Microsoft changes Office Solution Accelerator pitch

Microsoft Corp. is abandoning the way it delivers Office Solution Accelerators, add-ons for its Office 2003 products for specific business scenarios. The vendor will promote its existing and partner offerings, but won’t build new Solution Accelerators.

Microsoft plans to announce a new Solution Showcase for Office on Friday. The showcase Web site, due online next year, will offer examples of expanded Office capabilities and provide guidance and highlight partners that can deliver that capability, said Francois Ajenstat, group product manager at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington. Since September 2003, Microsoft has delivered several Solution Accelerators, packages of software components, templates and architectural guidelines designed to help users streamline specific business tasks such as recruiting and drafting sales proposals using Office 2003 applications.

With the showcase, Microsoft is canceling its plan to create more Solution Accelerators. While interest in the add-ons was strong, Microsoft found that customers and partners rarely ended up using the code it provided. “The code is not the value,” Ajenstat said. In most cases, customers and partners took what Microsoft provided only as a starting point for discussions about the possibilities of the Office products and ended up creating custom solutions, he said.

Indeed, what Microsoft provided before “was overkill,” said Rob Helm, research director at Directions on Microsoft Inc. “Microsoft put a lot of work into engineering the Solution Accelerators and then by and large they have not been deployed as is,” he said.

There was also some misunderstanding about the Solution Accelerators, industry insiders said. Some customers expected products that worked out of the box, but the Solution Accelerators in most cases needed a system integrator to implement them, these people said. The need for a system integrator will be very clear in the showcase, said industry insiders.

Microsoft is not discarding its existing Solution Accelerators. The accelerators for Sarbanes-Oxley, Six Sigma, Proposals and Recruiting will be featured on the showcase Web site and Microsoft will make the source code for these accelerators available, Ajenstat said.

Microsoft will not provide the source code for the Business Scorecards accelerator or the Excel Add-in for SQL Server Analysis Services, although these will be in the showcase, Ajenstat said. Microsoft is holding on to the source code as the business intelligence-type capabilities fit with other Microsoft products, he said.

While Microsoft will be providing less code, the showcase will offer more examples of expanded uses of Office, for example for invoice management, performance reviews, contract generation and investment banking pitch books, Ajenstat said.

Many of the examples on the showcase will feature Microsoft partners. That suits Adriaan van Wyk just fine. Van Wyk is chief executive officer of SourceCode Technology Holdings Inc., in Redmond. SourceCode sells a business process automation product called that takes advantage of Microsoft applications, including Office. “It is very good for us,” Van Wyk said. His company currently has 200 customers and will likely get more exposure through the Microsoft Solution Showcase.

More information on the current Office Solution Accelerators is available at: