My name is Stig. I work on the ISV team for Microsoft. I’m an SAP user. I’m also a Siebel user. As you can gather my company has invested a lot of resources in me by giving me access to these systems. I’m thankful for that. I’m sure it was done with the best intentions at heart. The problem is that I’m not happy. I should be thrilled that my employer is investing large sums in my productivity. I should be ecstatic that people care enough about my success to put costly software at my finger tips. But I’m not. I only use those tools when it is the last resort (and by then it has usually been so long that I have forgotten how). If I can ask a colleague for help rather than look up information I will. I have no shame having someone else set up a purchase order on my behalf. I enter pipeline information because I have to, not because I ever get anything back. I manage my budget because it is mandated, not because it helps me stretch my dollar.
You have probably recognized me by now. I’m the casual user and I’m disgruntled. I represent a huge opportunity for software providers. There are millions of users like me out there. Millions of people who are waiting patiently for line-of-business systems to deliver on the promise of increased productivity. Increased productivity not only for the elite few but for all users. Super users and casual users alike.
The first application I open in the morning is Outlook. The last application I close before I go to bed is Outlook. In between I have spent the majority of my day in Word, Excel and SharePoint. That has been my comfort zone for years. I don’t want to learn anything else. Not because I’m averse to change, but because it makes me less productive. Let me look up my customers from Outlook. Let me manage my billable hours in Outlook’s calendar. Let me manage my budget in Excel. Make it easy for me to insert product information from a line-of-business system in a Word document. Don’t give me an overly complex ERP interface. Don’t invest a fortune in a customized Web interface. Just allow me to keep working in the familiar Office environment that I have come to know and love. That way we all win. (By the way, I thought this before I joined Microsoft and I’ll still think so the day I leave Microsoft.)
Hitherto, this has been a vision that we, even internally at Microsoft, haven’t been able to attain. However, that is all changing. More and more Microsoft ISVs are now delivering the solutions that will truly make casual users more productive by rendering data and functionality from line-of-business systems in Microsoft Office.
Some of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. are software companies that provide Office Business Applications (lovingly dubbed OBAs). Take Winshuttle as an example. Winshuttle is a 30 people strong Microsoft ISV out of Bothell Washington that builds integration between Excel and mySAP. They landed as no. 124 on the INC5000 list of the fastest growing companies in America this year. On the other end of the spectrum we find SAP (who knows a thing or two about growth themselves) pursuing its next wave of growth through Duet, a Microsoft Office front end to mySAP.
For ISVs who extend line-of-business systems through Microsoft technology, Microsoft has made a number of resources and incentives available. You can learn more here:
For general OBA information: www.obacentral.com
For partners who extend SAP: www.microsoft.com/sap
For partners who extend Oracle: www.microsoft-oracle.com
Lastly, passionate casual users like me with ideas on how to make our lives easier through OBAs should enter the O2OBA Challenge for a chance to make both your company and the world a little better.
Thanks for your time,