REDMOND, Wash., May 24, 1999 — As the owner of a retail kite store with four full-time employees in Newport, Ore., Wayne Glenn oversees every aspect of his company’s business. In addition to his formal role as president of The Kite Company, he’s also the company sales manager, the customer-relations manager and the database operator. He’s both the graphic designer and the marketing manager. He’s even the Web site producer.
To help him manage the many hats he wears, Glenn turns to the applications included in Microsoft Office. From Excel spreadsheets to Access database software and FrontPage Web design and management, Microsoft Office offers Glenn the tools he needs to run his business efficiently. Having an entire suite of products also allows him to be more productive by moving information and graphics from one application to the other without any glitches.
Glenn has been using the beta version of Office 2000 since March, and plans to upgrade to the final version when Microsoft launches it early next month. “Office 2000 has a lot more to offer, it allows you to do more things, and it seems easier to use,” Glenn said. “The product seems to get better all the time.”
Glenn is among thousands of small-business owners awaiting the launch of Office 2000 on June 7. To help small businesses operate more efficiently, Microsoft this week announced that Office 2000 will include a new set of tools to help small businesses tackle the variety of tasks that confront them daily. Microsoft Small Business Tools include Small Business Customer Manager, Business Planner, Direct Mail Manager and Financial Manager.
Microsoft announced the new Office-based tools during National Small Business Week, an annual event organized by the U.S. Small Business Administration to honor America’s top entrepreneurs. A sponsor of the “Small Business of the Year” awards, Microsoft will provide a free copy of Office 2000 Small Business edition to each of the winners in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.
To help kick off National Small Business Week, Microsoft also announced several other products and tools aimed at helping small businesses. BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5, the latest version of Microsoft’s industry-leading small business server suite, is designed to provide small businesses with a Windows NT Server 4.0-based technology platform that allows them to share information via e-mail, fax, the Web and other formats with anyone, anywhere. Microsoft also unveiled a new tool to make it easier for small businesses to set up the Windows NT Workstation 4.0 operating system, and announced new training programs aimed at helping small businesses migrate to Windows NT Workstation.
Microsoft’s offerings are designed to help the 24 million small businesses in the U.S., and hundreds of millions small businesses worldwide, to succeed using technology. “We have done extensive research and have met with thousands of small businesses, and what we keep hearing is that they want to communicate more effectively with their customers, make better business decisions and streamline business operations so they work more efficiently,” said Steve Brown, Microsoft product manager for Office and BackOffice Small Business Server. “Those are the goals we are trying to achieve with our products.”
One of the new small-businesses tools that will be included in Office 2000, Small Business Customer Manager, will allow users to better track, analyze and act on information about their customers. Until now, small businesses did not have an easy way to analyze customer information, because they could not easily combine data stored in their accounting software with customer information kept in their Office applications, Brown said. The Customer Manager tool will enable users to import customer-related information from their company’s accounting software and the “contacts” folder in Microsoft Outlook into a central database.
“With that database, you can share all that information about the customers within the company,” Brown said. “You can analyze it any way you want because we include pre-defined ways to look at that information-like who are my top customers, what are my top-selling products, who are my most productive sales people. And then based on that information, the small business can take action, using any of the dozens of pre-configured Word, Publisher and Excel templates we include.”
Office will also include the Microsoft Business Planner, which Brown describes as a “business consultant in a box.” The tool allows users to easily create marketing and business plans by answering a set of questions. Once the questions are answered, Business Planner automatically generates a business plan of any length, depending on the user’s needs. The tool also comes with an extensive array of reference books and online resources designed to provide users with the information they need to manage their businesses.
“If a small business owner wants to know more about manufacturing and goes out to a Web site like Yahoo and types in ‘manufacturing,’ she’s going to get 10,000 responses to the query, and she’s never going to be able to filter through all that,” Brown said. “Business Planner actually interviews the small-business owner and asks a bunch of questions. And then based on the responses, it provides a suggested reading list of Web sites and articles that are directly relevant to the small business.”
Office 2000 will also come with Small Business Financial Manager, a tool to help small businesses make better use of their company accounting data. For example, it allows companies to generate financial reports and charts and perform financial analyses. “So if you want to create a ‘what if’ projection, and say what happens to my profitability if I raise the price of my product by 10 percent, Financial Manager will do that for you,” Brown explained. Financial Manager also includes other financial-analysis resources such as a “Buy vs. Lease” wizard that helps small businesses determine whether it is more cost-effective to purchase or lease assets they plan to acquire.
Finally, Office 2000 will include Small Business Direct Mail Manager, an Internet-based tool aimed at helping businesses develop more targeted and cost-effective direct mail campaigns. The tool allows users to easily obtain targeted prospect lists, verify addresses against the U.S. Postal Service Zip+4 database, take advantage of bulk mailing discounts and use third-party mailing services to automate the process. “It allows small businesses to stay closer to the customers they already have and to get access to new customers they haven’t been able to reach before,” Brown said.
The Microsoft Small Business Tools, which will be included in the Small Business, Professional and Premium editions of Office 2000, already are receiving a warm reception from small businesses using the beta version of the new product. “These tools are fantastic for someone who wants to get into a brand new business or to upgrade their existing business,” said Randy Rowe, a systems operations manager at McGarry Machine Inc., in Portland, Ore. “Someone starting a new business would have to go to up to a dozen different places to get the information that’s all right here.”
“I really can’t imagine operating without Office today,” said James R. Gotcher, owner of his own law office in Los Angeles. Gotcher, who has used the Direct Mail Manager, said the tool has made him more productive. “I love it,” he said. “The tool pulls client address lists out automatically and merges them with template documents in Word, so you don’t have to go in and do it by hand. It saves an enormous amount of time.”
In addition to the new Office tools for small businesses, Microsoft announced several other offerings to help small businesses succeed:
BackOffice Small Business Server 4.5, the latest version of Microsoft’s small-business server suite, provides more flexibility for small businesses to set up and manage their networked computing environments, Brown said. Using the new version, small businesses can work with their technology provider to connect their company computers to one another and to the Internet using any Internet service provider and any type of connection, from a simple dial-up line to an Adaptive Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) or cable modem. Small Business Server 4.5 also supports up to 50 desktop computers, double the number of the previous version, and is available for an estimated retail price of $1,499 for the server and five client workstation licenses.
The Windows NT Workstation Step-By-Step Setup Assistant for Small Businesses provides detailed instructions for small businesses purchasing new PCs with Windows NT Workstation 4.0. The tool is intended to provide an easy way for users to set up Windows NT Workstation as more small businesses migrate to the operating system. Already, one in every five small businesses is using Windows NT Workstation, up from just one in 20 nine months ago, Microsoft officials said.
Microsoft rolled out additional training programs in 26 cities designed to help small businesses move to Windows NT Workstation. The programs will train 15,000 technology providers and systems builders on how to install and use Windows NT Workstation so they, in turn, can provide assistance to small businesses setting up the Microsoft operating system.
With thousands of new small businesses setting up shop every year, all of these offerings are aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed in today’s highly competitive markets, Brown said. “Small-business owners wear many hats, and the only way they can do that is if they have technology to help them communicate and work more effectively,” he said. “Our tools and programs are intended to help them do just that.