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A Customer Perspective on Intranets, Collaborative Computing, and Office 97 Implementations

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A White Paper from IDC

IDC Opinion

This study researched the business value of Office 97's collaborative and communications capabilities. Not only did the customers utilize Office 97 as a general end-user productivity tool, but they also leveraged Office 97 as a collaborative applications development platform. They cut administrative tasks by up to 50%. They doubled web content creation. They slashed internal processes such as budget cycles from three months to three weeks. All these objective gains translated into subjective benefits such as better decision-making, enhanced intellectual capital, more effective information dissemination, lower administrative overheads, improved sales, and greater customer satisfaction. Overall, based on this study, IDC recognizes that Office 97 is far more than a suite of PC applications. Despite some weaknesses in file compatibility and managing knowledge capital, we recommend that customers look at this product as a platform for enabling collaborative computing and rippling corporate business values throughout the enterprise.

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Overview

Overview

This study researched how corporations are using communication and collaboration tools to achieve business value. Specifically, we analyzed how the communication and collaboration tools within Microsoft Office 97 can help corporations to achieve significant business value across their organizations. We modeled the essential criteria for evaluating communication and collaboration products and Office 97's ability to meet these criteria.

To validate this approach, we interviewed six Office 97 early adopters to determine how these tools are used in real life settings. Across a variety of industries (e.g., telecommunications, consumer products, legal, public utilities, and software vendors), we found that Office 97 helps organizations share and manage information to enhance their knowledge capital, streamline processes, and become more competitive and responsive to today's market demands.

This white paper examines how rapid change is driving the needs for increased business value. It considers how large corporations define specific business value issues. It takes these issues and uses a case study approach to illustrate how organizations are utilizing collaborative computing and intranet technology based on Office 97 to achieve their goals in less time, with higher value, and at a lower cost.

Today's Business Environment Requires Adaptation to Rapid Change

The Internet represents both a curse and a blessing for most firms. On one hand, organizations are able to make better decisions and reduce cycle time due to the vast availability of information throughout the corporation. On the other hand, competitors are responding increasingly quickly to new market demands and customers are expecting greater levels of responsiveness and service. A corporation's ability to leverage technology in order to empower employees to make better, faster decisions has become a competitive requirement in this era of rapid change.

Rapid change means that a task that took a month is now accomplished in a few days. Project life cycles that were formerly measured in years are now expected in months. Large businesses face an accelerating need to accommodate rapid change in customer requirements. Driven by constantly rising expectations, enterprises are constantly searching for greater efficiency, higher productivity, better return on technology, and improved customer satisfaction.

Organizations that utilize communication and collaboration to handle rapid change have the ability to be flexible and respond to new market requirements, thus making the corporation more nimble. Organizations that do not succeed at enhancing communication and collaboration cannot respond as quickly to new market demands and are quickly surpassed by organizations with highly developed communication and collaboration skills.

In this study we found that Office 97 delivered a high degree of business value. Customers said that Office 97 fostered applications creation and spawned collaborative relationships. These reduced costs, promoted worldwide communications, spurred cooperation, and promoted information sharing. Representing a cascade of value, these highly subjective benefits translated into baseline improvements in cost reduction, revenue enhancement, product quality, and customer satisfaction.

Business Needs Analysis

In determining criteria for evaluating Office 97 as a communication and collaboration suite, IDC found that businesses are searching for ways to become more responsive to rapid change. This means corporations need to harness the wealth of information available across the organization. Responding to rapid change is facilitated by information access across geographical boundaries.

Just as rapid change requires conquering distance, time must also fall. Users need tools that manage the information overload and compress the time required for repetitive and administrative tasks. Increased access to information does not create business value on its own; users must quickly find, prioritize, filter and process the information for it to generate true business value. Overall, organizations that extract value from rapid change utilize communications and collaboration tools to handle time and distance.

In addition, corporations need to leverage their knowledge capital to create learning organizations in which employees can readily reuse information and share best practices across the entire organization. The learning organization enhances individual knowledge while reducing duplication of effort by providing tools and processes to share information across boundaries (geographic, divisional, organizational, platform). This creates a base of knowledgeable employees who make more informed, faster decisions. Better decisions increase competitiveness because corporate knowledge capital gets reinvested and individual employees become increasingly knowledgeable.

Businesses also must reduce cycle time and eliminate duplication of effort to meet the demands of rapid change. Corporations need tools that enable them to streamline processes to achieve efficiencies and expose information across the organization, and a platform for enabling collaborative computing and rippling corporate business value across the enterprise.

In our evaluation of Office 97, IDC focused on communication and collaboration tools inside the suite that enable corporations to:

  • Enhance communication and collaboration

  • Harness information in order to multiply knowledge capital

  • Streamline processes to reduce administrative overheads and costs

Figure 1 depicts the relationship of each aspect:

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Figure 1: Business Value Process

In our model, we see the first two components, increased communication and collaboration and the ability to harness information, driven by technology. Increased communication and, to some extent, collaboration is happening naturally due primarily to two factors: increased access to information via the web (intranet and Internet) and exponential use of electronic mail. This environment promises to generate a wealth of information at the users' fingertips. However, the vast information serves no purpose, and can actually be anti-productive, if it is not made relevant to the user. Relevancy can be derived via technology that helps users to sort, filter, find, prioritize, process and manage the 'information overload.' IDC believes that while increased communication and collaboration can certainly provide tremendous business value to a corporation, an increase in communication and collaboration without management tools accomplishes relatively little for an organization. Communication and collaboration suites must, thus, be evaluated with these criteria. If the suite provides the ability to harness information residing throughout the enterprise and beyond, the corporation can then begin to achieve true business value.

