5 ways to screw up your enterprise-wide Microsoft Office upgrade

Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish was our guest presenter in a recent webinar titled Are you ready for Office 2010? She said that while there are more high quality alternatives to Microsoft Office than ever before – such as Star Office, OpenOffice and Google Docs – most enterprises remain strongly committed to Microsoft’s platforms. Specifically, 81% still run Office 2007 and 78% support SharePoint.

So it’s no surprise that more than 50% of the respondents from a recent Forrester survey said they plan to upgrade to Office 2010 soon, or within the next couple of years.

But as Sheri has seen in previous Office generations, the migration path to the latest Microsoft platform is typically pocked with many unforeseen pitfalls that can hamstring worker productivity and profitability.

The following are the five most prevalent traps companies tend to overlook when upgrading to the latest Office software, according to Forrester’s research. We want to share them with you so that you know what to look out for when you embark on your enterprise-wide upgrade.

1) Insufficient hardware resources – Companies often find that their desktops and servers lack sufficient resources such as memory, CPU or disk space to support the beefier requirements of Microsoft’s latest rev, triggering an unexpected, expensive and time-consuming hardware upgrade.

2) Underestimating cost and effort – Moving to Office 2010 from earlier versions may require manual regression testing of other applications on the hardware where Office will be used. All applications should be tested to ensure compatibility. Regression testing may identify the need for new service packs, new software or operating system upgrades.

3) Missing the learning curve – If you’re currently on Office 2003, the jump to 2010 requires mastering the new “ribbon” interface, which is a big transition for Office users. Going from Office 2007 to 2010 won’t be so bad, since the ribbon was first introduced with 2007. But there are still new features and capabilities in 2010 that need to be vetted by IT and end users.

4) Breaking legacy Office files – As we know all too well, legacy versions of Office will need to be maintained after migrating to Office 2010, particularly older Access databases, Excel spreadsheets and any custom applications developed with VBA code. More often than not, file links will break and older versions can’t co-exist with Office 2010.

5) Loss of IP and redundancy – Securing and backing up the IP contained in Office files for remote workforces may be a challenge, particularly if they tend to backup their content to external devices like USB hard drives.