Microsoft Office 201x vs. Office 365

Businesswoman using a tabletProceed cautiously for productivity applications.

By Roman H. Kepczyk
Quantum of Paperless

To be effective in business today, every member of your firm must optimally utilize the Microsoft Office suite at an intermediate to advanced level for Outlook, Excel and Word.

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The CPAFMA 2018 IT Survey found that 45 percent of responding firms had standardized on Office 2016 (including Office 365 users), 31 percent had standardized on Office 2013 and 23 percent on Office 2010. Firms have traditionally been behind the adoption curve because of the lag time of accounting vendors supporting the latest version, particularly for audit engagement binders.

These latest Office applications promote efficiency through a standardized “ribbon” menu that takes advantage of today’s wider screens and utilize symbols representing actions, instead of pulldown menus that use descriptions in words. Office 2016 also promoted a consistent look regardless of whether the user was working on a desktop, tablet or their smartphone.

People see and react to images much quicker than they read words, which makes them more efficient in the long run. When any one of the Office applications is effectively learned, users are more proficient working with all of them.

As mentioned above, the top accounting vendors have worked out most of the bugs between their applications and the 2016 version of Office. If your firm is on Office versions 2010 or older, or has Microsoft Software Assurance where the upgrade is included, it is recommended that the firm jump to the latest supported version of Microsoft Office.

While many firms have transitioned to Office 365 for Outlook/Skype for Business, we recommend firms proceed cautiously for Word, Excel and other productivity applications as the automatic Microsoft upgrades may cause incompatibilities with your accounting applications (which traditionally take the accounting vendors between 6-12 months to support the latest version). Always be sure to verify the compatibility of your specific applications with Microsoft Office before upgrading as some accounting vendors require local installations of Office applications for their accounting products to work!

Once you get the go-ahead to upgrade to a new version, send some of your best communicators to advanced Excel, Word and Outlook training, so they can understand the improvements and then set up customized, accounting firm-specific training for the rest of your personnel. While there are excellent web resources for training including, one exceptional training resource that works directly with many State CPA Societies is K2 Enterprises (, which has very effective instructors and strong content tailored to accounting firm needs, particularly for the Excel and QuickBooks courses.


  1. Verify the firm’s audit/accounting applications are supported on the current Microsoft Office version.
  2. Plan transition and training to one common version as part of firmwide rollout.

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