The output of our model is the business value derived by effectively managing increased communication and collaboration. This includes enhanced knowledge capital and streamlined business processes. In addition, if communication and collaboration applications succeed at enhancing knowledge capital and streamlining business processes, a host of other benefits may be achieved, including:

  • Creation of a 'learning organization'

  • Demonstration of technology leadership

  • Ability to share information across boundaries

  • Enhanced quality

  • Faster and better decision-making

  • Enhanced customer satisfaction

  • Improved employee morale

Microsoft Office 97 Meets the Criteria

IDC found that Office 97 provides compelling communication and collaboration functionality that meets our criteria by increasing communication and collaboration and by helping users to manage and access this information. This, in turn, helps organizations to enhance their knowledge capital and streamline business processes. By enabling all of these benefits, Office 97 can help a corporation to be more flexible and nimble in dealing with rapid change, and, ultimately, to become a more competitive organization.

Increasing Communication and Collaboration

Every case study cited Office 97's web content creation, electronic mail integration, and Internet navigation as important elements in satisfying customers' need for immediate information access. MCI coordinates worldwide project management using its internal intranet. HMB instantly communicates with 28 other participants in the Orange County bankruptcy case without the inevitable mailing delays or costs. A large consumer products company ensures that its worldwide sales and marketing team remains focused on shared sales objectives. Overall, Office 97's intranet and mail tools ensured that everyone could access the same information at the same time, regardless of time zones or geographical locations. All the case studies considered this ability to get all their employees on "a common page" to be a key business value.

Outlook Mail Client

Bose reported that the Outlook Mail Client eliminated the need for a mail gateway whose management consumed one day per week of a network manager's time. By moving to an Office 97-based intranet, a large consumer products company realized a $216,000 annualized savings when they cut electronic mail costs from $20,000 to $2,000 per month. (This figure excludes the costly support required for old modem pools.)

Intranet Functionality

Using intranet features in Office 97, customers especially liked the fact that information could be universally available without replication. The ability to turn every user into a web publisher with web features built into Office 97 is a powerful way to save time and effectively expose information across an organization. For example, MCI's use of Office 97's ability to save as HTML has doubled their intranet content since deployment.

Interactive Collaboration

Office 97 also provides improved interactive collaboration functionality within the applications such as in-place comments in Word 97 and shared workbooks in Excel 97. The ability for users to easily collaborate inside the Office applications that they already know provides a natural way to enhance collaboration.

For example the law firm of HMB competes with much larger law firms because its Office 97-based intranet automates the indexing, versioning, and distribution of legal documents via Word 97 without the costly, tedious, and labor-intensive processes of its large competitors. Their intranet quickly ensures that critical information is shared by all relevant parties. HMB estimates that their Office 97-based intranet and Word 97's enhanced collaboration functionality saved the firm "tens of millions of dollars" by reducing cycle time and improving quality. HMB attributes their ability to "take on the big guys" to Office 97 and their highly evolved communication and collaboration skills.

Similarly, Office 97's new collaboration features boosted productivity at Ontario Hydro (a large Canadian electrical utility). Its employees complete projects more quickly because Excel97's shared workbooks save users' time. Because everyone shares the same spreadsheets, users no longer have to track different versions of the same document. For Ontario Hydro eliminating version control was a major business value.

Harnessing the Information

All customers demonstrated a need to harness the information to make it relevant to their users. All the companies interviewed wanted to publish documents, spreadsheets, and presentations in a digestible format. Additionally, they needed familiar search engines that facilitated information access across their intranet or the Internet. They also demanded that their Office 97 investments yield quantifiable improvements.

The information management tools in Office 97 helped Bose Corporation's users save 20% of their working time. Office 97's tools accomplished this reduction by finding information faster, reducing the time consumed by electronic mail management, and enhancing the distribution of information via the web. Similarly, FrontPage 97 made it easier to quickly administer and update the organization's intranet site.

The integration of FrontPage and the web publishing features in Office 97 made creating and maintaining web sites a much more efficient process. Customers mentioned that the time to create and manage web content with FrontPage 97 shrank by 20% to 50% while the number of web pages created increased exponentially.

Harnessing information also means providing access to information that was previously hidden from users due to its location in various types of corporate databases or other locations. Office 97 helps the end user to reach far beyond his or her desktop and into the corporate information by using Office 97 as the interface. For example, getting financial information from the corporate accounting system running on a mainframe required an expertise in SQL (structured query language), SAP (an enterprise accounting package), and possibly MVS (a mainframe operating system). With an intranet based on Office 97, Internet Explorer is used to find the information, the data is delivered via electronic mail in Microsoft Exchange, the data is readily analyzed using Excel 97, and a report can be created in Microsoft Word 97. Moreover, a group meeting on this financial report can be scheduled in Outlook. Finally, all this information is delivered to end-users in a format they can readily understand. It is compatible with familiar tools they already have even though the data originally resided on a legacy system that is almost totally unfamiliar to most users. So, this legacy system remains useful in its original form, but the distribution of its data is greatly improved using Office 97 on the clients.

Leveraging Knowledge Capital

Leveraging knowledge capital has two sides – distributing information and managing it. This concept means that a person can distribute (or leverage) and manage their knowledge (or intellectual capital) across a wide audience. Office 97 alone is not designed to provide knowledge management functions. However, integrating Office 97 with Exchange enhances overall management capabilities.

