All of the computers in your office, starting tomorrow, will be operating using the latest version of Ubuntu Linux with a 100% open-source listing of software! Okay, this is not exactly going to happen, unless like me, you are a company of one and a complete computer geek.
Starting off Slow is Key
One way to overcoming barriers for using open-source software in the workplace is to start off slow. Let us say your company starts working towards replacing Microsoft Office with the free, open-source OpenOffice.org, which is available for Windows and the Mac. Before rolling out the software to the entire company and saying “have at it” or “figure it out,” your company decides to explore some training options.
There are many standard formats used in the business world today. Microsoft Office formats come to mind. OpenOffice.org is able to open and save Microsoft Office files, with many of the features of Microsoft Office being supported. However it not the default save format, but with only a small amount of time your business can setup OpenOffice.org to save documents in Microsoft Office formats.
Not all Training is Usable Training
I carefully chose the word usable, instead of good, for the heading above. The reason for this is that to me good is looked upon as a measure of quality, not functionality. The two terms must be joined together in order for the training to be effective. The training must be usable (it is on the right subject), good (the presentation of the information is correctly delivered), and also on topic (it is catered to how your business will use the information presented).
Documentation with the Training or Alone
I am in the documentation business. Okay, not really, but it is something I enjoy working on. Whether your company decides to go with formal training or not, a good usable “manual” is a good tool to have handy, especially if you are performing a task you have not performed before or do infrequently. Your business might decide to have the documentation provided along with the training or on its own, depending on what is available or makes the most sense to your business. This could be in the form of gathered tutorials or in a book format.
No Open-source Alternative
Sometimes there are no open-source alternatives to the software your business is using or perhaps there is, but lacking some functionality. Your business does not have to become 100% open-source. I believe most businesses, if not all, are able to make use of open-source software. Open-source software is a viable alternative to bloated licensing fees, can drive down total business expense and increase a business’ bottom line, if properly implemented and backed by quality training and documentation. It is my hope that more businesses explore Open-source as an alternative method or as a cooperative method to closed-source software.
It is my hope that the business world will see the true value open source software can add not only to the bottom line, in terms of lower or no licensing fees, but also comparability to their closed source counterparts. Long live open source!