Microsoft Office has a stranglehold on business productivity with no signs suggesting a significant shift any time soon. While Office provides a strong toolkit, there is plenty of room for improvement with additional features that help specific user groups. Microsoft, after all, is aiming to please a wide audience which tends to leave feature and workflow gaps.
As a result, a wide ecosystem of partner companies has popped up to fill these gaps, adding even more functionality to Microsoft Office. Realizing that partners play a critical role, Microsoft has fostered the ecosystem with in-depth documentation, an app store (for certain types of add-ins), and even competency certifications.
Often partner companies add functionality with add-ins that bolt onto Office and interact with Office documents. The range of add-ins is endless from a Wikipedia add-in that allows you to conduct Wikipedia searches from Word to our slide search tool, that helps you find and extract individual slides on your computer. Typically, add-ins are accessed through the navigation ribbon in an Office application (e.g. PowerPoint). We’ve previously discussed the benefits of add-ins versus browser-based tools.
Beyond adding functionality, add-ins help drastically reduce the change management effort commonly involved in rolling out a new feature or tool:
- Add-ins can be silently deployed and often require no user input during installation
- They operate within a host application that users are already familiar with (e.g. Word, PowerPoint, Outlook, Excel), reducing the friction typically associated with new tools. For example, the icon that launches the add-in can be included the navigation ribbon and the tool open in a pane within the host application
- Add-ins can notify the user within the primary application, facilitating a number of adoption strategies. For example:
- After installation, add-ins may start automatically the first time their host application is opened
- Add-ins can activate based on a document state. Our slide search solution, TeamSlide, automatically notifies users if a slide in their presentation is out-of-date
Microsoft add-ins offer an effective way to add specialized functionality to the Office application suite. By embedding within familiar applications, they reduce the change management effort often associated with rolling out new tools.