Still, Office 97 contains strong distribution capabilities. Its web navigation and search tools make it easy to find information. Integration with desktop productivity applications means that users can easily apply the information to relevant business scenarios (e.g., utilizing an existing sales presentation for a new prospect, ensuring that new product information is instantly available worldwide, or all interested parties have common access to legal documents).

This sharing means that one document reaches many people without high costs (postal or telecommunications) or troublesome version control problems. Office 97's ability to mail an Internet or intranet address ensures that the original document remains unaltered, except by the author.

In our case studies, HMB was a prime example of this business trend. By automating document management and version control with Office 97's Outlook and Journaling features, this small firm could leverage its learning across the entire organization via virtual teams spanning geographical boundaries. Another example is MCI. It leverages sales presentations across the world by placing them on its intranet. Thus, all its sales people have the latest information in a form that can be readily customized for individual sales presentations.

Microsoft itself provides another example of a corporation that utilizes Office 97 and FrontPage 97 to provide managers with the most information-rich environment possible. Through the use of a financial analysis intranet site linked to Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft marketing people throughout the world can see detailed financials that are updated daily. This information is presented in Excel 97 Pivot tables so managers can easily analyze sales data to achieve rapid, educated decisions. Thus, Microsoft utilizes its own technology to leverage corporate knowledge capital across the organization.

Streamlining Processes

To maximize their software investment, customers want Office 97's value to ripple across multiple departments and user groups. This is because corporations want to maximize efficiency and aggregate productivity across the entire organization. Office 97's cross-application integration yields rapid collaborative applications development.

One customer cited how Office 97 enables streamlined sales reporting from the field by exposing the information to the web through Outlook forms and Excel97 Pivot Tables. This rapid posting of information enables senior management to feel the pulse of the business and make better decisions. Another firm expects $25,000,000 revenue increase because Office 97 cut salespeople's administrative overhead freeing more time for customer sales. HMB used the Journaling capability in Outlook 97 to streamline tracking of billable hours and expenses. In addition, HMB estimated savings in excess of $10,000,000 because their Office 97-based intranet eliminated manual filing, copying, and mailing of most legal documents. By creating an Office 97 application, another corporation slashed internal processes such as budget cycles from three months to three weeks.

MCI designed a management reporting system based on Outlook 97 in order to save time and money for everyone from the field-based sales person to the senior management team. For MCI, this tool generated a cascade of benefits. Project managers spent less time generating reports and more time supporting sales and customers. Managers spent less time consolidating reports and more time solving problems, coordinating account teams, and finding new opportunities. Senior management could drill down into the data for better decision making. Because the field sales force was instantly updated on all product promotions and global accounts, teams can work together to ensure the customer receives the best price and latest information. More importantly, MCI can deliver consistent, quality customer service on a worldwide basis.

Drawbacks of Office 97

While Office 97 goes a long way in enhancing communication and collaboration, there are still a few areas that could be improved. The first is support for cross-platform environments. Currently Office 97 is only available on the Windows 32-bit operating system. Thus, collaboration in heterogeneous environments will pose challenges.

The second area where Office 97 does not fully address collaboration is access control. Office 97 does not provide the ability to limit document access for certain users or for certain parts of documents. This hierarchical access would provide a more robust collaboration solution.

Further limiting the collaborative capabilities, Office 97 does not include workflow features. The flow of information is often a key component of the collaborative solution. By design, Office 97 focuses on information creation and retrieval rather than the process of information movement. Customers that want to expand the collaborative nature of Office 97 will need to look towards Microsoft Exchange or other third party solutions to provide workflow and workflow management capabilities.

Even given the drawbacks mentioned above, IDC still believes that Office 97 provides a solid communication and collaboration platform that corporations are utilizing to realize the many business values that span from interactive collaboration.

Conclusion

The case studies clearly indicate that Office 97 is being used not only as a personal productivity tool, but more importantly as an essential element in fostering collaboration and communication among many users. This collaboration generates a value to business by making employees faster, more focused on corporate goals, more competitive, and more efficient.

In these sites, Office evolved from a personal productivity tool towards a collaborative platform for developing and distributing intranet-based applications. Customers said that communications and collaboration features drove Office 97's business value (e.g., streamlined processes, accelerated cycle times, leveraged intellectual capital, enhanced dissemination of information across boundaries). Customers that deploy Office 97 no longer focus on just making their employees better, faster, smarter. These companies are building Office 97 applications that bring value to the entire corporation, not just the individual. Through the extended capabilities of workgroup, we believe that these companies are now more competitive by being more responsive to constantly shifting customer requirements in this era of rapid change.

Methodology

In late May, IDC interviewed several "early adopters" of Office 97. We focused our research on how Office 97 enabled these companies to achieve corporate goals with higher satisfaction levels. The business values we focused on were the following:

  • Improved productivity

  • Greater collaboration

  • Faster content creation

  • Improved quality

  • Easier applications creation

  • Enhanced decision making

  • Better dissemination of information

  • Ability to leverage intellectual capital to become a 'learning organization'

  • Improved sharing of information

  • The ability to harness information overload

We used an open-ended approach to analyze the subjective and objective value of Office 97 when researching corporations. A summary of the questionnaire appears in the Appendix.

1) HMB Case Study

Business Value:

Leverage intellectual capital, enhance collaboration, and cascade information to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and satisfy legal requirements.

Overview:

HMB is a US law firm based in California. The firm contains 300 lawyers and employs approximately 1500 people. It rose to a new level of prominence when Orange County chose HMB to defend its bankruptcy case. According to Matthew Ghourdian, Director of Technology, "The value of Office 97 is that people can maintain and manage the information they need to have at their finger tips to do their job. I think Microsoft has done a very good job."

