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By eweek  |  Posted 2003-08-20 Print this article Print

Look Ahead, but Keep Your Eye on the Ball Before Raikes built out his new team, Microsoft was focusing on building more and more feature-rich versions of Microsofts Office suite, aimed at a fairly predictable base of "knowledge workers." But Office sales began to slow, as Microsoft cornered the market (with a 95-plus percent share of the Windows desktop office suite market), and users hesitated to upgrade once they latched onto a version of Office that fulfilled their needs. "In the information-worker space, we realized we were a large share of the slowly growing half of the business," says Chardon, who worked as Raikes business manager for a year-and-a-half before donning the IW CFO mantle. "We were not really a player in collaboration or real-time communication." Microsoft was basically ignoring the growing opportunity to help customers take analog processes digital, he says.
Even though the IW team realized Microsoft needed to take the plunge into uncharted waters, its members also knew that the company couldnt afford to let Office sink under its own weight. Especially with alternatives like StarOffice and OpenOffice.Orgs OpenOffice waiting in the wings.
The burning issue became, "How do you make the add-on sale more attractive, get existing customers to buy more and attract new customers?" Chardon says. And all at the same time? First, "we had to provide ways to get more value out of the product," acknowledges Chardon. Raikes got the go-ahead to hire a special sales force called the Business Productivity Advisors (BPAs). This 400-person team, most of which was hired last summer and fall, has no quotas. Instead, its mission is to evangelize among the existing Office customer base by helping them learn how to get the most out of the Office features they already own. Eschbach is in charge of the BPA squad. "They arent in selling mode," Eschbach explains. "They are trying to meet the business decision-makers and are bringing in (reseller) partners to help them do so." Simultaneously, Microsoft is building more features into Office with the 2003 version that are aimed at making the product easier to use. Chardon cites as examples of areas where Microsoft is focusing: new wizards, personal solutions (coming from Rinearsons team) and new Office Web sites (like Office Online and other community-building destinations). Eschbach is thinking hard about how better to satisfy the Office customer base. He says the six SKUs that Microsoft ultimately selected for Office 2003 reflect this customer focus. "We cant offer hundreds of millions of different SKUs," Eschbach says. So, in coming up with the final list of SKUs, "we put the customers at the center and looked at what problems they had." The Professional Enterprise SKU, for example, packages together products that are able to be digested by customers with sophisticated IT capabilities, Eschbach explains. "Connecting people, data and processes is key. Automating business processes is key" in this segment, Eschbach says. The Small Business SKU is tailored more for users who are focused on customer acquisition and management, Eschbach continues. "We are in the rebuild phase of excitement," says Eschbach. "We want to excite the masses: influential end users, technology decision-makers and business decision-makers." Next page: Long-Term Mission: Develop Cross-Division Synergies


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