This is another story about change, and tangentially a story about Stevie Nicks.
I’ve already mentioned Louis, who when switching to OpenOffice.org from Microsoft Office, simply told his users that there would be a big upgrade. No mention of a different office suite program. ;> I love that story.
Here’s another story from the other side of the country. The school district’s latest levy had failed, so they had to cut a couple hundred thousand dollars from the budget. Naturally, there was a big meeting to talk about how to do this.
The school district IT director, Randy, was taking notes during the meeting, and his notes were being projected for everyone to see.
Randy said, “So, one way we could save a huge amount of money would be to cut Microsoft Office and switch to OpenOffice.org.”
Murmurmurmur…general objections…too hard…too different….it would never work.
"Well,” Randy says, “Here’s a question. What program am I using to take notes?”
There was a rousing chorus of “Microsoft Word, of course.”
"Nope,” replied Randy, with what I can only assume was just a hint of a satisfied smirk. (I would have smirked. Randy might be a better person than me.) “It’s OpenOffice.org Writer.”
Wow! No way! But it’s so much like Word!
Randy continued. “And you know what? For the last two years, you’ve been receiving Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents from me that I created in OpenOffice.org and saved in Microsoft Office format."
More murmuring, surprise, delight, etc.
And so they voted overwhelmingly to switch to OpenOffice.org and save a pantsload of money.
This is, by the way, took place recently in the Seattle area, in Microsoft’s back yard.
It's yet another story showing that Change itself, uppercase, is often what we primarily fear; not the actual new thing that’s going to happen. As the song goes, I've been afraid of changin' cuz I built my life (and my complex mail merges and spreadsheets) around you.
For those of you out there fighting the good fight and evangelizing OpenOffice.org, I think this story has some great lessons. Don’t try to convince people ahead of time. Just start using it within your IT department, or personally, and expose people to it without telling them what it is. Install it on people’s computers and let them play with it. Let the potential users enjoy sitting in the nice open source hot tub. Let them learn to like it without knowing much about it. Let them come to the conclusion that....hey...you know, this isn't all that different, and we sure could save a lot of money switching to it...hmmm....
Try leading with the product, not with the idea of the product, or with Change.
For those who are encountering resistance transitioning--I know that OpenOffice.org isn’t the same as Microsoft Office. It’s different. The Venn overlap is maybe 70%. But when you have to cut a couple hundred thousand from your budget, do you do it by cutting Microsoft Office, or by cutting salaries and books and benefits and other things that really matter? )