Microsoft loses £258,000. Why? It seems Walsall Council is going open source as it trims budget.

Walsall Councillor Mike Flower has been tweeting from the budget setting meeting of Walsall Council. A while back he popped up one saying the council will stop paying Microsoft £258,750 for software licenses:

tweet from Mike Flower

How, I enquired, by going open source?  Yes, he thinks:

tweet from Mike Flower

Thanks for reporting for us from the council meeting. Very interesting. Have they budgeted for some re-training, or are they confident that the transition can simple be made. Any one from Walsall Council willing to flesh things out please do so below:

13 comments

  1. Excellent News, but I’m hoping that money has been set aside for retraining of both staff and techhies. And that the Sysadmins are upto the Job. I don’t want my records being ‘mv /dev/null’ ‘d TVM.

  2. David Nikel says:

    I’m a big open source fan, but in an environment such as this the costs involved will still be high – professional installation, migration of files (especially those with macros etc), support, re-training of employees etc.

    Although Microsoft software still requires staff training, a vast number of office and technical support staff are already comfortable and experienced with MS Office. Although OpenOffice is a fantastic equivalent, there are many slight differences that have the potential to confuse & make users less confident.

    It’s a brave decision and one I’m very pleased to see. However I’d be interested to know to what extent Walsall Council have researched the potential costs – and very interested to hear the evaluation six months down the line!

  3. That’s wonderful news 😀
    The Linux desktop is in a really great state nowadays, there will inevitably be a few teething problems to start with, but I expect the average user will get to grip with things very quickly. Like everyone above, I hope they’ve factored in the cost of retraining normal staff and hiring new techie staff, I expect that at first a switchover like this will be quite expensive. But if they’ve thought everything through and done their research then this will lead to huge long term savings, and Walsall’s experience will only make it easier and cheaper for other UK councils to follow their lead.
    It’s shameful that councils have been happy to use Microsoft’s products, given that they are habitual law breakers, as has been shown by their numerous convictions in European courts. I very much doubt that the morality of the situation has in any way influenced the council’s decision, but even so it’s great news for those of us who care for such things 🙂
    Even leaving the legal stuff to one side, free software is wonderful because it means any problems that come up the council tech staff can just fix themselves, rather than just waiting for when Microsoft feel like getting round to it, and whatever work the council tech staff can be shared by anyone who uses the software, far beyond just UK councils.

  4. Dan Slee says:

    Firstly, thanks for the interest in Cllr Flower’s Twitterfeed from Full Council tonight.

    From babysteps big journeys are made and I’m sure there is a lot of interest at Walsall in exploring social media.

    I’ll certainly make some enquiries from the right people and post a full response for you.

  5. Dan Slee, Walsall Council says:

    Cheers, Nick. I’ll try and find out tomorrow and post. I’m sure it will be a busy day in the press office so bear with us.

  6. Perhaps before people assume this is a straight road to conversion to a FOSS solution for Walsall MBC’s IT systems a few more questions should be asked.

    If you look at the budgetary plans it seems to indicate a single licensing agreement with Microsoft. Presumably this is an all inclusive one negotiated between the council and Microsoft to cover all their software.

    Interesting to note is a separate software licensing item where there are other allocated savings which would indicate that the council still intends to continue purchasing software licenses not necessarily from Microsoft.

    The distinct lack of any indication anywhere else in the budget for allocation of spending on training for alternative software would either indicate that a full on conversion isn’t necessarily the case or that there is some very wishful thinking going on about end user’s ability to adapt.

    At the very least in terms of architectural change you would need some budgeting for the core techie people who are presumably all Microsoft accredited to retrain.

    A possible better explanation might be that they intend to cease buying licenses in bulk and do it on a more ad-hock basis for individual machines. This may work out cost effective compared to the present as what they’re currently paying Microsoft seems excessive even for an organisation their size but would require a fair period of not upgrading their current IT base to work out in the long run.

  7. Tim Hobbs says:

    Nothing wrong with open source per se, but transitional costs will be huge and savings are unlikely to come easily. What about all the business systems that integrate with office, are built on Exchange and SQL Server? Training for techies and users? Cost of reinstallation of all those desktops? It’s a massive undertaking and it would be easy to claim a huge saving whilst saddling the Council with costs elsewhere.

  8. MJ Ray says:

    There may be some awkward transitional costs but that’s a legacy of sch.uk and ac.uk subsidising MS for so long. We’re gonna have to pay that bill one day.

  9. I’ve just had a chat to the head of ICT and it appears i’m partially right and partially ahead of the game!

    Walsall Council has reviewed the way it licences software from Microsoft and the savings have come from that. The Council does already uses some open source software on its IT infrastructure to reduce license costs and will continue to look at this when software or licences are up for renewal. Regarding OpenOffice – this is something the Council may be in a position to introduce in two years time when licences may be up.

    So good news – savings have been made and there are possibly room for some more savings in the middle term. Interesting that the Council has already started using open source software in some places too.

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