Challenge:

"This law firm wanted to take on the big guys," according to Matthew Ghourdian, Director of Technology. "That meant getting more and more automated." HMB intended to compete with law firms many times their size by using technology to accomplish more work in less time with fewer people.

The challenge was enormous. HMB must carefully manage 50,000 documents and 6.5 million imaged pages. Nearly a third come from the multi-billion dollar Orange County bankruptcy litigation. To insure that each piece of information remains legally useful, HMB must track every comment and revision on legal documents.

Moreover, HMB must make these documents available to the other 28 firms involved in the Orange County case. This must be done in a timely manner. The firm's own lawyers, paralegals, and secretaries also need access.

Solution:

With Outlook, HMB maximized resources and extended its employees' capabilities to work on large cases without the huge staffs employed by other law firms. Essentially, HMB managed a torrent of legal documents with a trickle of personnel.

"We were one of the first law firms to achieve a ratio of 4 lawyers to 1 secretarial. Other law firms are still struggling to hit 2 to 1. We have some of the largest cases in the country/region, but the entire firm only has four paralegals. "Other law firms with these kinds of cases have roughly the same number of paralegals as attorneys," according to Ghourdian.

He goes on to say that, "The Orange County case illustrates Office 97's value. In this case, all the defendants and the plaintiffs share the same Exchange-based document information system. In a prime example of cascading value to other users, Ghourdian said that, "Several other law firms use HMB's Exchange server, Internet gateway, and document management system. They all share these tools, without ever seeing one another. They completely communicate through electronic means." He estimates that this Office 97-based intranet saved "tens of millions of dollars in secretarial, copying, and mailing costs." Moreover, it only took him two hours to build this intranet application in Office 97.

For HMB, Office 97 enhances the firm's collaborative capabilities. Ghourdian explains that, "The lawyers are very electronic-mail centric and they work very collaboratively. A pleading might be electronically mailed to 15 different people for commenting and editing without the lawyers having to talk to one another." He goes on to say that geographically dispersed lawyers can work easily together, saying, "There are lawyers who live in San Francisco and Phoenix, but are based at this law firm in downtown Los Angeles. They occasionally commute in, but mostly they connect via ISDN. In fact, the senior attorneys all have T1 connections to their houses. It is a very computer centric operation. It is not unusual in a lot these big cases for the pleadings to go into the three and four hundred page count, so these collaboration tools are very important."

With 28 firms involved in the Orange County bankruptcy and a document sometimes going through up to 15 iterations during the editing process, version control is critical. Ghourdian explains, "In a law firm, the product is basically the written word. Office 97 and especially Word 97's capabilities really enhance our version control and editing. Word 97's versioning capabilities are also better, especially the highlighting and editing functions. You can put your cursor on a change, and find out who changed it and when. You can even go back through multiple iterations. Moreover, the internal routing capabilities are much more sophisticated in this release. People can easily route documents and do change management. It is a much more robust system."

Office 97 also plays a key role in the serious business of billing. "Our model is value billing, which requires extreme efficiency. Instead of just working hourly, the firm can take contingency cases and fixed fee cases at a much higher rate. This is made possible directly by automation."

How do they ensure accurate billing? According to Ghourdian, "Approximately 80% of our users work inside the Outlook desktop all day long. By Journaling all phone calls, we automatically document the time we spend on any activities relating to a case. The journaling feature was immediately adopted by 100% of the attorneys to help manage their time. It is integrated, not another tool on top of the productivity suites. It automatically tracks a lot of work the attorneys do. All this has vastly simplified our approach to the time and billing process, which, after all, drives this business."

The primary business value is reduction of cost and improving management of intellectual capital and human resources. According to Ghourdian, "If you can collaborate more effectively, you can squeak out one extra hour of billable time. This extra revenue can easily underwrite the cost of automation. Some law firms have 300 associates. Think of that as 300 hours a month times 10 months. That very quickly pays for a computer for each one of these people at home. Very infinitesimal changes in productivity can actually pay for the infrastructure and that is what you are looking at." Office 97 is the tool that enables HMB employees to become that much more productive.

Futures:

"We hope to be completely browser based by the end of the summer. We will take the components of Office 97 and build them into a single, browser-based desktop. This single desktop will contain everything a lawyer needs to do his job. Office 97 already gives us this capability."

2) Ontario Hydro Case Study

Business Value:

Integrating. "The time savings in Office 97 buys us competitive advantage." Office 97 allows for timely assimilation of information through the Internet to enhance decision making.

Overview:

Ontario Hydro has revenues in excess of $9 billion dollars a year, and is one of North America's largest electric power producers. The company has three nuclear stations, nine fossil (coal, natural gas) stations, and 70 hydroelectric stations. It has over 2,000 PCs running Office 97.

Challenge:

Deregulation of electrical utilities is creating competition in a traditionally monopolistic industry. Ontario Hydro wanted to streamline operations and decrease cycle time so it could capture new customers. This required more timely decision making and rapid implementation of new technologies

Before Office 97 and the creation of an intranet, Ontario Hydro said that, "Collaboration on a document was tedious, time consuming, and prone to version control problems. First, the document was sent around for comments, multiple sources worked on it, and all the comments were added to the document. Then, it was sent around again. Finally, it was sent back to the originating author for collection and confirmation of the comments. Time was the biggest downside because the document was circulated using routing slips and there was no way of ever knowing where or why it was stuck. As a result, this whole process could take six weeks or more."

