Should someone ask you, 'who uses Microsoft Office software?' - why they'd be asking that, well, I can't say that I know, but let's imagine that they had their own reasons - were they to ask you, I'm sure it wouldn't take long to think of an answer. People who work in offices, now that would seem reasonable enough. Offices full of desks and workers working away at them, monitors glowing coldly before them, and on those monitors Excel, or Word, or Access, or PowerPoint, or Outlook, whatever the company needs them to do. Office software for offices. Pretty straightforward, I'd say.

So, we're going to do something slightly less straightforward. We're going to take Office out of the office, and see if it can still work for us. We're not going to put it in the home - although it can be very useful there - and we're not going to put it a business environment that doesn't rely on that traditional office environment, those desks and workers and monitors. We're going to take Microsoft Office - and its users - and scatter them to the four winds. We're going to see if you can get as much use from Office on the move and working from anywhere as you do sat inside the company headquarters.


Taking Office software around with you is probably not something you're doing for pleasure - you're doing it because there's work that can't sit around waiting for you to be in the right place. So, you'll need to be able to work with the rest of your colleagues as if they were right there with you, even when they aren't. And sure enough, whether it's collaborating on tasks together or merely staying in touch, all that Office software is designed to make it nice and easy.

Running Office applications together with Microsoft SharePoint gives any number of colleagues the means to work together simultaneously, wherever they are. Let's say that Bob and Gary are both working on a brochure in Publisher. Unfortunately, Bob has had to go to Bristol while Gary's in Glasgow - however, both can access their joint work wherever they are. And not just access it: if Bob makes a change, Gary can see exactly what he's done and when, and they can both work on it at the same time, just as if they were in the office next to each other.

All of which is very cosy, provided that they can talk to each other. Indeed they can - and in a rather more practical fashion than having to make a separate phone call. Within their Office suites, there's a program called Lync (or Communicator, in older Office software); with this, Bob and Gary can send messages without leaving Publisher, see who's available or busy, make suggestions on a Whiteboard, join meetings with their managers, and, of course, talk to each other in the conventional fashion. So, even though they're off in different corners of the country, they can take the office with them.

More mobile

But we're not all so organised - nor necessarily able to be - that we'll invariably have all our necessary software and IT equipment with us whenever we travel around. What if Bob needed to access an Excel report on his sojourn around the West Country, and didn't have the company laptop to hand? Microsoft Office Web Apps solve this tricky dilemma without a whiff of difficulty, making Office files accessible via an ordinary web browser. So all Bob has to do is log on anywhere that he can get online - including from a mobile phone (there's also an Office Mobile App available to better suit the limitations of a handheld device) and the report will be right there in front of him.

In the end, then, what happens when you take Office out of the office? Well... not a lot. But that's something to be applauded - it's important to be able to make full use of Office software wherever you might be, and whatever technological limitations you might be faced with, and you or your staff might benefit from a short training course in getting the very most out of the software. Then wherever you go, and whatever you need, you can still have your office with you when you want it - and enjoy the rest of your time away when you don't.