Times are hard; the winter of our economic discontent shows little sign of being made glorious summer any time soon. Even those businesses that are holding up reasonably well need to try and eke out as many penny's worth as they can from each and every pound. Extra expenditure is out, waste is more frowned on than normal, and any new costs are looked upon with a doubtful eye.

Now, perhaps, is not a time that finds many companies looking to spend on training for their staff. The course itself will cost money, and while it's under way those employees on the course won't be productive; it's a case of immediate expense, whilst managers can be forgiven for being uncertain as to the benefits.

But what if training could be assured as a positive investment? What if you could say with confidence that the money put into the course will be exceeded by the money made (or saved) as a consequence? This is surprisingly realistic, if you can be identify the right kind of training and the right training provider.

So, what training is likely to give your organisation a return on its investment? In these straitened times, developing skills that can themselves be use to maximise profits are a key advantage, and companies beyond number use Microsoft Office software to help attend to financial issues - primarily Excel, of course, but Access databases can also be vital in managing key business information that impacts upon revenues and expenditures, whilst Project provides tools to ensure that a project stays firmly within its budget.

However, identifying the training that will profit your business is only half of the matter. What about finding the right training provider? This is a quite different - not to mention more complicated - quandary. After all, choosing what training will bring the best return is simply a question of knowing what your organisation needs - but the briefest of online searches for training companies will unearth an awful lot of competing options. It might seem rather daunting to try and unearth the one that offers the most advantages for your business.

However, not all trainers are the same; as with any service provider, you'd expect to find details of what they offer, and there are certain guarantees which mark out the very most effective training provision. Foremost amongst these should be the standard of the training itself - or, more specifically, the standard of the trainers. Just a little online research should tell you immediately whether a provider guarantees all of its trainers to be fully Microsoft certified, and with that certification you'll be making sure that the tuition you receive is accurate, up-to-date and of the highest quality. After all, it's Microsoft software you need to develop skills in - so it's worth being 100% confident that the trainer has all the skills themselves.

Yet that's not the only important issue. Any company will benefit greatly if they're certain that the training will go ahead when they need it, so booking with a training provider that guarantees never to cancel any courses - whilst still allowing you to reschedule - is an absolute must. Finding a provider that gives you flexibility as to location, whilst still keeping all prices clear and uncomplicated, will also prove advantageous. And seeing as we're looking at just a short training course, it's worthwhile ensuring that the provider will offer ongoing support long after everyone has gone back to their workplace.

Microsoft Office software gives you a little help in making the most of your company's money - in analysing where it is and what's happening to it, in maximising revenues and in minimising costs. With a small investment in training, you can be confident of having the skills available to use that software to its very fullest potential - which can only mean advantages for any business in such difficult times.