Solution:

With Excel 97 Shared Workbooks and other collaboration features of Office 97, Ontario Hydro reports that, "The financial group can now have multiple people working on the same document, which leads to project completion in a much more timely fashion." Excel 97 Shared Workbooks is a powerful new collaboration feature in Office 97 that enable multiple users to simultaneously access, make changes to, and save. In addition, Excel 97 Shared Workbooks track every user change and highlights these changes on screen.

Decision-making was also hastened by Office 97's ability to allow rapid content creation. "The ability to publish that information so 10 people can see it immediately (e. g., new fuel prices, or fuel price trends, performance measures, health, safety, accidents etc.) really reduced decision time. Office 97 makes all this possible."

One way to streamline operations is move web content creation closer to the creator. By eliminating intermediate steps (e.g., secretaries, editors, production, and graphic design) along with manual procedures for physically moving this document to all the respective people, disseminating information to all interested parties can go from days to minutes. In some ways, this is similar to the disintermediation concept often mentioned as benefit of electronic commerce. (Disintermediation means cutting out the middle man by moving the product straight from the vendor to the customer without intermediaries such as retailers or distributors.)

When Ontario Hydro was asked, "Does Office 97 make it easier for users to publish to your organization's intranet?" The answer was an unqualified, "Yes, wholeheartedly it does make publishing easier. The author becomes the publisher. Right now basically anyone with Office 97 has the right to convert their documents to HTML for publication on the intranet. They can do that themselves, so our entire 2,000 user base are web publishers and that is a massive increase."

For Ontario Hydro, an intranet avoided the need to create custom applications. "We thought of this as a native support mechanism for publishing data from databases and textual information. Since this information was platform independent, we were no longer forced to deal with different versions and different browsers."

Because customers and regulatory agencies demand that electrical utilities offer continuous operation, Ontario Hydro needed the flexibility to support its employees with the latest and timeliest information regardless of the time. "By having Office 97-based information posted on our intranet, we can now match with people's business hours for employees who enjoy working late or off hours. This allows them to continue working regardless of when they choose to work."

Despite the huge increase in web publishing, management chores decreased. When IDC asked Ontario, "Have you seen or do you anticipate a change in the amount of time users spend managing an average intranet site with FrontPage97 compared to before FrontPage97?" Ontario replied, "Yes, about a 50% time savings."

When asked about the primary business value of enhanced collaboration, Ontario said that Office 97 solved a major problem with version control. "We are getting more productivity from the users since they are not wasting time trying to track different versions of the same document."

Overall, Ontario Hydro summarizes Office 97 benefits by saying, "The information is now produced in a more timely fashion -- while it still has value. This links directly to the company's competitive edge. Having access to critical information quickly, means an ability to respond, react, and make better business decisions more rapidly."

Futures:

In the future, Ontario Hydro will migrate away from platforms that are not intranet/internet enabled. "We intend to improve the process so Office 97 Journaling function can provide us with a legal audit trail and reduce the paper flow. Both these plans will save time. This equates to efficiency and bottom line improvement.

3) MCI Case Study

Business Value:

Rapid dissemination of information across various boundaries, enhanced communication and collaboration, streamlining project management by reducing administration, demonstrating Internet/intranet product competence, decreasing the project management cycles, and supplying management with decision support.

Overview:

MCI is large multi-national telecommunication provider. This case study looks at Office 97 as a project management automation tool for 7,000 sales people in 173 branches.

Challenge:

According to Marty Holmes, Sr. Manager Branch Accounts and Project Management, generating status reports and project information was a major drag on staff productivity.

Before Office 97, each staff person would write his/her status report and send it to their manager; their manager would compile them, and write his or her status report. The manager's boss then had to collect all his reports into a single report. Ultimately, this sequence of events became unmanageable. Worse, individual reports from the field about interesting new opportunities (or festering problems at a major client) were lost in a sea of reports and sales statistics. Even worse, the sales people could not communicate with one another about shared accounts. Report creation became an exercise in profitless tedium that only detracted from the sales process. In effect, the sales reports suffered from a hierarchical "one to one" process. What MCI needed was a "one to many" application that would make the process beneficial at a peer level.

Solution:

According to Holmes, the single biggest impact of Office 97 was improved communications that offer a universal way for all project managers to communicate with one another. MCI accomplished these goals by building a custom Office 97 application. Designed as a management reporting system based on Outlook, MCI wanted this tool to save time and money for everyone from the field-based sales person to the senior management team. It accomplished these goals by integrating sales reports into a single consolidated document. According to Holmes, "The report becomes a living document that is updated in real time. So it is invaluable for decision making."

For MCI, this tool generated a cascade of benefits. Project managers spend less time generating reports and more time with customers. Managers spend less time consolidating reports and more time solving problems, coordinating account teams, and finding new opportunities. Senior management can drill down into the data for better decision making. Because the field sales force is instantly updated on all product promotions and global accounts, teams can work together to ensure the customer receives the best price and latest information. More importantly, MCI can deliver consistent, quality customer service on a worldwide basis.

For IT executives, the primary business value of the Office 97-based intranet is the availability of up-to-date sales data 24 hours a day. Utilizing "one to many" Exchange-based messaging and Outlook's contact management, MCI's project managers can serve tens of thousands of highly diverse customers spanning the range from small businesses to large multi-million dollar corporate customers."

Holmes says, "My direct reports update their information and it automatically rolls up to me. Then, I have the choice if I want to edit it or automatically post it to our intranet. However, I can turn posting on or off based upon the project. If I don't want an executive to see any information about a particular project, I can turn off the posting to the web. So, all I do is press a couple of buttons, and the report is created and appropriately posted. I don't need a support person to put together a status report, or any report based upon the information contained in those folders, it can all be done by the executive on-line. Moreover, every time an executive hits our web site, we can track it.

