The Real Cost of Retraining for OpenOffice.org

Posted by dcparris on Nov 3, 2005 2:37 PM
LXer; By DC Parris

One of the most frequently voiced objections when discussing a migration to OpenOffice.org is the cost of retraining the users. The argument is raised as a cost barrier, and essentially amounts to claiming that it would be cheaper to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office than to retrain users on OpenOffice.org. It's an attempt at the old "libre software isn't gratis" argument. Let's examine this argument closely to find out why it doesn't hold water.

One of the most frequently voiced objections when discussing a migration to OpenOffice.org is the cost of retraining the users. The argument is raised as a cost barrier, and essentially amounts to claiming that it would be cheaper to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office than to retrain users on OpenOffice.org. It's an attempt at the old "libre software isn't gratis" argument. Let's examine this argument closely to find out why it doesn't hold water.



The fallacy of of this argument lies in the assumption that 100% of the users will be using an office environment so new and foreign as to render them 100% useless until trained on the new software. If true, it certainly would explain why people balk at the idea. In reality, it generally takes users about two weeks of normal use to get comfortable using OpenOffice.org without any training at all. A little training could boost productivity in the short term by reducing the time it takes for users to familiarize themselves with the new software.



This means that users are being relatively productive while simultaneously learning the new office suite. They may experience a reduced level of productivity during this two-week period, but they are accomplishing things. The majority of tasks that users perform in Microsoft Office are performed in almost the exact same fashion in other office suites, including OpenOffice.org. We should therefore assume that most users will be working at roughly 90%-95% of their normal productivity levels during the transition, and progressively increasing to 100% at the end.



Consider two small businesses with five employees using Microsoft Office. Let's average the salaries at around $15.00/hour. What happens to our costs when looking at productivity losses over a two-week period? What happens if we bring in a trainer? This is not a perfect example, and you'll need to understand your organization's users, but it still helps us to understand that learning a new office suite is not nearly as expensive as some portray it to be.



Business 'A' decides to migrate to upgrade to the next version of Microsoft Office at a cost of close to $1400. Factor in a drop in productivity during for two weeks, even though it is generally the same interface, due to learning new features, or some things being shifted around. If we calculate a mere 3% drop in productivity, we're looking at over $1550 for the cost of the transition. Meanwhile, A will still experience the same level of costs when they upgrade again.



Business 'B' opts to migrate to OpenOffice.org 2.0. If B's users are not productive at all for the two-week period, then we can reasonably expect B to fire whoever made the call. The cost would amount to around $6000 in that case. However that's not the normal scenario. We have already realized that most users will experience only a 5-10% reduction in their productivity. Even if B's users experience a 25% reduction in productivity, they will still come out at $1500 - nearly $100 cheaper than did A. Thus, B's next iteration will only cost $100-$200 for the adjustment period.



A 10% reduction in B's productivity would only cost $600. What's more, OpenOffice.org will still be available at a cost of $0.00 per licensed copy when it's time to upgrade again. However, the 10% productivity loss may not be accurate across the board. Some employees will surely struggle along at only 75% of their normal capacity. If B brings in a trainer, pays $400 for a half-day overview session, it would likely boost productivity enough to offset the cost of the training session. Thus, users get a productivity boost that can reduce the cost of learning the new office suite. This is especially true if you have a large number of users who just aren't all that tech-savvy.



Of course, the real training need will come with those advanced features of OpenOffice.org that differ most from the Microsoft Office features. Typically, no more than 10-15% of users will need those features, so the costs will still be manageable. Again, keeping an eye to the future, this training will not be necessary the next time around. So, the next time you hear that it will cost more to train users than to upgrade to the next iteration of Microsoft Office, you can say, "well, let's take a closer look at that...".

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Subject Topic Starter Replies Views Last Post
Excellent pointoffice suites have a lot of similarities solveigh 1 1,526 Nov 5, 2005 9:00 AM
Our experience with training mecrider 1 1,662 Nov 3, 2005 8:05 PM
And this doesn't even consider... mvermeer 1 1,613 Nov 3, 2005 5:20 PM

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