Lodahl's blog: OpenOffice.org in enterpise

04 June 2008

OpenOffice.org in enterpise

Symfoni Software held at the beginning of June its annual BRUKERFORUM. This year the event was held in Tallinn in Estonia, where around 65 of Symfoni Software's customers from Norway, Denmark and Sweden was together.

I am working as project manager at Symfoni Software Copenhagen office , but I am also leader of the OpenOffice.org community in Denmark. I spoke at the conference about how and why OpenOffice.org can be a good business for any IT department.

I discussed the possibility of implementing OpenOffice.org as an alternative to MS Office. I pointed out that before the implementation, you must take into account four factors:

1) users should be informed and trained. First, to achieve skills in order to continue to work effectively in the organization. But also to gain acceptance and understanding for the transition to open source. The reason is that one of the biggest challenges, is actually staff resistance and not technical or practical problems.

2) it must be examined tp what extent templates, macros and advanced spreadsheet are used in the organization. Prioritize what actions are required before implementation, and which can wait until later.

3) it must be examined to what extent there are business applications (e.g. ERP systems and enterprise data) with direct integration to MS Office. In many cases, such integration does not exist.

4) it must be considered if conversion of documents should be taken into account. For example. existing documents and future documents exchanged with customers, partners.

During the presentation, I told that if the company or organization has many users and few customizations, could achieve a very rapid benefit, while few users and many adjustments will make it less rapid to achieve benefit. However, it is also appropriate to consider partial transition to OpenOffice.org in the case that few people in the company need MS Office. This possibility has for many been a bad solution so far because we have seen difficulties exchanging different document formats. But after Microsoft has promised full support for ODF format from the beginning of 2008, this solution will become very relevant and viable option for many. In most cases, it will be possible to achieve economic benefits after only a few years.

The companies and organisations using Lotus Notes as a platform for mail, calendar and applications, should consider the use of Lotus Symphony from IBM. Lotus Symphony is actually a converted version of OpenOffice.org. Whether it is better than OpenOffice I will not be able to decide, but Symphony has one unique advantage in the future: It is part of Lotus Notes platform. I look forward to see what IBM will do in the future. By creating composite applications which open for building direct integration of data from Notes to the Office applications.

Mads Andersen from FTZ Autoparts followed my speak, by telling us how FTZ has chosen to switch from MS Office to the free alternative OpenOffice.org. Mads Andersen is working as IT consultant at FTZ Autoparts in Odense, Denmark. FTZ has chosen to use OpenOffice.org as the office application in the company. FTZ is in the situation that of the 550 users is only a few who use the Office application for other than to write a letter once and in a while. Many users and not advanced needs. Some users have initially been allowed to keep their MS Office, but Mads sayd that the plan is to eliminate the last MS Office installations in the future.

Roll out occurred almost without any problems. MSI installation is easy to handle. FTZ is úsing Citrix. Mads believe that FTZ has saved a lot of money by choosing OpenOffice.org rather than Microsoft Office. There is still a recurring problem when FTZ receive attachments from the Microsoft Office 2007, but in the FTZ, they have chosen a key solution, where the IT department takes care of conversion of documents.

Roll out has been going on relatively quietly. "The first two weeks gave a little extra work in support" sayd Mads and continues "but there was no need to do proper education." The support at FTZ has taken advantage of the voluntary support forum OOoForum in cases where users have had problems such as if the IT-supporters didn't resolve a problem themselves. Most problems have been when users couldn't find a specific function or feature in the program. "If there is something we should have done differently, it should be to examine exactly what features people use, and then we should produce information about this".

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