Coexistence… A step not a solution

Running in compatibility mode, or co-existence, may sound like a great solution as your enterprise deploys an Office upgrade. However, the highest risk of business disruption due to Office upgrade deployments is present when an enterprise is operating in a mixed environment. This article is meant to make you aware of the advantages, limitations, risks and potential problems that can arise during this “tweener” stage.

Coexistence makes a nice stepping stone for rolling out an Office upgrade. The main goal of compatibility mode or coexistence is to allow any particular file to be opened and used either in your current or new Office version. There are two ways that make this possible. First, you can keep your files in the old Office format and everyone who uses the new Office version can see and use them running the compatibility mode, but without being able to enjoy the new features of Office. Second, all the files can be converted to the new Office version and the users of the old version will be able to open and use them using compatibility mode.

Considering that the deployment process of an Office upgrade may take over a year and it can be pretty complicated, where would the harm be in using compatibility mode as a long term strategy? First of all, when converting files to Office 2010 format, the links will be lost due to the change of file name extension. Excel are the most risky files, because employees usually use linked data that is automatically updated within this files. With the links being broken the data will not be updated anymore, so the employees may build their reports on old data without noticing. The financial department could face real problems if those sort of difficulties arise. VBA code is another feature that could create problems considering that object models differ from Office 2003/2007 to Office 2010. Codes that run on Office 2003/2007 may or may not work on Office 2010. Think about the pressure you’ll put on the Help Desk if you chose to go for the fix on fail strategy.

One more risk you could take if running in compatibility mode is related to documents for prospects, clients, potential buyers etc. If you want to send them a presentation particularly approved because of its appearance, if the way that it is designed is of great importance for the company image, you must take into consideration that you risk the presentation not reaching its destination looking the same when operating in compatibility mode. Charts rendering, for example, differs from Office 2003/2007 to Office 2010, so there is a good chance for your document to look entirely different at destination if you create it in Office 2003/2007 and send it in Office 2010 format. The same is available for colors, fonts, shape of different objects and many others details. Another important disadvantage of using coexistence is not getting a good return of your investment for Office 2010. Compatibility mode still pushes for using the same old technology, so you can’t take advantage of the added value, productivity and functionality of Office 2010.

What you need to keep in mind is that compatibility mode or coexistence is an effective step in the process of full Office upgrade deployment, but only a step. Avoiding to move to the newest technology in order to wait for the next one will only bring you more and more incompatibility issues. There is no magic bullet to rolling out a new version of Office, there is no standard procedure, but Office Converter can offer you the technology that helps you identify those files that are most likely to cause problems and help you plan a proactive strategy to minimize the discomfort. Converter Technology can leverage its strong relationship with Microsoft to provide a set of solutions and methodologies that take companies from the planning stage to full deployment in native Office mode on time, on budget, no problems.