The Office System 2003 family of products didnt materialize out of thin air. Behind the new suite of Office products that Microsoft Corp. recently released to manufacturing and plans to launch officially on Oct. 21 is the Information Worker (IW) “Gang of Five.” This is the senior leadership team assembled by Microsofts head of productivity and business services, Jeff Raikes, over the past year-plus.
Who are these guys? And how will they support Raikes in his quest to double productivity and reinvigorate Microsoft Office, starting with the launch of Office System 2003?
The Player Roster
First, a quick refresher on whos on Raikes IW dream team:
There is one very familiar face: Senior VP Sinofsky. Fourteen-year Microsoft veteran Sinofsky oversees the development of the Microsoft Office System (the suite as well as related products such as SharePoint Portal server and Visio.). Hes the guy Raikes and the other team members approach when they need to talk about a new feature or family member being added to the suite.
There are two other Microsoft veterans on the team, but both are relatively new to Raikes organization.
Anoop Gupta, who heads the real-time collaboration business unit that is part of the IW organization, most recently was Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates technical assistant. Before that, he was part of Microsoft Research. Guptas 500-person unit comprises folks pulled from Microsofts PlaceWare acquisition, NetMeeting and Exchange Conferencing Server businesses, as well as those working on Microsofts various real-time communications products.
And Marc Chardon, who is the chief financial officer for Raikes organization, spent years as head of Microsoft France, and before that, Digital Equipment Corp.s French operation. As CFO, Chardon handles the usual CFO tasks of business modeling and development.
There are two “outsiders” brought in by Raikes to help Microsoft think about the IW business from a different perspective.
Joe Eschbach, corporate VP of the IW product management group, is in charge of marketing Office. Eschbach came to Microsoft from Adobe Systems Inc. and, before that, Mitsubishi Electric, Radius, Claris and Apple Computer Inc.
Corporate VP Peter Rinearson, a former journalist and entrepreneur, is heading up the IW new markets division, which incubates new products, as well as develops new “accelerator” solutions comprised of products and add-on services. Rinearson also oversees Microsofts IW showcase – a model office of the future of which Microsoft offers tours – called the Center for Information Work.
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.”
Long-Term Mission: Develop Cross-Division Synergies
Once the IW gang gets Office 2003 out the door, watch for more teaming, inside the IW unit as well as between the IW unit and other Microsoft divisions.
Microsofts goal: to connect the dots for customers and not have to count on them doing it themselves.
(Remember the companys “Better Together” campaign? The IW team will be jumping on that bandwagon in a major way in the coming months, with Better Togethers successor, “Integrated Innovation.”)
“With Office, the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts,” says Eschbach. “Were coming up with scenarios for getting different products to work together. Aggregating our products together gives us (another) way to talk to customers.”
Gupta offers up some examples of how his real-time unit works with the businesses run by the other dream-team members.
- Gupta has worked with Sinofsky on some Office features, such as Outlook 2003s inbox, which will provide for greater integration of instant messaging, for instance.
- Gupta also is working hand-in-hand with Eschbach on the fall launch of Live Communications Server. The pair is hammering out some communication and collaboration Go To Market packages (GTMs) that will feature Office integrated with the real-time communications products.
- Gupta is teaming with Rinearson on building a telephony accelerator, which will bundle together software, services and methodologies.
Watch for the IW folks to start working more with other Microsoft teams, too, including MSN, Xbox (more real-time communications for gaming consoles) and Microsoft Business Solutions division, too.
In any case, theres plenty of work ahead, team members agree.
“To double productivity, you need to attack the problems impeding it,” says Eschbach. “Thatll take us a decade.”
To learn more about Microsofts plans to kick-start Office sales, visit MicrosoftWatch.com.
This updated story originally appeared in the May 23, 2003, issue of Microsoft Watch.