Anyone who has worked extensively in Microsoft Office products such as Microsoft Word or Microsoft Excel may well have encountered the huge advantage to be garnered from recording and using macros. These are small programs that can be executed from within Office applications in order to automate tasks that are performed on a frequent basis. One possible use of a macro, for example, is to take a text file created by a non-Microsoft application and strip it of extraneous data so that its contents can be easily transferred into a spreadsheet or other program.
Macros are technically written in a programming language called Visual Basic, but they can be created using a point-and-click interface that appears to the end user as simply recording the functions needed to be performed inside Word or Excel.
Where macros become problematic is when a user needs access to them from a workstation other than his or her usual one, or when other employees need to use them. Office products automatically class macros as potential hazards since they can be used maliciously to carry viruses into systems. Unfortunately, this means that Office itself works hard to eliminate macros that are considered ‘untrusted’.
A managed program approach to IT services can help in this situation. Managed programs staff can set up the right controls so that macros stored in certain areas of the network are considered ‘trusted’ and can also arrange Office settings so that macros needed by everyone become universally available in the organization. This hugely increases efficiency by allowing employees to pool macro resources instead of re-inventing the wheel on every workstation.