Get Back To Work

U.S. workers are on the job an average of 45 hours per week, but 16 of those hours are considered to be unproductive due to unclear objectives, lack of team communication and ineffective meetings, according to a survey Microsoft released yesterday.

More than 38,000 people in 200 countries responded to the Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge, in which they addressed 18 statements on their work practices. More than half of the respondents (55 percent) relate their productivity to the software tools they use, with only 34 percent saying they are using “proven” scheduling tools and techniques. (Something tells me “proven” loosely translates to “Office.”)

One stat jumped out: Overall, 29 percent of respondents said procrastination was a productivity pitfall, but for U.S.-based respondents, the figure was a whopping 42 percent. Maybe U.S. workers are simply more honest, considering that 100 percent of the respondents took the time to respond to the survey, when they were probably supposed to be doing something else.

Collaboration Roundup
The survey comes hard on the heels of Convergence 2005 last week in San Diego, the Microsoft Business Solutions division's annual customer conference. Microsoft announced a slew of new and enhanced Office-related products, ranging from Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 (formerly “Istanbul”) to Live Communications Server and Live Meeting. Billed as part of Microsoft’s integrated communications strategy, the products are intended to help information workers communicate in real time. They incorporate presence technology while integrating e-mail, phone, instant messaging (IM), short message service (SMS), videoconferencing and Web conferencing. Click here for more information on these new products.

Your Turn: Office System Stories Wanted
Meanwhile, at Redmond magazine we want to put together a story outlining what kinds of experiences readers are having with Office products of late.

In our Q&A with Jeff Raikes last month, he expounded at length on the productivity gains to be had from the latest Office products. Is your organization realizing those gains? Can you quantify them? If so, we want to hear from you. And if you’ve implemented the latest Office products but aren’t seeing the ROI, we want to hear from you, too.

Send your thoughts to me at pdesmond@redmondmag.com with the subject line “Office” or contact me through the Your Turn feedback system on Redmondmag.com.

Microsoft Finds Its Groove
Redmond news editor Scott Bekker reports on last week’s news that Microsoft is buying Groove Networks, with the intent to roll the company's collaboration products into Office and leverage Groove founder Ray Ozzie's skills across Microsoft in the role of chief technical officer. Ozzie will be one of only six employees who report directly to Bill Gates, a group that includes the company’s two existing CTOs, Craig Mundie and David Vaskevitch. Which raises the question, how can you have three “chief” technical officers? Answer: You give them each a technology “bucket.” Ozzie’s will be collaboration while Mundie focuses on advanced strategies and policies, and Vaskevitch concentrates on the business platform. Now the only problem for the three chiefs is they report to Gates, the chiefiest of them all.

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This move makes sense for both sides. The Groove technology will fill a gap in Microsoft's collaboration strategy, namely for a product that users can employ when they're offline. Groove's technology allows you to work while disconnected, then sync up later. Groove will get access to the Microsoft marketing machine, which can help explain the benefits of the technology, and the company's distribution channel, which can get it into user's hands. After a meeting with some Groove execs back in December, I came away with the distinct impression that the company was struggling to sell its products on any kind of large scale. Microsoft marketing muscle and channel partners should go a long way toward curing that ill.

Call for Channel Partners
Speaking of the Microsoft channel, we are launching a sister publication focusing on that very topic. Redmond Channel Partner will launch in July, coinciding with the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference. Just as Redmond seeks to help IT professionals do their jobs better, Redmond Channel Partner will try to do the same for Microsoft value-added resellers and other forms of partners. If you’re a Microsoft Partner, drop me a line and let’s start a dialogue. We want to get to know you better so we can give you the kind of content you need. I’m especially interested in partners who can help out with a story I’m writing called “Getting Close to Microsoft, ” which will outline the steps you need to take to forge a close working relationship with Microsoft. Write me at pdesmond@redmondmag.com subject line “Partners,” or find out more and contact me through the site.

Microsoft Dumping Passwords?
File this one in the “hard-to-believe” category, but word out of the CeBIT show in Germany this week is that Microsoft is preparing to ditch passwords in Longhorn in favor of two-factor authentication. Something tells me the real story is that two-factor will be a more tightly integrated option; requiring it sounds like a bit of a stretch. Two-factor is a great idea if you need tight security, but it won’t be for everyone.

I Want My March Madness
And file this one under, “Best use I’ve seen yet for a search engine.” Microsoft is teaming up with FoxSports.com to offer real-time scores from the NCAA basketball tournament via the new MSN Search tool at MSN.com. Plug in a team name and you’ll get an up-to-the-minute score from a game in progress. Type in “March Madness all games” and get updates on all the scores. Not that you would ever do such a thing at work, of course. Naturally you’ll wait till the day is done before you check scores to see how you’re doing on the pool(s) that you’re in for entertainment purposes only. (It’s a very good thing that Microsoft’s productivity survey wasn’t conducted in March.)

About the Author

Paul Desmond, the founding editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine, is president of the IT publishing firm PDEdit in Southborough, Mass. Reach him at paul@pdedit.com.

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