Wait and See—Or Just Wait?

Migration to Office 2003 will take awhile, if it happens at all.

Two years after many enterprises decided to pass on Office XP, IT managers running Microsoft Corp.s Office 2003 through its paces said the new release has enough exciting, essential features to make it a more compelling upgrade.

"If you look at the feature set, there are substantial improvements and innovations that are certainly not there in Office XP," said Bruce Brorson, director of IT at the University of Minnesota, Crookston, and an eWEEK Corporate Partner. "For us, it looks like Microsoft has a winner here. I like the direction Office 2003 has taken because the XML support is important."

This doesnt mean all IT managers are itching to upgrade, however. IT staffers at many organizations said they will continue to test the suite through the end of this year before widely deploying it. Microsoft executives said they expect a large percentage of enterprise customers to pilot Office 2003 over the next year. And IT managers at enterprises that use only the basic functions of Office—such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint—said the new features in Office 2003 may not be worth the upgrade and training costs.

"We use few of Offices features beyond basic word processing, spreadsheet and some database functionality," said Sam Inks, director of IS at Atlantic Research Corp. and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, in Gainesville, Va. "In fact, were it not for some file-format incompatibilities, wed probably be happy using Office 97 forever."

Organizations are often slow to upgrade to new Office releases. According to an informal survey conducted last year by research company Gartner Inc., Office 97 accounts for at least 30 percent of Microsofts productivity suite installed base today. Along with software-licensing costs, IT organizations must also consider deployment and user training costs.