Selecting Office Software Packages

Office software forms a critical link between the primary business systems in your day to day work. The initial choice of the office package has far reaching consequences; both for the future selection of additional software in the future and for the ease with which documents and information can be shared throughout the organisation.

N.B. This topic is aimed primarily at those using the Microsoft Windows® operating system. However, the issues and actions are applicable to all platforms.

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  • Office software, pre-installed by your hardware supplier, may not meet your organisation's needs. You can then become 'locked into' unsuitable systems and effectively prevented from the correct choice of office software.

  • Be aware that there are different office software packages.
  • Inform yourself of their respective features and benefits.
  • Prepare a User Requirement Specification and identify which best meets your organisation's needs and choose accordingly.
  • Lack of set organisation standards can allow the user's personal preferences to determine the choice of office software. This can cause delays and frustration, with information being inaccessible to anyone not using the same office software, or using a different version.

  • Consider selecting a product which is used across your type of industry or business.
  • Determine whether there is a potential need to share data files with outside parties.
  • Select an office package and implement this standard throughout the organisation.
  • Where support for an old office system is poor or where the product has been discontinued for some time, you are exposed in case of system failure or other problem. You could lose information, simply because it can no longer be read.

    N.B. This is not an example of the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it"! This issue is unlikely to go away. If anything, it will worsen over time and possible force a change when it is least convenient.

  • Seek support options from a specialist supplier.
  • Balance the risk of inadequate support against the cost and risk of a migration to a new system.
  • The use of separate office products across the organisation introduces the real (and likely) risk of incompatible data formats.

  • Unless there is a genuine Business Case for using different software tools between offices within the organisation, resist it!
  • Where such use already exists, or is warranted, determine a compatible data format and ensure that each user's settings conform to this standard, e.g. the output of word processing documents could be in 'Rich Text Format' ( .rtf files) as opposed to their native format to ensure compatibility.

    N.B. Such compatibility usually comes at a price. By agreeing on a common format between the office systems, the more sophisticated features of the office software may no longer be available, perhaps disabling key requirements.
  • The specification of your current equipment may be too low or only marginally adequate, resulting in strain and overload which could corrupt information if the system were to crash.

  • With input and support from the supplier, you should perform a sizing exercise to determine the expected capacity requirements of the new system. The supplier should refer you to one of their current installations which approximate your circumstances.
  • Recognise that many PC operating systems are fragile when overloaded. Consider the feasibility of upgrading the PCs in question. If not, new hardware may be required.
  • Office software is usually expected to work with other attached peripherals, e.g. fax, scanner, modem, printers, etc. However, and especially with older equipment, the drivers may be obsolete and only operate with certain software etc.

  • Consider the way in which the office software will be used and the need to integrate with current peripherals and systems.
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