Astra Case Study Rebuttal

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I don’t know why I feel the need to do this. By now, the only people that seem to take these things seriously are the Dilbert pointy-haired boss types. The media got sick of laughing at it and the computer geeks are sick of un-distorting reality.

You can accuse me of cherry-picking the case study, but you’re more than welcome to read it yourself. It doesn’t take long before you realize the entire thing revolves around misplaced blame and a messed up definition of compatibility. There’s little reason to go over the same key points again and again.

The case study can be best summarized as so:

Astra saw a cost savings with OpenOffice.org and jumped the Microsoft ship. Astra failed to do research, testing, and training before switching 80% of its workforce to OpenOffice.org. They then learned the hard way about vendor lock-in. OpenOffice.org can’t handle Word documents 100% because Microsoft will never open up the specification 100%. Microsoft Office will never implement ODF 100% because Microsoft has no interest in handling ODF 100%. With all their partners using Microsoft Office, Astra went back to Microsoft.

But that isn’t as fun as the cherry-picking:

Soon after the move to the mixed environment of OpenOffice.org and Microsoft Office, Astra began to experience additional training and support costs. The time and costs allocated to end-user training increased.

Why is this a post-install issue? You don’t move people between software platforms without adequate training. You don’t move between software platforms without adequate testing either. Was there any input as to what the employees were doing in Microsoft Office before switching to OpenOffice.org? Or did Astra just uproot its employees from Microsoft turf and plant them in OpenOffice.org turf and hope for the best?

IT support costs also increased as help-desk personnel had to learn multiple products and resolve issues that resulted from managing a mixed environment.

Two office suites is a mixed environment? When I think mixed environment, I think of things that are fundamentally different, like Windows/Mac/Linux or Wayne/Gilbarco/Tolkheim. Why is MSO/OOo a problem?

The move to OpenOffice.org affected the productivity of employees who found it difficult to use. For example, because many of their principals or business partners use Microsoft Office suites, Astra employees could not always exchange documents externally.

Because many of their principals or business partners use an office suite that does not document its file formats well — if at all — and has a minimal interest in supporting other formats — if at all — Astra employees could not always exchange documents externally.

It doesn’t sound as good when you’re trying to toot your own horn, but it’s closer to the truth. This is the reason people largely ignore Microsoft marketing — the truth is so distorted it’s hard not to call it a lie.

If one of the principals sent a file that required a fast response, it would take employees extra time, in some cases up to 15 minutes per document, to update formatting and make sure the document was correct prior to responding.

And again, this looks like a complete lack of research and testing on Astra’s part. I would expect that the decision makers would have asked a select few to see how OOo handled their partners’ Word documents before making the decision to switch.

Running OpenOffice.org on workstations with older hardware caused performance issues. IT had to purchase additional memory or upgrade hardware to make the application perform better and quicker.

Oh wow, as if Microsoft Office never ever did this. It’s the leanest, meanest code on the planet, every time. Personally, the only time I see OOo choke is on netbooks. Even the cheapest notebooks — notorious for slow CPUs, slower drives, and limited RAM — can run OpenOffice.org at a sufficient pace.

Says Kusuma, “We do not live alone in this world, so we have to be compatible. With Microsoft Office, people can start working and collaborating. That is an immediate benefit.

Yes! That’s the definition of compatible — everyone uses the same thing!

Oh wait, no it’s not. That’s the Microsoft definition of compatible.

The best part of all of this? The central hub for Microsoft’s Office vs. OpenOffice spiel contains links to PDF documents and videos … that require Silverlight to view in the browser. Don’t want Silverlight? You can download the videos … in WMV format. You know, some people settle for two out three. Microsoft settles for one.