No NZ rush to Office 2007

update New Zealand's biggest IT users seem in no rush to deploy Microsoft's Office 2007, adopting a wait and see attitude to the software suite.A majority of chief information officers and heads of IT at the country's top 20 government, education and corporate IT users polled by ZDNet Australia expressed little enthusiasm for upgrading in the near future.

update New Zealand's biggest IT users seem in no rush to deploy Microsoft's Office 2007, adopting a wait and see attitude to the software suite.

A majority of chief information officers and heads of IT at the country's top 20 government, education and corporate IT users polled by ZDNet Australia expressed little enthusiasm for upgrading in the near future.

The CIO of one major government department summed up the thoughts of many of his counterparts: "We will look at MS Office 2007 next year once we believe that we have evaluated the product specifically for any security and 'safety' issues."

"We tend not to be early adopters and would rather see what other large organisations experience first prior to our implementation," the CIO, who asked not to be identified, said.

A number of educational institutions have adopted a similar go slow approach. Both Massey University and Christchurch's Canterbury University have no plans to implement Office 2007 at present.

Dr John Vargo, Canterbury's acting IT director, said the institution, with a fleet of about 5000 machines, was currently working through a future planning process which would include consideration of the software. "We will certainly not be rolling Office 2007 out in 2007, at the very least, due to format incompatibility and interface issues," he said.

A more enthusiastic response, however, has come from Telecom New Zealand, which with a fleet of over 10,000 desktops and laptops, rates amongst the country's top five technology users.

Telecom has previously said it will deploy Vista across 500 desktops this quarter, making it New Zealand's biggest user of the new operating system to date. Its Vista rollout is related to staff at Australia/New Zealand services subsidiary Gen-i building up an expertise of Microsoft's new OS and applications which can then be passed on to clients.

Telecom's business manager for enabling collaboration, Hugh McKellar, told ZDNet Australia he was excited by the "great functionality" within Office 2007.

"It's a really good, logical development for Microsoft. The Outlook voice access is a cool feature [as are] the enhancements around the whole calendar and contact list and so on, and integration with the other Microsoft applications," McKellar said.

"We certainly see advantage in being aligned with very strong partners. We look to a global standard in the first instance and those [Vista and Office 2007] would be our base level applications that we would look to take to market as services and solutions. But then we can add a strong local flavour to that around service and support."

Another large New Zealand corporate IT user excited about Office 2007 is tertiary education provider, the Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec), which has about 23,000 students and staff.

Wintec piloted Office 2007 when the software was in beta development, deploying it on 100 desktops. Wintec's director of support services, Christina Rogstad, has said Office 2007 boosted productivity and exceeded expectations during the trial.

Rogstad has been quoted as saying any deployment challenges Wintec faced had been outweighed by the operational efficiencies created by Office 2007. The change to Office 2007 was very easy to make, she said.

Why upgrade?
Others remain to be convinced, however. The senior government CIO who asked for anonymity said: "At first glance there is not a compelling reason to upgrade. Potentially it [Office 2007] would fit in with an upgrade cycle and more likely in conjunction with Vista. At this stage, however, that would be dependent on a number of issues surrounding architecture, et cetera, which will drive this decision.

"In short there is no pressure on us to implement either Office 2007 or Vista and we have no compelling event to do so. We will evaluate the product over the course of the next year."

In the New Zealand small business market, PC users are generally expected to follow a similar conservative approach to enterprise users and defer Office upgrades until the software is more established.

But one enthusiast already running his small Wellington-based international consultancy firm on a Vista and Office 2007 platform is Guinness Gallagher executive director Shaan Stevens.

Stevens said on top of Vista's added security features -- which were a godsend for someone like himself who was prone to losing laptops while travelling -- the productivity enhancements within Office 2007 were saving him significant time during the course of the working day.

He said the new version of Outlook's ability to preview attachments, its added CRM functions, and a more intuitive interface for Excel and PowerPoint as examples.

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