Last summer when I interviewed Rob Helm, managing VP of research at Directions on Microsoft, about Office 2010 and SharePoint 2010, he brought up a point that hadn't occurred to me. He pointed out that many, many folks use Office 2003 or earlier. (I was one of those people until just a few months ago.) So, he explained, for many of us Office 2010 would be the first encounter with the new Office file format and Office user interface. He said:
The State of the Microsoft Desktop
Customers are taking a piecemeal approach to Windows 7 and Office 2010 upgrades.
It's something people can get used to, but it could be a bit of a struggle for fairly autonomous office workers who just use Office to get a particular task done like writing documents or designing spreadsheets. They're going to have to change the way they work and get comfortable with the new interface. Because of the downturn and other factors, the people who have already dealt with Office 2007 have been those naturally inclined to adopt technology early. What will happen when the laggards run into it?
I use only a tiny sliver of the Office suite. Since I do most of my work online, I rarely need the kind of word processing capabilities contained in Word. I don't crunch numbers so don't need Excel. I don't give presentations so don't need PowerPoint. And it's a good thing too, because I'd probably be completely lost if I tried to master the Ribbon interface. Some people love it and some people hate it, but the interface seemingly is here to stay. Recent articles like this one in eWEEK are reporting the Ribbon interface is now coming to Internet Explorer.
Microsoft is obviously aware of the potential difficulties this might present for some folks. (My hand is up.) And it's jumped on the gamification bandwagon with training games designed to give users a good overview of the Ribbon.
In a move that proves Microsoft does have a sense of humor, the games feature Clippy, the much-reviled virtual assistant included in prior versions of Office. Even Bill Gates was not a fan. This GeekWire item links to a funny bit from NPR's "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me," in which host Peter Sagal mentions Gate reportedly once sent an email with the subject line "Clippy Must Die."
In my previous posts on gamification, I cited several examples of companies that incorporate games into their employee training. I think it's a great idea, since hands-on interaction is a much more effective method of training for most folks than classroom lectures or demos with no interactive elements. (My husband's employer is big on training videos. He sees them as a colossal waste of time.) Games like Microsoft's Ribbon Hero and Ribbon Hero 2 allow users to learn at their own pace and to focus on the areas in which they need extra help.