Katowice Municipality: saving money with OpenOffice.org

The administration of the municipality of Katowice in Poland has successfully been replacing Microsoft Office with OpenOffice.org as its office-suit of choice for new computers. The objective was to save on license fees that Microsoft Office requires when new hardware or updates were acquired. Technical problems encountered during the transition were for example compatibility issues with certain file types like Excel or Outlook, or using advanced functions that OpenOffice.org can not yet replace. Convincing civil servants that Openoffice.org is as functional as Microsoft Office was also an issue, but this was minimized by leaving the future users no choice. Substantial costs have been saved by choosing for OpenOffice.org, that are instead spent on newer hardware. Generally, the decision to switch to OpenOffice.org has been a positive one for the city's administration.

Policy Context

The programme took place in an effort to save on license fees. It was conducted solely in the municipality of Katowice.

Description of target users and groups

The target group are the civil servants that work in the administration of the municipality of Katowice. They had to be convinced of working with OpenOffice.org rather than Microsoft Office as the office suit of choice to handle municipality documents with. In the third quarter of 2008 there were 850 computers used within the municipality.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Implementing the transition was not hard. Software was only replaced on new computers, which were supplied by the contractor who had already installed OpenOffice.org on the machines. The IT department of the municipality then configured the software to be compatible with Microsoft Office. Some of the civil servants were initially skeptical, so they were given a choice between working on the newer computer with OpenOffice or an older one with Microsoft Office. Reality showed that often the choice was made for newer and faster hardware. Compatibility issues were resolved by keeping a number of systems with Microsoft Office around. Furthermore, training sessions were organized by the IT Department to instruct the target group on how OpenOffice.org's advanced features had to be used.

Technology solution

By choosing for OpenOffice.org as an alternative to Microsoft Office, substantial costs are saved, as proprietary license fees do not have to be paid for every new computer that the software is installed on. Openoffice.org is almost completely compatible with Microsoft Office, except for certain format issues. These issues, like .doc documents having a slightly different format when opened by OpenOffice.org in comparison with Microsoft Office, are simpy cured by having civil servants recheck the format as they save it with the free software. Technology choice: Open source software

Main results, benefits and impacts

So far, the municipality is saving 1000 zl (EUR 295) per new workstation equipped with OpenOffice.org. This has translated to total savings of EUR 100,000 in licensing fees.

Return on investment

Return on investment: €49-299,000

Lessons learnt

OpenOffice.org has proven to be an excellent replacement for Microsoft Office, with compatibility issues easily solved. The transition has not been a hard process. These two lessons prove that a switch to OpenOffice.org from Microsoft Office can save substantial amounts of money while transitional efforts are minimal, especially when compared with the costs that updating Microsoft Office has. The main challenge lies in improving the image of OpenOffice.org so people are less likely to have negative prejudices about having to work with it. This can be achieved by stressing the specific product benefits that OpenOffice.org has (amongst which adaptability to the user's needs and the open standards). Another approach in dealing with the resistance that civil servants had towards the open-source software was to couple it with only the newer machines, making it more attractive for the civil servants that were interested in working with newer hardware. Scope: Local (city or municipality)
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