Sudbury

I was reading one of M$’s glowing reports of how the City of Sudbury moved everyone to Office and lived happily ever-after. The city amalgamated and it was natural to consider moving everyone to a single platform to make IT more efficient and flexible. There were several fires that needed extinguishing:

  • Folks were receiving documents from other systems and wasting time converting document formats. Corel, Office and OpenOffice.org were all being used, and
  • some systems were easier to use with their ERP system than others.

That’s all pretty reasonable. However the result of studies made was to migrate everyone to Office 2007 and “lowering costs”. It turns out that OpenOffice.org did work reasonably well that folks were using it instead of Office to do their document conversions… However, to get stuff/information in and out of the ERP system, Office was chosen as it was well integrated.

The error I see in that logic is that, because their ERP system was locked-in to Office, they chose to lock everything into Office. Did no one consider changing the ERP system to something open??? Want to bet on whether or not someone in HQ, before the amalgamation got to choose what ERP system was going to be used before they chose an office suite? Now, it could be that Office is better integrated into some unnamed ERP system and it could be that changing ERP systems might have been more costly than not changing the ERP system, but did no one count the cost of sending money to M$ (and the ERP system possibly) forever. I think not.

I have seen this time and again where a chain is built linking from some point and arriving at another point with the assumption that if the links were each created with sound decisioins that a strong chain existed. That is false if the supposition that the starting point should not be changed is false. There is no mention of an evaluation of ERP. The whole thing is just an elaborate case of lock-in. Folks were productive with what they had. They will be productive with what they got but it is not good evidence that they would not be more productive if they had considered changing the ERP system.

So, Sudbury chose to remain locked in. So, the taxpayers of Sudbury get to send money to M$ forever.

It turns out that ERP was examined and a roadmap was chosen in the previous two years.
A long term plan – the ERP Roadmap and vision for the end state Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system was developed by Finance, Administrative Services and Human Resources.

It turns out they are using PeopleSoft/Oracle… Of course Oracle charges a lot per user, from a few dollars for HelpDesk to $thousands for Inventory Policy Planning. I guess if I had spent millions on licences for that I might be inclined to keep using it. Those are US commercial licences. No mention of government. Perhaps they charge more

Of course PeopleSoft began to suport GNU/Linux servers in 2003 and there are lots of ERP systems that work well with OpenOffice.org, too.

So, the decision to go with Office was actually made years earlier when Sudbury locked itself in to PeopleSoft. Ironically, Oracle owns both PeopleSoft, OpenOffice.org and has its own GNU/Linux distro… It could integrate OpenOffice.org better if it wanted but chose to integrate with another ERP system. What M$ touts as a win for Office was just another example of short-sighted decision-making. If Sudbury had actually considered the office suite and ERP system as a unit they might have come to completely different solutions.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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2 Responses to Sudbury

  1. oldman says:

    “If Sudbury had actually considered the office suite and ERP system as a unit they might have come to completely different solutions.”

    Why should they? The major investment in this case is in the setup of the ERP system, which usually involves elablrate exercises in business process reorganization as well as extensive customization of the ERP system – Peoplesoft for instance, comes with full source code so that if you are a licensed user you actually can inspect and modify the source code. The costs in business stakeholder time and programmer/developer time for these systems generally dwarfs that actually cost of the licenses and support contracts for the application itself.

    My place of business has been a peoplesoft user since 1997. The microsoft Office integration is heavily used by those in the business end of the university who rely on the system transacting university business. I am not surprised that Sudbury began dropping copies of office (at a probably significant discount under their bulk licensing programs). The function is there and it works.
    While this may not make any sense from a FOSS oriented perspective, The business decision was a no brainer.

    This is in the end Pog, and example of when one of those “irrelevant frill” features of the “bloated” Office suite actually mattered, and one the day form microsoft.

  2. Richard Chapman says:

    Everything starts with a clean slate at the end of a 5 year plan. Ah, the wonders of accounting.

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