Microsoft Expands Office Solution Accelerator Program

REDMOND, Wash., Feb. 26, 2004 — In good economic times and bad, companies seek to cut costs, increase productivity and boost revenue. To help organizations achieve these goals, Microsoft has expanded the Office Solution Accelerator program by making the accelerators available at no charge to all Microsoft industry partners and the Microsoft business customers they serve.

Designed for and built on the Microsoft Office System, Office Solution Accelerators are software components, templates and best practices guides crafted to solve common business problems and ease the burden of everyday business tasks. Each accelerator is designed to help develop a solution to a problem, enabling a person or team to accomplish a specific task, such as streamlining recruiting functions, consolidating administrative tasks, creating customized reports and writing proposals.

By making it easier for industry partners and their customers to take part in the Office Solution Accelerator program, Microsoft expects to establish a broader audience for partner-built solutions that solve customer problems.

To better understand why Microsoft has decided to extend the reach of its Office Solution Accelerators program, PressPass spoke with Peter Rinearson, Corporate Vice President, Information Worker Business Unit.

PressPass: Please explain what exactly the Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators have been designed to do?

Rinearson: Many people think of Microsoft Office as a collection of the world’s most popular productivity applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. But Microsoft Office System 2003 also includes a wide range of applications, servers, services and solutions — including solution accelerators that help partners build solutions for their customers.

We recognize that customers want their problems solved, and don’t always know how to take full advantage of the power of Microsoft Office. Often they don’t even know what’s possible. Office Solution Accelerators provide software components, templates, and architectural guidance that help solve specific business problems. It’s one of the ways we’re helping our customers get higher value from the software they already license.

Last fall we rolled out the first Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators. These accelerators help meet needs of information workers in organizational areas such as finance, operations, sales, and human resources.

For instance, sales professionals often write and manage proposals. A solution built on the Proposal accelerator solves problems that sales professionals typically encounter when creating proposals. It cuts the time spent searching for and reusing content, sharing information, coordinating processes by e-mail, and dealing with outdated or non-approved product or marketing information. By reducing unproductive time, a business solution built on the Office Proposal Accelerator helps a sales team win new business. It showcases the tremendous power that Office has, and it makes it easily accessible.

In addition to the Proposals accelerator, the other Microsoft Office Solution Accelerators are called Recruiting, Sarbanes-Oxley, Business Scorecards, Excel OLAP Reporting, and Six Sigma version 2. Two of these have been released, and the other four will all be released between March and May.

PressPass: Can you describe for us what changes will be made to the Office Solution Accelerator program?

Rinearson: Industry partners and customers have expressed strong interest in the new Office Solution Accelerators, but they’ve also told us they’d be even happier if we permitted all Microsoft customers — not just those on a Software Assurance program — to use solutions built on the accelerators.

In response to these requests, we’ll expand the availability of Office Solution Accelerators to all Microsoft customers and industry partners at no charge. We’ll significantly increase the support resources offered online and through our developer-focused communications channels to enable a much broader set of partners to build development and support practices around a growing number of Office Solution Accelerators.

PressPass: What prompted Microsoft to make these changes to the 6-month-old program?

Rinearson: Whenever we start a program, we look for feedback and try to respond. I was personally in a number of meetings where our partners and potential partners said they wanted more control over what they did with the accelerators. We’re responding to this feedback.

Microsoft wants to enable more customers to solve business problems using the Microsoft Office System. We also want to better enable technology-industry partners to build a larger set of valuable Office-based solutions for a wider group of customers, and we believe that this new approach to the Office Solution Accelerators increases the ability of industry partners to deliver value to customers.

PressPass: How will Microsoft’s industry partners benefit from these changes to the program?

Rinearson: Many existing and potential industry partners we’ve talked to support this change. They recognize that making the Office Solution Accelerators available to all Microsoft customers at no charge should mean much more customer interest, which will enable industry partners to build a broader base of solutions for a wider range of customers. Industry partners who already have committed to building on the Office Solution Accelerator program will immediately have a greater number of potential customers for all of their solutions, and, going forward, all industry partners will benefit from having a larger set of more extensible Office Solution Accelerators to help build their solutions business.

PressPass: What advantages will enterprise users realize?

Rinearson: Enterprise customers benefit in many ways. For example, many human-resources processes are very time consuming. The Office Solution Accelerator for Recruiting, which we built to automate recruitment tasks and help workers speed up the recruiting process, will now be available to more customers via a larger partner channel. Our HR customers tell us that administrative tasks, such as interview scheduling, can take up to 50 percent of their time. By making Solution Accelerators such as this more broadly available, our goal is to make our customers more competitive by enabling them to spend less time on tedious administrative tasks, and more time on strategic business matters.

Some of our customers have Software Assurance for some but not all of their desktops. Before this change, they only would have been allowed to deploy solutions built on the accelerators on those desktops that had Software Assurance. Now they can deploy the accelerators across the enterprise.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of the revised program is that so many more accelerators will be available. We expect to more than double the number we deliver — opening lots of opportunities for our industry partners and their customers to realize even more value from Microsoft Office System.

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