Microsoft Office Offers No Bargain as BI, CRM Platform

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2005-11-02 Print this article Print

Opinion: Microsoft's Swiss Army knife approach of using Office as a front end for business intelligence and CRM does nothing to reduce the complexity or cost of implementing these strategic applications.

With both its business intelligence and customer relationship management strategies, Microsoft is attempting to make its Office desktop productivity suite the Swiss Army knife of enterprise applications. On the face of it this seems to make a lot of sense because it provides a familiar way for users to get information into and out of the business intelligence and CRM applications. Any CRM system is naturally going to bring into play all Office applications, whether it is Excel spreadsheets for reports and analysis, Word for correspondence, Outlook for communicating with customers, or PowerPoint for marketing presentations.
It should be just as easy to move raw data out of Excel spreadsheets into business intelligence or CRM applications. It should be equally easy to extract relevant data from Word documents, whether it is customer addresses, order tallies, part numbers or anything that could serve as fodder for compilation and analysis in BI and CRM applications.
But this doesnt seem like the most efficient or elegant way to provide a set of integrated business management tools. It perpetuates an expanding layer of complexity that requires a costly investment in applications and servers. Microsofts approach with the advent of Office 12 will require a heavy reinvestment in new software—servers and applications—that wont necessarily give users quick access to cost-effective BI and CRM capabilities. Users would be much better served by a simpler, more elegant solution in which the data and analysis applications are close at hand, little more than applets or widgets that allow users to compile and display data in charts and graphs. Click here to read the details about Microsofts recently announced business intelligence strategy. Most of the software business is still focused on how much software it can sell at prices customers will tolerate. The industry would sell software by the pound if it could weigh it. Customers would rather have something fast, compact, simple and easy to learn and pay a fee that resembles the value the software delivers to the business. Microsoft says one of its goals is to make business intelligence more pervasive inside organizations because currently only about 20 percent of business users can benefit from using it. Its also true that most of current-generation BI products are big, bulky and expensive systems that require a lot of effort to get a significant return on investments. Next Page: Searching for simplicity.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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