Time for common sense
So Microsoft's Office is a"Revved-Up Office Engine" (PC Week 29 April) huh? Well, I've always said that the computer industry is full of contradictions.
For many years it has been generally accepted that users take advantage of only a very small percentage of an application's functionality. Why is this? ignorance? lack of time to explore? no opportunity to be trained?
Well, yes, to all really! So what can be done about it?
Does a corporate IT manager really want to invest six-figure sums developing and enhancing Office and similar packages for end users, in the knowledge that the next release will probably be incompatible with just enough code to make it annoying and costly to rebuild?
Does he and the business want to invest similar sums on training users how to make best use of these enhancements as well as training technical staff to support the tailored applications? Does he want to introduce and maintain standards to be adhered to when writing these enhancements?
How will he deal with those inevitable power users who probably know more about programming Excel macros than many of the IT support staff?
It is possible that an IT manager will want to take these steps. Or he may be coerced into it by the business. It is a lot to manage and on-going costs can be high. This should be weighed up against increased productivity and less support calls. And spend more money on a management consulting firm to measure the benefits.
There is a place for tailoring such suites but great care needs to be taken on cost/benefit analysis. So where's the contradiction?
Well, er, there's something called total cost of ownership (TCO) being buzzed around at the moment. Seems to me the best way of minimising TCO on desktop suites is to rule out any sort of development work completely.
Keep it simple. Development of enhancements, training, managing of standards and upgrade rebuilds are a huge strain on any TCO effort.
Odd then, that your article focuses on Microsoft Office, Microsoft being the initiator of the TCO concept.
Does this mean there is room for a "simple suite", the bare essentials for word processing, spreadsheets, databases and graphics, a set of tools that, with 100% utilisation will really be 100% utilised? I've recently been using the latest versions of Office (97) and SmartSuite. Formerly simple functions now present me with a bewildering array of options that actually take longer to select from. These latest releases have slowed me down. Over time I will become familiar with these functions - just in time for the next release.
For sure many users have different requirements ;but out of the thousands of licences sold to large corporates, there must be at least 80% of WP users who will never need more than typing, fonts, spell check, templates and print preview. Similar stuff can be applied to the other desktop applications.
Imagine, an office suite that can be installed in under 30Mb rather than in excess of 130Mb. And the reduction in cost of ownership - less disk space required, less memory, potentially less network bandwidth, lower licence costs (simpler applications should cost less, right?).
Is it just me or is this bare-faced common sense?
Examining the MS test
With reference to your article (PC Week 6 May) concerning MS examinations.
I have completed seven of the MS examinations, for all of which I used home-study materials, and I can agree that the home-study courses do not fully prepare a delegate for the MS examinations.
However, it is naive to have thought that they would. If each of the relevant exam prep guides are studied properly (available form the web or from the Roadmap CD) the delegate will discover the curriculum of the course and also note the further reading recommendations. If a delegate chooses to ignore the further reading suggestions then they will surely come across questions in the examination about topics for which they have not studied. I have not yet taken an examination where the content has not been reflected in the prep guide.
Comments from your readers regarding the network (NetWare, NT) content should surely be dismissed. These are the very networks that a deployment of Win95 is likely to take place in and are therefore highly relevant.
The MCP examinations are not supposed to be easy. If they were, then there would be no value in having them. If it's any consolation to your readers who have taken and failed the Win95 exam, it is in my opinion the most difficult examination of the seven I have taken - which proves its value to those that have passed, and those seeking employees with a recognised qualification.
Taking the self study route
I read with interest your latest articles on the Windows 95 MCP examinations (PC Week 6 May). I attained the Windows 95 MCP exam in January 1997, and thought I would give you my thoughts on the degree of content.
The route I chose to study for this exam was 100% self-teach. This did not include the self-teach packages that Microsoft offer. All I used was a Windows 95 book by Que, the Windows 95 Resource Kit and the knowledge obtained by using the product since its launch.
I do not use Windows 95 at work, but only at home, therefore the networking side of the exam was a worry to me as "hands-on" experience was not available.
This is where the practice exams and the Resource Kit came in useful.
After about six weeks, I decided it was time to book the exam. When I sat down to take the exam I was immediately shocked to learn that the pass mark was shown as approximately 71%.
I was further shocked to learn of the number of NetWare questions popping up within a Microsoft exam. Having already decided that the networking site was going to be tough, I ploughed on through it, leaving the networking questions for reviewing at the end of exam. Upon reviewing these networking questions, I opted to use common sense when selecting my answers rather than try to figure out the scenario. I kept saying to myself that I was sitting the Windows 95 MCP exam and not a NetWare one. With this in mind I gave my answers and thankfully passed first time. I had to as the fees were coming out of my own pocket. A resit and u75 was not an option I was willing to consider.
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The Editor, PC Week, VNU House, 32-34 Broadwick Street, London, W1A 2HG. or on the Net at http//www.pcweek.vnu.co.uk or Email [email protected]
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