companies especially, there are still some very compelling reasons to stick with Office, and one of these is one you may not have thought of.
20 Years of Monopoly Creates a Powerful Software Ecosystem
As SMEs, we don’t have any resources to spare, and the main objective of our work is to win business and provide services – not to mess about with administrative tasks that offer our clients no real benefit. We therefore have more pressure than large enterprise level corporations to shave off admin overheads wherever we can – and this means streamlining everything we need to do to the highest level of efficiency.
By its very nature, a lot of the stuff we end up doing using Office falls under the umbrella of ‘admin’, because formatting documents, creating slides for sales pitches and updating spreadsheets does not win us business or help our clients in and of itself.
Because Microsoft and their Office software has dominated the working software market for such a long time, around it have grown up third parties that specialize in helping businesses like us get through these admin tasks quicker while using things like Word and Excel. A good example of this is a tool offered by
– Cogniview’s excellent PDF to Excel file converter.
PDFs are a very common sight in terms of admin, because they are a common output for all sorts of other software packages we, our clients and our service providers might be using. Cogniview noticed that a lot of people wanted to be able to take data from a PDF and work with it in Excel, but Adobe didn’t offer an easy way to do this – PDFs may be common but they are notoriously difficult to work with when you receive one. Cogniview therefore developed a tool that automated the conversion of a PDF into Excel, allowing users to dramatically cut down the amount of manual cutting and pasting that used to go in to working with data from a PDF in a spreadsheet.
Tools like this are everywhere – designed especially to help with one problem MS Office users have encountered. There are lots of smaller software houses who are dedicated to creating third party programs that help SMEs use their Office software in more efficient and convenient ways, saving them time they can spend more productively on tasks that actually win business or help their clients.
You really only get this kind of rich software ecosystem when a product has been in mainstream use for a long time, and MS Office certainly fits the bill, perhaps more than any other software out there with the exception of operating systems and browsers.
This is something businesses need to really consider if they do not have the resources or time to spare on admin tasks taking longer than they have to. If you use Office, you can almost always find a third party tool to help streamline the job you’re doing. With anything else, this will not be the case.