Businesses are planning a cautious approach to Microsoft’s forthcoming Office 2007 productivity suite, with leading IT chiefs saying they will wait up to two years before upgrading.

Microsoft will finally launch the long-delayed business editions of Office 2007 alongside the equally delayed Windows Vista operating system on 30 November.

Two-thirds of’s 12-strong CIO Jury IT user panel this week said they are planning to upgrade to Office 2007, but most of those will not do so in the first year after its launch, instead waiting up to two years.

A third also said they still don’t use all the features in Office 2003 and have no plans to upgrade to Office 2007, or will wait more than two years to make the switch.

The new Office will feature XML-based file formats and a completely new user interface, while the enterprise versions will feature the Groove collaboration application developed by Microsoft’s chief software architect Ray Ozzie at his previous company.

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Mark Beattie, head of IT at waste management company LondonWaste, is planning to upgrade to Office 2007 within the next 12 months. He said: “The biggest management challenge from this software will not be the installations but rather the training associated with a totally new interface, in my view.”

For others the move will be tied into hardware upgrade cycles. Andy Pepper, director of business IS at Tetley, is looking at an Office migration within two years. “We time our desktop hardware and software upgrades together and this is just over a year away. I see no reason for an earlier upgrade – but some against,” he said.

Ken Davis, head of IT at TV channel Five – another who plans to upgrade within a two-year timeframe – said: “The integration with Microsoft’s business intelligence tools will be a motivator for the upgrade.”

But Mark Saysell, IT director at Coutts Retail Communications UK, said: “Office 2003 not only gives my users all the functionality they currently need but also gives them room to grow. We probably only use about 50 per cent of the entire functions within Office 2003. There comes a time when the core requirements of the software are met and the upgrades don’t actually add any value to the business, which is what we’ve seen with the Acrobat 8 upgrade.”

ITN has also only recently moved to Office 2003. Ian Auger, head of IT and communications at the news group, said he has no current plans to upgrade to Office 2007. “Most people only use a fraction of the functionality so there is little need to upgrade. What is most likely to force the issue is if we start getting attached documents from other organisations that are incompatible with our current version.”

Today’s CIO Jury was…

Ian Auger, head of IT and communications, ITN
Mark Beattie, head of IT, LondonWaste
Peter Birley, IT director, Browne Jacobson
Stuart Brough, director of IT services, University of Strathclyde
Ken Davis, head of IT, Five
Steve Fountain, IT director, Markel International
Ric Francis, director of operations, The Post Office
Adrian Hughes, head of IS, Amlin
Andy Pepper, director of business IS, Tetley
Jacques Rene, CTO, Airclaims
Mark Saysell, IT director, Coutts Retail Communications UK
Graham Yellowley, director of technology, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International

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