Do You Really Need Microsoft Office?

4 minute read
David Roe avatar

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Two things are made clear in the new benchmark report from SoftWatch: 1. Business users spend a lot less time using their Office applications than might be thought. 2. If an organization did an in-depth analysis ofOffice usage across the enterprise, they might well find that dumping Office and moving to another, cheaper productivity suite could save them an awful lot of money.

The findings are contained in new research from SoftWatch entitled "SoftWatch Benchmark: Real Usage of MS Office Apps." It appears to show that an average business worker only spends 48 minutes per day on Office applications.

The reason we say “appears to show” is that SoftWatch has a vested interest in enterprises moving from MS Office, as it offers a service that helps enterprises transition to Google Apps.

SoftWatch Methodology

However, the research shouldn't be dismissed as biased based on that alone. The methodology appears sound and from speaking with many enterprises over the years it is clear that Office is not as extensively used as Microsoft might like. The analysis was carried out using the following parameters:

  • The overall study is based on data collected from 148,500 users over a period of three months, in 51 companies with an average size of 2900.
  • The companies are from different regions: North and Central America, UK, Western Europe, Israel, ANZI and APAC.
  • The following verticals are represented: finance, telecommunications, retail, manufacturing, media, healthcare, food industry, government agencies and others.
  • It was carried out on all Windows-based machines.

It also excluded Outlook as an email application, which fell outside of the parameters of the study.

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SoftWatch Analytics

SoftWatch analytics is a simple enough SaaS-based application that works in the background on corporate PCs analyzing what apps are being used, how oftenthey are being opened, for how long and what kind of work is being done on them.

The findings, overall, showed that the average employee spends only 48 minutes per day in MS Office programs, and most of that time is spent on Outlook. It also indicated that a large number of users are not using a wide range of apps.

In particular, PowerPoint is not being used by at least half of all employees. Other Office application use usually occurs for viewing and light editing purposes, with only a tiny portion of the workforce identified as heavy users:

Learning Opportunities

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It also showed that the percentage of users who can be described as light users on all applications is 68 percent, while the number of employee who used 2 applications was only 2 percent, and just about zero percent for the number of those that used three or more applications.

Breaking that down further, financial departments had the highest level of Excel usage, PowerPoint in marketing and Word in the legal department, which usually had a heavy user rate of close to 100 percent. The results did not reveal significant variations across industries or geography.

Office Alternatives

From this, SoftWatch suggested that at least 80 percent of Office users could move to alternative cloud based solutions. It also pointed out that most employees don't use advanced editing capabilities and organizations are simply wasting a lot of money on excessive licenses. In fact, SoftWatch estimated that enterprises could save close to 90 percent of the costs of Office licenses by moving light users to Google Apps.

Even if SoftWatch’s figures for use -- or lack of use -- for MS Office look a little bit steep, they do bring up an interesting question, which only enterprises themselves can answer: Does the use of Office in your enterprise justify the cost, or should you switch to a cheaper alternative?

It may be that workers are happy with Office and used to working with it, and for that reason alone it may be worth holding on to. However, the SoftWatch study raises some questions which should prompt enterprises to take a look at alternatives, if not make the switch.