When Solveig Haugland replied to my Friday post about open source failures, I was more than thrilled. Solveig is one of the best known OpenOffice.org specialists and I came to know about her writings back in 2003 while working on a personal OpenOffice.org project.
Solveig is no stranger to the difficulties open source learners face as she is one of the very, very rare full time OpenOffice.org trainers out there. She has also written a number of books on OpenOffice and StarOffice.
In her comments, she rightly points to the fact that IT people find it very easy to switch from one package to another and they do not consider the relative difficulties and obstacles that their colleagues may face.
However, there's a very important aspect that is overlooked by many managers and that is assistance – whether material (manuals, support line) or psychological (encouragement, help). Solveig argues that a number of users "don’t like OpenOffice because they haven’t had the chance to learn it well, and they don’t feel like their employer is giving them the necessary help, for the effort of switching to a new application."
Switching from a crucial software package like Microsoft Office has some important implications, one of which is the fact that employees need to feel helped all along the way, just like babies learning to walk. Showing appreciation and support can boost overall efficiency and make the difference between failure and success.
There’s no absolute remedy to solving the initial teething pains, but it doesn’t take a PhD holder to realise that any steps which help to smooth the transition have the potential to make everyone happier.