Despite the rise of the mobile app, old school PCs and laptops, with their swiss-army-knife Microsoft Office installations, remain ubiquitous in business. Indeed, according to Microsoft, about 1 in 7 people on the planet (1.2 billion) still use Microsoft Office.
Given this it’s always struck me as surprising how rarely companies take advantage of the ability to extend Office’s functionality. Organisations with thousands of users firing up Outlook every morning, authoring documents in Word or Powerpoint and totting up numbers in Excel, often implement new systems without thought to integrating these with their existing Office installations. Financial ledger systems. Staff management systems. Stock management and sales systems. Most of these are, or can be, configured to integrate with Office.
So this is a post about that neglected thing called and Office ‘Add-In’. An Office Add-In is a piece of software you install which extends the functionality of your Office installation in some way. For example, it could provide a new menu allowing you to file emails in a CRM system, add new Excel worksheet functions particular to your business, or install a new side-window pane displaying information on current department or company performance. You’ve probably used many add-ins already, without realising it. They seem like natural parts of the Office software, that’s the point.
What information or functionality can they add? Well, pretty much anything you can think off. There are a host of free and commercial Add-Ins you can get (Microsoft now bundles these under the broader heading of ‘Apps’ now). These can help with email management, integrate with project management tools like SmartSheet or add new power to Excel. But you could also build, or commission, your own. This way you could have your own custom menus, screen panes and options giving your staff instant access to information locked up in your other systems.
And it need not cost the earth. Having your own add-in developed costs only a fraction of the six or seven figures the average new IT system costs these days. (In which an IT implementation is seemingly only considered ‘large’ once it exceeds $15 million.)
So whether you’re purchasing a new HR system, or trying to breath new life into that old financial ledger, consider commissioning your own Office Add-In to integrate it into the tools your employees already use every day. There is no faster way to ensure take-up, free time for beleaguered staff to do their actual jobs and make the most of your IT investment.