Do you really need Office? Really? If the Feds don't, do we?

Summary:For 95% of what we do, though, Apps does the trick quite nicely and allows people to work together in really nice ways. For a wide swath of users, however, getting them to jump into the cloud and leave their biases in favor of Office behind is remarkably difficult.

Many of the users in my district have jumped on the Google Docs bandwagon with surprising enthusiasm. They've been uploading their PowerPoint libraries to easily share the documents with students, syllabi are up online as soon as they are created, and teachers and administrators are collaborating quite naturally on shared documents.

That's the rosy side of our Google Apps rollout. The less rosy side comes from the folks who are either 1) just uncomfortable with technology in general or 2) completely wedded to Microsoft Office. The first group is OK. I can take care of them. It's called professional development and, as a district, we're making a concerted effort to build capacity, especially in the area of technology.

The second group is tougher, though. I've already acknowledged that Microsoft Office is worth paying for in some cases, much to the chagrin of my more militant open source friends. The only users who have a Get Out of Jail Free card, though, are secretaries and serious power users who have need of fine control over formatting, mail merging, and more sophisticated productivity tasks. Creating tri-fold brochures for your school? OK, Office is slick. Need to handle accounting but just don't have the volume to quite justify Peachtree or BudgetSense? Fine; Office is the way to go.

That being said, how many of your teachers are doing this sort of thing? Teachers need to create content, no doubt about it, but that content should be online, accessible, collaborative, and reusable. You don't need Office for that. Not everyone can embrace the cloud fully. We have some people who use their computers quite a bit, but very often are offline due to locational issues out here in the sticks, but that's rare. For them, we have OpenOffice. In fact, we have OpenOffice everywhere because there are times when Apps just can't quite get the job done.

For 95% of what we do, though, Apps does the trick quite nicely and allows people to work together in really nice ways. For a wide swath of users, however, getting them to jump into the cloud and leave their biases in favor of Office behind is remarkably difficult.

Why is it that people believe they need Office to write a letter home to parents? Or create a syllabus? I ran a presentation yesterday and surprised quite a few people when I told them I had completely created it in Apps, embedded video and all.

This, of course, will be the federal government's major sticking point as they roll out Apps for many employees in the years to come. I have great confidence that the Google powers that be will sort out security issues, scalability, and whatever else. It will simply be a matter of convincing people that they don't really need a productivity suite on their computer that will be a challenge. It's certainly my struggle in the microcosm of my school district.

Topics: Collaboration, Apps, Cloud, Google, Microsoft, Software

About

Christopher Dawson grew up in Seattle, back in the days of pre-antitrust Microsoft, coffeeshops owned by something other than Starbucks, and really loud, inarticulate music. He escaped to the right coast in the early 90's and received a degree in Information Systems from Johns Hopkins University. While there, he began a career in health a... Full Bio

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