Partners already using Microsoft's Office System 2003 software have claimed the suite offers genuine advantages in productivity and application integration for specific verticals.
Microsoft launched its Microsoft Office System software at Sydney's Fox Studios on 22 October. However, selected Microsoft partners have been using the software for some time.
Ben Shapiro, director at IT consultancy Avanade, said his IT consultancy used Office System to create a fully XML-compliant Offender Information Exchange application for the Queensland Police Service and the Department of Justice.
The application harnessed SharePoint Portal Server offered one centralised approach to regulatory requirements and handling of offender details, he said, saving about 11 steps in the police process and another four at the Justice end.
“There's lots of opportunities in Office System for ISVs to add extra value,” Shapiro added.
Justin White, national sales and marketing manager at Gold Coast ISV G-Netech, said the company had used Office Systems to create an education-focused application, G-Netech Education Services, it had trialled at Bond University. Similar products existed but not using the familar Microsoft environment, he said.
“We used new features of Office System such as InfoPath, to share information, creating 'smart documents' with XML tags embedded in the document,” he said.
G-Netech's application enabled online, real-time editing, displaying marking criteria as required, removing the need to combine and collate information, such as student answers and questions from different documents. Students increasingly used laptops, not only in lectures but to sit exams, White said.
Natalie Nichols, project manager at services provider Volante Solutions, said Volante had used Office System 2003 to develop a prototype system for club chain Hotel Dynamics using Volante's Medusasuite.Net. The system uses SharePoint Portal Server to allow Hotel Dynamics to create new marketing campaigns for different clubs, using a CRM template, in 15 minutes instead of a few days.
“It was about using technology to solve a business problem, not technology for technology's sake,” Nichols said.
The products from Avanade and G-Netech made the finals in Microsoft's Office System Spotlight competition, with the Hotel Dynamics prototype from Volante Solutions named overall winner.
Office Systems 2003 includes new versions of Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint and a very different-looking Outlook. Server products include Exchange 2003, SharePoint Portal Server, Live Communications Server, and Project Server.
The suite also has web design program FrontPage 2003, InfoPath 2003, an application that allows users to create forms for entering data, and OneNote, a note-taking tool for electronic scribbling and Tablet PCs.
Steve Vamos, managing director at Microsoft Australia, said at the launch that users had entered an 'integration age' where companies would seek a holistic view of information flow to lift business processes and productivity.
This was a shift in direction and philosophy for Microsoft's flagship productivity suite, which traditionally focused on providing tools specifically for individual users. Instead, Office System emphasised collaboration, information sharing, project management and communications to streamline business processes.
The vendor has modelled key components of Office System on web technologies. For example, XML enabled better information flow and integration.