For MCI's project managers, Exchange's global mail function offered better account coordination. "Both our sales people and our large accounts are geographically dispersed. For example, a major consumer goods customer has large factories on both the East and West Coasts. The MCI sales people must be able to present a consistent message," according to Holmes.

For both IT executives and program managers, the Outlook-based application could translate into more than just coherent customer messages, consistent sales presentations, and greater sales efficiency, it could mean greater sales productivity. For example, Holmes explains, "Everything goes to the bottom line. If you can save an hour of a high priced sales person because the intranet already contains a frame relay presentation, then the sales person can spend more time with the customer generating orders."

Moreover, an intranet library of PowerPoint97 presentations can accelerate this "one to many" concept even further. Because presentation can easily be saved as an HTML file to an intranet web site, the potential for re-use increases substantially. As Holmes says, "It is a lot easier to pull down a canned pitch that was created in New Hampshire and scale it up for a large credit card customer, than to build it from scratch."

Holmes believes that intranets and hyperlinks make the sales force more efficient because they reuse information much more quickly. This means spending less time on administrative tasks and more time selling/supporting customers.

As an early supplier of services and a key backbone of the Internet, MCI wants to ensure that its customers realize its depth of knowledge in this area. According to Holmes, "Office 97 enables MCI to demonstrate and transfer its competence in Internet/intranet-based communications products to customers." Holmes explains that, "As a leader in providing telecommunications services for intranets and the Internet, hyperlinked PowerPoint presentations (presentations are linked to associated information on the intranet for worldwide access) show customers that MCI actually uses the technology it sells and understands the business value of their products. The ability to incorporate hyperlinks into sales presentations streamlines the sales process to close business more quickly because customer questions could easily be handled without scrolling through long documents or large file folders. After the customer meeting, journaling in Outlook 97 kept a record of the customer demonstration and helped compose the proposal."

Working with Office 97, MCI created a unique tool for sales management. According to Holmes, "This tool uses the public folders within Outlook. It has a series of scripts that create subfolders by project. The user registers a specific project, and then a series of subfolders are created that store all project-related mail, documentation, schedules, check lists, issues, and incidents. Issues are identified as requiring team involvement, such as software problems. With this tool, we can also manage budgets and roll them up to the director or VP level."

MCI's tool uses Outlook and Outlook Forms to share information. As Holmes explains it, "When you go to the branch accountant management web site, the answer to your query is displayed in real time. It goes out to the Outlook server, extracts the information out of the folders, and brings it to a user's PC. This allows us to do status reports once, rather than passing them up the chain. This tool also allows our executives to do reporting and drill down to the mail level, if they wish to. (They can actually read a particular e-mail, if they need to do so.) Or, if they have a question, they can automatically generate a mail and it would be sent to the appropriate project manager for handling."

In summary, MCI cited Office 97's contribution to corporate consistency as a major business value of its Office 97 application. Holmes says that, "When you are dealing with a market place with ever changing market demands, shifts occur rapidly in products and technologies. Prices shift daily based on tariffs, discounting, promotions, etc. When you are always competing against at least two companies, you need consistency in your literature, on the Web and in any other type of information. If we maintain a consistent message, we believe that MCI will be heads and tails over our competition."

Futures:

For MCI, collaboration is essential to increasing communications. Communications is MCI's business. Therefore, MCI will continue investing in new Office 97 intranet-based applications. Holmes says, "We plan on enhancing and graphically documenting our processes. With flow charts, new employees can just start at step one and walk through the process. This means a consistent repeatable process that anybody can do. In addition, we will group these flow charts in an intranet-based central repository that users gather, create and disseminate among each other." MCI views Office 97's Outlook and intranet features as key tools for cutting costs, saving time, enhancing sales, and demonstrating excellence at using its own communications products.

4) Bose Case Study

Business Value:

Streamline and simplify Bose's heterogeneous electronic mail systems for improved global coordination. Shift IS focus from maintaining complex workgroup environments to deploying applications that enhance users' efficiency and collaboration.

Overview:

Bose is a large US consumer electronics manufacturer. It employs approximately 3400 worldwide. According to Frank Calabrese, Manager of Information Technology, "Our job is to enable people to run the company; our job is not technology for technology's sake."

Challenge:

Bose wanted better internal communications and more efficient global coordination. As Bose puts it, "We must improve our ability to communicate from all platforms within the corporation, reliably and in a robust manner. Prior to Outlook's mail client and Exchange, we were running our Macintoshes with one electronic-mail product. The UNIX workstations are running Eudora, and the Intel client were running MS mail, with a whole bunch of gateways including some non-standard ones. This environment was complex and difficult to support."

Solution:

Microsoft Office 97, Exchange, and Outlook 97 helped Bose integrate a heterogeneous mail environment while keeping customers satisfied by offering them a high degree of flexibility in desktop hardware (Intel and Apple Macintosh) and applications. Bose used Outlook's mail client and Exchange to tie together heterogeneous mail systems and reduce support requirements. Exchange provided a common messaging platform across sundry mail environments.

As for the intranet's business value, Bose said, "Saving PowerPoint in HTML is a big plus. I now publish all of my PowerPoint presentations on the Web as HTML. I do a lot of technology presentations. Anyone with a browser can pull down a technical briefing on my current projects." Bose feels that Office 97 improves quality by bringing content creation closer to the information's creator. Because employees can easily save their work as HTML file to the intranet, they take more direct responsibility for their work. Moreover, the ability to immediately publish reduces the boredom and associated introduction of errors when multiple edits have to be endured.

