What Munich’s Microsoft-to-Linux project was really about
You may remember the early Windows-to-Linux migration story of the City of Munich City in 2003. Some interesting details are emerging from the project (it’s a long one). The key point is that “it’s all about managing change for and with people”.
- The motivation to switch from Windows was not costs, it was independence from a single supplier. In 03 Munich was using Windows NT4 and was satisfied with it (they’re Germans) when MS announced the end of support for NT4. Being forced to make a change it didn’t want irked Munich so it looked for a way to get independence from software suppliers. The estimated cost for using Linux, including training, was actually 5% higher than the Microsoft upgrade, but deemed worth freedom.
- Users were moved to the new open-source applications on Windows before moving to Linux. This two-phase approach flattened the learning curve for users and made the project more manageable. The key applications were Thunderbird (email), Firefox (browser), OpenOffice (docs).
- They took the opportunity to clean up their document templates and develop a new application to manage them properly (and make mail merges easier). During the project, they found 13,700 document templates, almost one for each of 14,000 users, thanks to a ridiculously decentralised IT infrastructure. Germanic thoroughness to an extreme.
- The migration is very gradual. Less critical departments moved first, and within every department a small ‘germ cell’ of users was moved ahead of the rest to reveal problems and build local champions for the new technologies. From a 2003 start, by 2012 they aim to have 80% of users on Linux.
- Each department has a Windows PC to deal with tricky Office documents that don’t work well in OpenOffice.
Hat tip: SlashDot.