In late 2015 – to much fanfare – Microsoft released the latest version of their productivity suite: Office 2016.
 
Most of us were not compelled to rush into a relationship with this new platform; we were content and comfortable with our current setup, and didn’t feel the need to shake things up. You know, the old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach.
 
And now, one and a half years later? Is it finally time for all of us to suck it up and make the switch?
 
Well, I tried to come up with three compelling reasons for you to upgrade right this instant… but couldn’t really convince myself that this is actually the way to go. I’ll take you through my thought process below, and you can decide for yourself whether a move would make good sense for your business.
 

Reason #1 – It’s the new standard.

Since Office 2016 has had about a year and a half “in the wild” now. This means that the vast majority of bugs and compatibility issues that people like me warn you about have been resolved.
 
And Microsoft would most certainly like to encourage the notion that 2016 is the new standard when it comes to productivity suites. But the file format hasn’t changed very much over the years, so it’s not like you are going to have trouble working with documents across versions.
 
Yes, it is the newest package, but if the version you have now is working well for your staff, “newest” doesn’t necessarily mean “best.”
 

Reason #2 – Older versions won’t last much longer.

Microsoft products have two main phases of support: Mainstream and Extended. Mainstream is all-inclusive, and Extended is where Microsoft starts chipping away at things like most non-security updates and all “complimentary” support. Once Extended Support expires, everything – including security updates – goes out the window.
 
Office 2007 is currently in Extended Support, which will expire April 11th (October 2017 for Outlook). Office 2010, too, is in Extended Support, but you have a little more time here; the expiration is October 2020. For 2013, Mainstream Support ends April 2018, and Extended April 2023.
 
If your business is running Office 2013, then, you really don’t have any sort of time pressure behind you. For 2010, include it in your longer-term forecasting, but you still have the majority of support for another two and a half years.
 
If you’re on 2007, you actually need to switch – and soon.
 

Reason #3 – Our businesses need to gravitate toward collaboration.

The main differentiator with Office 2016 is the cloud integration; you will be able to save directly to Microsoft’s cloud from the desktop app, and if more than one person is working on a cloud-based file you can see real-time edits within that document.
 
In today’s climate, providing your team with effective collaboration tools is becoming less of an option and more of a requirement when it comes to employee retention and meeting client expectations – especially if your workforce is widespread.
 
But by no means is this package the only way to give your team the tools they need. Other platforms like Dropbox allow similar real-time edits by multiple people. Some companies would be perfectly fine with just an instant messaging platform like Skype for Business. Others would get the best results from an all-in-one package like Slack.
 
All in all, unless you’re on Office 2007, it’s not going to hurt you to hold pattern as far as Office goes.
 
As with any upgrade, it’s most important to assess whether the switch will have an impact on your business, whether that is increased productivity, decreased risk (as would be the case for versions outside of support), or otherwise.
 
If it doesn’t, well, you won’t hear me pressuring you to upgrade for the sake of upgrading.
 


 
As originally published in the American City Business Journals.

 
 

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