The intranet also enables mobile communications. Bose points out that employees who were limited to the office network can now communicate from the road. Prior to Outlook's mail client, the heterogeneous mail system did not allow for remote electronic mail for both Intel and Macintosh users. Bose says, "If you were on the road, your only option was the Macintosh Powerbook (for electronic mail and network access). With the Outlook implementation we can now purchase Intel laptops. We now have store and forward, and a full mail solution for an Intel-based product." For Bose, the IS organization now provides users with a choice of PC platforms that have common network access. Overall Bose says, "Office 97 and Outlook are helping this company manage a heterogeneous environment more effectively and at a higher customer satisfaction level."

Bose considered other collaborative software, but chose Office 97 largely because of training issues in their heterogeneous PC environment. "The solutions in Office are very viable. We could do the same thing with other collaborative software, but you can't put other products in front of somebody with a Macintosh. Major differences include menus, concepts, interface, and GUI. With Office, you can throw it in front of Macintosh users. Not only do they get it, Office allows them to transition quickly. Office 97 also interfaces tightly with our current Macintosh electronic-mail."

One Office 97 benefit was the opportunity to relieve an employee from gateway maintenance so he could work on more valuable customer applications. "We had a mail guy who spent at least a day a week massaging a single gateway. Every Thursday he would spend the day making sure messages got flushed. Outlook gave us the ability to do away with this third party gateway and a day of drudgery. The opportunity to put Exchange clients on Macintosh means all our PCs can communicate in the same environment in a more effective manner. It is fairly seamless after the other messaging platform and we are getting a cohesive communication strategy."

Futures:

Bose has plans to do global electronic calendaring. This will be especially useful for coordinating US efforts with European operations. The chief benefit will be setting up meetings without the tedious telephone tag and the time zone constraints. Bose says, "We see the possibility of running Office 97 as our scheduling platform." With a single cross-platform scheduler, Bose will integrate its Intel and Macintosh clients even further. By standardizing on Office across all its desktop platforms, Bose is reducing administrative tasks (for both users and IS) by eliminating troublesome gateways, preserving a considerable investment in Macintosh hardware, reducing training, and knitting Bose's heterogeneous PCs into a single collaborative environment.

5) Global Consumer Products Company (GCPC) Case Study

Business Value:

Cascading Value and Streamlining Global Collaboration. GCPC prizes efficiency. It wanted to streamline global collaboration, make it easier to manage information, and cascade value worldwide to all its salespeople.

Overview:

This is a global consumer products firm with a European headquarters, but with almost 10,000 employees in the US.

Challenge:

Coming off a mainframe-based e-mail system and an expensive telecommunications environment based on large modem pools, GCPC was anxious to:

  • Cut communications costs by providing shared folder rather than sending e-mails with large attached documents.

  • Reduce sales administration and shift this time to selling products.

Solution:

GCPC replaced its messaging infrastructure with an Exchange-based intranet that uses Office 97 as an interface and a vehicle for web content creations (via the "save as HTML" function in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). With this Internet-based architecture, GCPC eliminated the telecommunications carrier that charged by the byte and the troublesome modem pools its private network required.

In more concrete terms, GCPC estimated that it cut communications costs by 90% (from $20K/month to $2K/month). Office 97 working with FrontPage boosted web content creation by 20%. Web-based presentations, sales reports, and forms cut sales administration by roughly two hours each week.

This two hours translates into 5% of a 40-hour week. While this increased sales time seems minimal, it can amount to big dollars when multiplied across a large sales force. If (hypothetically speaking) the average sales person has a $1M annual quota and they close 5% more business, then there is $50,000 in additional annual revenue from each sales person. When $50K is streamed across 5,000 sales people, corporate revenues could potentially jump $25M with only a small investment in Office 97 applications, FrontPage (web creation and management), and Exchange-based electronic mail.

Moreover, this figure does not include the savings from eliminating the modem pool and the additional benefit of greater network reliability. GCPC said, "We are already seeing increased reliability for supporting remote with e-mail access. The 800 lines connected to the old modem pools were very expensive and they frequently dropped connects. By going with Exchange over the Internet and using a third party service provider, we are getting far more reliable service at a much lower cost." As for actual cost savings, GCPC estimates that its Internet-based environment will reduce telecommunications costs from $20K/month to a couple of thousand."

In terms of time savings, GCPC sales uses Outlook to speed presentation creation and streamline administrative chores that take them away from the selling process. For example, Outlook's contact management helps coordinate sales calls. Sales can quickly pull together new client materials by accessing intranet-based documents, presentations, and spreadsheets that reside in public folders.

GCPC has also seen that Outlook 97 makes it easier and faster for end-users to manage their electronic mail because they can prioritize, filter, sort, process, and locate messages, contacts, schedules, and "to do" items. In terms of time savings, sales is using Outlook's contact management to coordinate sales calls. GCPC sales are using the Outlook for publishing information by dropping documents, presentations, and spreadsheets into Exchange public folders. Because Office 97 automatically converts files to HTML without programming, GCPC estimates that the 10 web publishing people are now at least 20% more productive. GCPC reports significant time savings by users sending links (rather than replicating and mailing files) to other users. "Using Outlook clients to publish links is very helpful, it probably saves 75% of the time because you can just double click in Office 97 instead of opening up the browser and re-keying the URL."

Futures:

For the future, GCPC remains focused on streamlining operations on a global basis so sales and sales efficiency will continue to improve. There is some concern about increased traffic, but GCPC plans to incorporate Office 97-based document management and local web servers to mange bandwidth consumption.

6) Microsoft Case Study

Business Value:

Dissemination of continually updated sales information across boundaries, enhanced decision-making, streamlining administrative tasks, cascading business value across multiple user groups.

