My public policy school pr0fessor used to say “bad data is better than no data”.  Of course, I love data, and I have access to data I love through the Bayer Center’s biannual Nonprofit Technology Survey.

But our most recent survey was in the summer of 2008.  So, while waiting for the next round, I am left observing the trends we follow in the survey through anecdotal analysis.  Lately, I’ve been watching the adoption of Microsoft Office 2007.  The uptake in Pittsburgh area nonprofits still looks slow even now.

When the Bayer Center offered a class called Settling in with Office 2007 in August 2008, I thought we’d maybe missed the boat.  I thought organizations would have already adopted 2007 and wouldn’t need our help finding their way around in it.  The class actually nearly sold out.  Then, that summer, our survey data indicated that only 19% of organizations in the region used Office 2007 exclusively.  There were some organizations that ran a few machines with 2007 while many still had XP or 2003.  The largest plurality of survey respondents (36%), however, used only Office 2003 at that point.

Since August 2008, we’ve offered “Settling In” three more times and  canceled it three times.  We’ve done custom training on it with a few organizations, but the catalog classes have not made.

When I look around now, I see that many organizations have still not adopted Office 2007, or have not switched over completely.  The last custom training I did was Excel 2003, and a staffer at that organization was impressed with the “new” features in 2003 because her machine actually has Office 97 on it.  97!

Why are we seeing so little 2007 in 2010?

My first theory is that 2007 adoption has been held back by the fact that it was released around the same time as Windows Vista.  Oh, and right when the economy tanked.  Between decision-makers not wanting to deal with the headaches of enterprise-wide Vista implementation and spending constraints ushered into the already-thrifty nonprofit sector, the pace of hardware upgrades and replacement has slowed.  With slow hardware replacement, inertia keeps workstations in 2003.

My second theory derives from Microsoft’s brilliant decision to break Microsoft Access for 2007.  Sometimes, I imagine internal strategy meetings as MS going this way “OK, Dinesh and Sandy have gone through the list of features that worked really well in the previous version.  If we’re going to make users hate the new version, it’s going to take the whole team to focus on making sure those features don’t work.  Roger has a plan for us…”  If organization have their central database in Access 2003 and they’ve tested 2007, they’ve likely put their heads in their hands and waited out this upgrade.

Any other theories?  Or is my anecdotal data incorrect?