June 28, 2009

Austrian capitol Vienna familiarizing employees about Linux

On 24 June 2009, it was announced that the city administration of Vienna will begin teaching its employees about open source so they will better understand an eventual move to this type of software on the desktop, according to reporter Gijs Hillenius writing for the European Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR.eu).  According to Hillenius, the purpose of the training will be to prepare end users for a migration to FOSS on the desktop:
"In an emailed statement, Marie Ringler, local Green Party councillor involved in the proposal, said: 'If we want to switch to GNU/Linux and other open source applications, we should take the fears and concerns of our users seriously. Future open source users should be better informed.'

"The city council unanimously adopted a proposal from the SPÖ (Social Democrats) and the Greens to begin a comprehensive information campaign on open source, aimed at the desktop users working for the city of Vienna. The information campaign should help create understanding for a possible switch to open source.

"In an emailed statement, Marie Ringler, local Green Party councillor involved in the proposal, said: 'If we want to switch to GNU/Linux and other open source applications, we should take the fears and concerns of our users seriously. Future open source users should be better informed.'"

This development is signficant because it shows that the primary lesson of the Munich migration, called "LiMux", seems to be taking hold outside of Munich in another major European city, Vienna.  That lesson is the importance of involving all of the stakeholders in a migration to Free Open Source Software (FOSS) in a systematic fashion, rather than imposing the change from the top down, or just letting FOSS filter into an organization from the IT department without coordinated effort by business managers and users.  The following passage is taken from an extensive OSOR article by reporter Karsten Gerloff and explains in detail what has been learned from the Munich migration project:

"Florian Schießl [the manager responsible for implementing the LiMux project] says that the project team has learned two major lessons in the course of the LiMux project. First, that it is absolutely necessary to convince people to be ready and open for change; and second, to break complex technical problems (“none of them are unsolvable”, says Schießl) into small tasks, so they can be handled more easily.

"'LiMux is not a technical project', he says. Initially, the team approached the migration as a classical IT problem, but the real issues turned out to be different. 'It's all about managing change for and with people.'

"'Convince employees and managers (especially in the IT area of the administration) to be open to change, to take them by the hand and lead them down the new road. This has nothing to do with technology. It's about emotions.' Users need to feel that they are being taken seriously. It is just as important to secure political and managerial backing for the project and its strategy. This helps to minimise resistance and speed up progress."

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