Overview:

Many people wonder how a large business like Microsoft retains a small business' responsiveness to market changes. As a leading software and Internet supplier in the world, Microsoft startled many observers with its quick move into the Internet. Microsoft executes rapid change by quickly adopting new technologies. Microsoft's internal embrace of Office 97 is an example of how MS uses its own technology to ensure that decision making occurs in the richest information environment possible. Microsoft's use of Office 97 to severely reduce administrative overhead and develop appropriate financial goals clearly laid the groundwork for the company's flexibility.

Challenge:

"The excellence of an organism's nervous system helps determine its ability to sense change and quickly respond, thereby surviving or even thriving," according to Bill Gates, Microsoft's Chairman and Founder. A company's nervous system is its internal and external communications links. The responsiveness of this nervous system is directly related to corporate competitiveness and customer responsiveness. Moreover, outstanding companies use collaboration and communications to outperform their peers. Externally, these firms recognize the competitive value of customer responsiveness. Internally, they see the worth of streamlining administrative functions.

With this in mind, Microsoft saw weaknesses in its own nervous system. First, it was drowning in hundreds paper-based forms. Second, internal accounting and budget planning distracted product managers for several months each year. Third, Microsoft didn't want any comparisons to the "cobbler's children" where products are sold externally, but not fully exploited internally. Microsoft wanted to be its own best example of collaborative computing's business value.

Solution:

Using the Internet and internal intranets, Microsoft built an Office 97-based "digital nervous system." It was designed to help Microsoft maintain itself, fend off threats, and rapidly take advantage of opportunities. A major goal was avoiding surprises (like losing a major customer). It wanted to encourage employees to make decisions locally for instant decision making. This "nervous system" helped Microsoft quickly assemble teams to understand a customer's problem, address a new market (the Internet), or stage global marketing events (Scaleability Day).

Microsoft's annual budgeting cycle took up to three months. This push/pull process even continued after the supposed deadline. This process distracted Microsoft from product development and customer concerns. For a company that turned its Internet product strategy on a dime, the budgeting process was a wasteful nightmare.

So, Microsoft used Office 97, Exchange, Outlook Forms, Excel templates, database links, and the company's intranet to implement a new process based on electronic forms. This reduced the budget cycle from three months to three weeks.

To ensure accuracy and set expectations, all managers involved in the budget process see comparisons to other divisions and regions. Their sales and expense forecasts are automatically compared to the size of their respective markets. Because all the budgets are stored in a single database, senior management can quickly cut the numbers by product, geography, or subsidiary. Finance can instantly roll up or drill down into the profit & loss (P&L) statements.

Microsoft continued this process with Fin Web (Financial Web). Built on FrontPage 97, Fin Web is an intranet web site based on Office 97's Excel Pivot Tables. It is linked to SQL Server for accessing daily updates of Microsoft financial information. Fin Web generates monthly P&L statements for all the business units. It automatically compares budget forecasts to actual responses. Not just a tool for reward or punishing business units, Fin Web enables managers to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses by product or geographical region. Fin Web gives Microsoft the ability to shift resources out of stagnant areas and enter fast-growing markets. This quick response time enabled Microsoft to reduce the monthly financial close from days to hours.

Futures:

Microsoft will continue to use its own products to further its business. Fin Web will continue to take advantage of emerging Internet technologies. For example, Fin Web is already a Web-based application with hypertext links, the next version will take it even further. Every budget forecast and P&L result will be hyperlinked to independent market forecasts. The goal is to ensure that decision making occurs in the most information-rich environment possible. The corporate nervous system is most responsive when highly stimulated.

Conclusion

The case studies clearly indicate that Office 97 is being used not only as a personal productivity tool, but more importantly as essential element in fostering collaboration among many users. This collaboration generates a value to business by making employees faster, more focused on corporate goals, more competitive, and more efficient.

Office evolved from a personal productivity tool to a collaborative platform for developing and distributing intranet-based applications. Customers said that communications and collaboration features drove Office 97's business value (e.g., accelerated cycle times, leveraged intellectual capital, enhanced dissemination of information across boundaries, cascaded value across the enterprise, optimized decision-making, and tightened integration). Customers that deploy Office 97 no longer focus on just making their employees better, faster, smarter. These companies are building Office 97 applications that bring value to the entire corporation, not just the individual. We believe that these companies are more competitive by being more responsive to constantly shifting customer requirements.

Appendix: Sample Interview Questions

Managing Information Exchange

  • Have you seen the amount of information being exchanged increase or decrease (emails, intranet pages, etc.)?

  • Is it easier or more difficult for end-users to manage information?

Role of Intranets

  • Is it easier or more difficult for users to publish to your organization's intranet?

  • What is the primary business value of your intranet?

  • What is the primary business value of end-users publishing content to your intranet?

  • Has your organization experienced an increase in intranet content?

  • How much time is required to generate a typical one-page document (converting files, etc.) for your intranet?

  • Has FrontPage 97 made it easier or more difficult to manage intranet sites?

  • What is the primary business value of enhanced intranet management?

  • Have you seen a change in the amount of time users spend managing an average intranet site?

Proliferation of collaborations tools

  • What is the primary business value of enhanced collaboration?

  • What is the primary business value of your Outlook97 custom solution?

  • Have you seen more or less process efficiency with custom solutions built around Outlook?

Total Benefit of Office 97 Ownership

  • Do you feel your organization is more or less competitive because of Office 97?

  • Have you achieved measurable financial benefits?

  • What new uses of Office 97 are you considering long term?

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