Is there really less use of Office software?

Or survey gives results that suit those paying for the survey.

It’s an old PR trick, put together some report or survey that will get lots of free publicity for the company that’s footing the bill. It’s easy copy for overworked journos so you can’t blame them for using them. Microsoft has done it themselves.

In the last week or so we’ve seen plenty of headlines alleging ‘light’ use of Microsoft Office in a new report. We’ll cover this report but we’ll put an important note at the start rather than down the bottom or omitted entirely.

The report comes from SoftWatch, a premier Google Apps reseller which specializes in migration from Microsoft Office to the rival Google Apps.

Knowing that important fact about the source, is it any surprise that the ‘benchmark study’ of the ‘real usage of Microsoft (MS) Office’ shows light usage of Office, overspend on Office licenses and ‘companies can save up to 90% on their Microsoft licensing fees’.

The press release says:

Windows 10 from people 'in the know'

A detailed and independent look at Windows 10, especially written for the many people who use Microsoft Office.

Fully up-to-date with coverage of the Anniversary 2016 major update of Windows 10.

This 670 page book shows you important features and details for all serious Windows 10 users.


“… SoftWatch is releasing its benchmark study which analyzes real usage of Microsoft (MS) Office in dozens of enterprises comprising over 150,000 total users. The benchmark shows that on average an employee only spends 48 minutes a day on MS Office applications, most of it on Outlook for email. It also reveals high numbers of inactive users in the organizations; in particular PowerPoint was not being used at all by half of the employees. In addition, most of the users of the other applications used them primarily for viewing and light editing purposes, with only a small number of heavy users: 2% in PowerPoint, 9% in Word and 19% in Excel.”

These results are surprising but hard to analyze since there’s no detail on methodology, how the users were chosen or how the use data was collected.

The ’48 minutes a day’ doesn’t seem reasonable, especially considering the number of staff and managers who complain about the amount of time spent with email alone.

The “19% in Excel” does seem excessively high but then it’s unclear what the 19% is a percentage of.

While the statistics may be questionable, it’s certainly true that some organizations pay for more full Microsoft Office licenses than they need. Some staff might only need Word or Excel but not the full Office suite. Light editing can be done with Office Online (perhaps hosted inhouse). Irregular email users can access their ‘Outlook data’ through Outlook Web Access. 

There are free Word, Excel and PowerPoint viewers which let people view Office documents when editing isn’t required.

The problem is identifying what programs are needed by different staff members and sometimes it’s just easier to get an Office suite for everyone.