A key aspect of running IT as a business is to remain alert to opportunities to significantly reduce costs or increase revenues for your organization. This is true for both private and public sector organizations. Open Source represents a major opportunity to lower operating costs and/or increase revenues.
In this series I will be presenting some of these opportunities that are being created by open source technologies but appear to be overlooked by many if not most CIO’s. For me the prime example is implementing an open source desktop. The estimates that I have seen indicate that an organization can reduce the hardware and software costs of a desktop or laptop computer by potentially as much as $1,000 per unit. When I was a CIO in the State of Oregon we had approximately 35,000 desktop/laptops, the potential savings was around $35.0 million.
So why was the State bureaucracy so hesitant about going after these potential savings. Yes, one can argue that changing the desktop is a significant effort but so are the rewards significant. My assessment was that the major roadblock was fear of change and the potential backlash from a major commercial vendor. Interesting given that the Governor had declared that Oregon is the epicenter of the Open Source industry, which indeed it is. No that change and vendor objections aren’t real concerns, look at the experience in Massachusetts, but I can’t personally imagine telling my boss that I won’t pursue such an opportunity for purely political reasons.
In these cases the driving principle for me is what I would do if it were my money and I recently faced this very issue. I had purchased a new laptop computer which included at no cost a version of Microsoft Office. It was the basic word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software but there was a catch. I could use the software 30 times and then I had to purchase a license. My new laptop ran the new Vista operating system and I had a desktop running Windows XP. Since it was my money, I went to the Oregon State University web site and downloaded the open office suite rather that continue to use Windows Office. The suite works great and includes Open Office Draw, Math and Database applications in addition to a word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications. In addition to saving a bundle of money, the look and feel is intuitive and an easy adjustment, you can save in a number of formates to make exchange of documents quite easy. I especially like the button that creates and stores the document as a pdf file.
To me the open source office application suite is an obvious cost savings opportunity that is being overlooked by both private and public sector CIO’s. I’ll be discussing other opportunities in coming postings.
William A. Crowell
Magellan Associates, LLC