Microsoft eyes "people-ready" software

Microsoft is focused on providing a "people ready" software environment geared for Web 2.0, said Simon Witts, corporate vice president for Microsoft's Enterprise and Partner Group, at the Software 2006 conference on Wednesday.

The company also is eyeing role-specific versions of its Office suite, for persons such as sales representatives, Witts said.

"With the Web 2.0, we have a situation where customer experience is being defined on the Web," Witts said. Internet technology is coming into the enterprise and becomes the expected way to reach consumers, he said.

Meanwhile, businesses must be people-ready to accommodate pressures from competition, from technology changes and from issues such as compliance, he said.

"It's less about how we run the company. It's about how we drive the company and it's actually people that are driving these business outcomes," Witts said.

People are asking for business intelligence tools, content management, and richer collaboration, Witts said. A people-ready business platform needs to deliver these services, he said. "For a people-ready business, there's a universal set of requirements that a business needs to deliver across the enterprise," Witts said.

Microsoft is eyeing the Office SharePoint Server 2007 (http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/servers/sharepointserver/overview.mspx) platform to provide these capabilities.

"Our move here is to say, let's democratize SharePoint," and integrate workflow, content management, business intelligence, and business process automation, Witts said.

He also discussed role-based versions of the Office suite, referring to this effort as Office 14. Versions would be implemented for roles such as research and development professionals, sales persons, and human resources. "We would call this role-based productivity. It's a very powerful concept," Witts said.

Witts also said business practices inside the enterprise are taking precedence over business processes. The traditional narrow role of a business process, such as a purchase order, is limiting; collaboration needs to be recognized, according to Witts.

Witts told of Microsoft's internal moves to link tools on the desktop. The company found several years ago that its Siebel CRM implementation was not providing what the company wanted. Using a browser-based portal, the company then unified its sales, Siebel and Clarify customer support applications with a marketing database to deliver a 360-degree view of a customer. However, the company still had to pay sales persons to populate the Siebel system with data.

Thus, the company decided it needed to connect enterprise and personal workflows and use role-based portals. Outlook serves as the client in this system.

"We've really put the power train in place to connect the business application to the people and we've really driven a fundamentally different set of results," Witts said.

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