Before they wrote the first line of code for Office SBA, Taneja
and his researchers observed work processes at dozens of small
companies. "We wanted to find out how small businesses use
technology and how technology can make them more productive,"
Taneja says. They watched CEOs, accountants, salespeople,
marketing executives, and others as they navigated the working
day, always looking for points of "friction," which Taneja defines
as "time wasted getting information that already exists elsewhere."
(Friction is another popular concept at Microsoft, made famous by
Bill Gates' 1995 book, The Road Ahead, a paean to an IT-enabled
state of business grace that Gates called "friction-free capitalism.")
At Microsoft "friction" is also roughly synonymous with "Post-it
notes." Whenever a Microsoft executive mentions Post-its, you can
be sure that he is referring to some inefficient, predigital business
practice that a Microsoft application was built to rationalize. Office
SBA, for example, will ship with a new version of Business Contact
Manager, an Outlook add-on that allows salespeople to access every
client's sales and credit history at a glance, rather than laboriously
gather information from old invoices and contracts in the back office.
"We found that sales and marketing people didn't tend to document
their leads properly," Taneja says sorrowfully. "A lot was happening
on Post-its and whiteboards.
Saturday, June 25, 2005
Microsoft is thinking
Fortune reports on work Microsoft that is doing to prepare its Small Business Software.