Bristol Council says it can save £1m with open source

Bristol Council says it can save £1m with open source

Summary: The local authority claims its biggest challenge was encouraging its staff to accept alternatives to Microsoft Office, with staff assuming that 'if it's cheap it must be nasty'

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Bristol City Council has calculated that it will save 60 percent, or more than £1m, over the next five years by switching to Sun's StarOffice, rather than Microsoft Office.

The Council estimates that the total cost of StarOffice — Sun's commercial version of the open source OpenOffice.org suite — over a five year period will be £670,000, while Microsoft Office would cost £1.7m, according to the the government-funded Open Source Academy.

The figures take into account the expected cost of migrating, training and supporting 5,500 users for each product.

Bristol Council, which is currently running a mixed environment of Lotus 1-2-3, WordPerfect and Microsoft Office, believes it may even have overestimated the cost of migrating to StarOffice, as the training barrier appears to be lower than was originally thought.

"It was difficult to be certain about some of the costs relating to support and training, so we erred on the pessimistic side, assuming that StarOffice would involve higher costs and that existing Microsoft Office users would not require any training at all," said Gavin Beckett, Bristol City Council's IT strategy manager, in a statement.

"So far, the experience of migrating users has proved that the cost of migration is low and ease of use is high. We now have concrete evidence that less effort is required to deploy the software, support and train users than we estimated."

The main issue the council has faced in migrating users is their reluctance to try new software, according to Beckett.

"Our biggest challenge was encouraging staff to be open-minded about anything that wasn't MS Office. Microsoft has become so dominant and ubiquitous that the default assumption for many people is that everything else is inferior and that the only way to accomplish work is to do it in the exact way that an MS Office product does it. When you combine this with the idea of software that doesn't cost money, you end up with comments like 'if it's cheap it must be nasty,'" said Beckett.

The council has worked towards overcoming this perception by listening to user's concerns and demonstrating what StarOffice can do.

The Open Source Academy, which was launched in April last year, aims to encourage the use of open source software by local authorities. It is funded under the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations programme.

Topic: Apps

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8 comments
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  • And a large portion of the Training Costs are a one-time event, while the MS treadmill would keep sucking in money long after the 5-year study period is over.

    Still: the #1 consideration should be the *FULLY* Documented Open FIle Formats, not the money. MS has offered all kinds of sneaky deals "we'll give you documentation, but you can't let anyone else see it" to other Government entities, and quite a few have foolishly let MS jerk them around. When MS locks the data away in proprietary file formats and proprietary files systems (think winFS, and start thinking --> NOW <-- !!!), who really own the data?

    The answer is: MS owns the data, and you are only licensed to access it at Microsoft's pleasure, under Microsoft's terms. Bristol and other Government organizations should, I think, focus on how the public's data is being held hostage by convicted criminal monopolists. Even if MS makes a *financially* competitive offer, the Council should have the good sense to say "NO, THANK YOU".
    anonymous
  • As everyone knows the licence cost is only a small part of the Total Cost of Ownership of any piece of software. All Open Source does is move the costs from Software to People costs (which is why its advocates like it because it means the organisation has to employ more of them). If Bristol have a mix of 123, Wordperfect and Office then how much could they save by standardising on Office. Standardisation on Office would also allow them to apply its features to their specific business problems and that is where the true value is. If Linux and Star Office is so great how come Central Scotland Police installed in and are now moving back to Microsoft?
    anonymous
  • Thats great I dont know why more public sectors do this and reduce their costs and perhaps our council tax will go down then :)
    Its great to see this sort of thing amongst all the compatibility scaremongering that goes on.

    Gary
    anonymous
  • Let's see how long before the MS Lobbying power is unleashed on these apparently unsuspecting and well meaning officials....
    anonymous
  • I expect M$ to counter with a ridiculous low price, for a couple of years, and then get their lost revenue back in an extended contract. M$ has no qualms about confusing people with doubletalk.
    anonymous
  • Charles, you're jumping to (costly) conclusions.

    Quote: "As everyone knows the licence cost is only a small part of the Total Cost of Ownership of any piece of software. All Open Source does is move the costs from Software to People costs (which is why its advocates like it because it means the organisation has to employ more of them)."

    Actually the biggest part of Total Cost of Ownership is keeping clueless decison makers in place. And all Open Source does is to provide an alternative. If it turns out that a choice for an Open Source solution simply moved the costs from Software to People then that would be a manager (project leader) fault, wouldn't it?
    Likewise, the other way around. Keeping a costly status quo solution in place just because.

    "If Bristol have a mix of 123, Wordperfect and Office then how much could they save by standardising on Office."

    How much could they save by standardising on Star Office, Open Office or even Notepad?
    And might there be a reason for such diversity in the first place? Perhaps a best fit solution for a given department? With another department having another best fit solution? Or to put it in other terms: one-size-fits-all solutions are often initiated to make the IT department look good (on paper) but the true job of the IT department is to enable the rest of the company to do the best it can at acceptable costs. If that means diversity and decentralization then it's the IT department job to maintain exactly that. If your current IT department can't achieve that then perhaps something needs to be done about it's allocated resources, duties, responsibilites and authorizations. Including it's leadership. And including educating the brass about what really counts.

    "Standardisation on Office would also allow them to apply its features to their specific business problems and that is where the true value is."

    And their specific business problems are? You must know the answer to that given that you can already provide them a solution.

    "If Linux and Star Office is so great how come Central Scotland Police installed in and are now moving back to Microsoft?"

    If Microsoft is so great then how come so many organizations are considering alternatives?
    anonymous
  • Who to ask ...

    > If Linux and Star Office is so great how
    > come Central Scotland Police installed in
    > and are now moving back to Microsoft?

    Clueless here, so honestly what were the reasons they gave?

    I am using OpenOffice on Windows, and for general day-to-day stuff it's certainly more than adequate. No problems using other peoples' MS Office Files, either.

    Of course, I wouldn't be suprised of those guys were going beyond the ordinary day-to-day stuff, and just found it too difficultexpensice/etc to make the transfer.
    anonymous
  • Please, be so kind and come back to the users after let say after 6 month

    Please, be so kind and come back to the users after let say after 6 month.
    I'm asking, because it's very interesting what they found - is it really easy, how it ompact on productivity, and what about compatibility
    Will be very obliged if you continue this story and provide readers with feedback.
    Atxamd