• But I Don’t Want the Ribbon: Microsoft’s $4B Waste of Time

    My employer has switched to the Office 2007 suite so I am forced to confront the ribbon, which replaces the toolbar menus with which I had been familiar with an explosion of icons. Like Kramer from Seinfeld (video below), I’m not interested in the ribbon. I don’t want the ribbon. I hate the ribbon. Yet, I’m stuck with the ribbon. Also like Kramer, I’ve been beaten into submission. I’ve been abused by Microsoft, again.



    Since I cannot revert to the old look and feel I must spend time relearning how to do in Word, Excel, and other Office products what I once did quite well. How many others are wasting time relearning how to use Office software? How much in lost productivity are we paying in addition to the price of the software?

    The U.S. labor force has about 155 million workers that use something on the order of 100 million PCs (not every worker uses a PC). For an order-of-magnitude estimate, let’s say they’re all using Microsoft Office. Let’s assume they all will have to convert to ribbon-based Office 2007 or a similar version. Let’s suppose each PC has only one user and that each user will spend about one hour regaining the level of productivity (s)he had with the old, pre-ribbon version of Office. That’s something like 100 million wasted person-hours. A reasonable guesstimate of an average total compensation of a U.S. office worker is perhaps $40 per hour (roughly half in wages, half in other benefits, say). So, workers might waste about $4 billion because of the Microsoft Office ribbon. (One can argue about each of these input numbers but I think any reasonable estimates will yield an order-of-magnitude figure in the single-digit billions.)

    All that lost productivity and for what? Are there compensating efficiencies to be gained by using the ribbon as opposed to the old menus? I’ll let someone else make the argument but let’s just say I’m skeptical. If I find any new killer apps embedded in the new Office I’ll let you know.

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    • worth mentioning here that about 80% corporate PCs still run on XP and never moved on to Vista and I think they’d not have office 2007 either.

      The good news for you is that Windows 7 is going to be released on Oct 22nd, and I think you might have some more new fun stuff to learn then :)

      • @Manshu – My employer is renown for being among the last to adapt. We still run XP, yet we’ve just upgraded to Office 2007. But this is not relevant. In time everyone will be using ribbons (unless some new version of Office permits reversion to the old menus). Thus, my calculation applies. The lost productivity is spread over time.

        By the way, I’ve come to like the new Office. Not because of the ribbon (which is fine, but so were to old menus), but because they seem to have fixed what I considered annoyances.

    • I really love your breakdown of potential productivity and money lost to something as simple as upgrading software. It are these little consequences that a lot of managers and business owners do not consider when implimenting changes like this.

    • Love the Seinfeld reference… keep up the good work on the blog, it’s excellent reading.

    • Have you heard of the “Paradox of the Active User?” Basically, people aren’t interested in learning about software for learning’s sake. They are trying to get some task(s) done. If they know of or discover a way to perform their task, they will stop looking for a better way to do that task, preferring to use the known way over and over, no matter how inefficient it may be.

      I am not saying that the ribbon is more efficient (in my experience it is not), but I am saying that even if it were, you would still be complaining on your blog about the hour you wasted learning how to use it. :)