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Criteria for the non invasive transition to OpenOffice

Authors:
  • Centre for Applied Software Engineering

Abstract

Open Source Software (OSS) is receiving an increasing attention as a possible alternative to proprietary solutions. There are supporters of both the alternatives that stress advantages and disadvantages, but what is missing is an empirical view of a transition with the aid of case studies and controlled experiments. The aim of the paper is to report the results of an empirical investigation in the field of office automation in the Public Administration (PA). The available OSS in the field is introduced in the existing environment while preserving the proprietary solution. The analysis is supported by both qualitative and quantitative data. The effects on productivity and on users' attitude towards OSS and the emerging criteria for a possible transition are exposed.
Criteria for the non invasive transition to OpenOffice
Bruno Rossi Marco Scotto
Free University of Bozen DIST – University of Genova
Bozen, Italy Genova, Italy
Bruno.Rossi@unibz.it scotto@dist.unige.it
Alberto Sillitti Giancarlo Succi
Free University of Bozen Free University of Bozen
Bozen, Italy Bozen, Italy
Alberto.Sillitti@unibz.it Giancarlo.Succi@dist.unige.it
Abstract Open Source Software (OSS) is receiving an
increasing attention as a possible alternative to proprietary
solutions. There are supporters of both the alternatives that
stress advantages and disadvantages, but what is missing is an
empirical view of a transition with the aid of case studies and
controlled experiments. The aim of the paper is to report the
results of an empirical investigation in the field of office
automation in the Public Administration (PA). The available
OSS in the field is introduced in the existing environment
while preserving the proprietary solution. The analysis is
supported by both qualitative and quantitative data. The
effects on productivity and on users' attitude towards OSS
and the emerging criteria for a possible transition are
exposed.
I. INTRODUCTION
Some people suggest that the usage of OSS in PAs
guarantees higher levels of data security and privacy and
ensures a major openness of the Public Administration that
does not constrain citizens to buy any kind of license to
read or edit the public available files. On the other side, the
introduction of a new software to handle the documents
may affect negatively the productivity. The reason is that
the software may not be fitted to the requirements,
requiring too much time for personnel training or it may be
not easy to integrate in the existing system environment.
An experiment in a Public Administration (PA) has been
deployed to understand deeply the effects of this
introduction and develop a possible plan of action of a
possible large-scale diffusion. The experiment has been
deployed inside the COSPA project (Consortium for the
Open Source in the Public Administration), a consortium
that aims at analysing the effects of the introduction of
Open Data Standards (ODS) and Open Source (OS)
software for personal productivity and document
management in European PAs [1].
The office automation field was taken in consideration
for several reasons: the importance of this kind of software
in the activities of a PA and the presence of two strong
rivals in the field, the proprietary solution represented by
Microsoft Office
1
and the OS solution offering similar
functionalities, OpenOffice.org
2
. Furthermore, there is an
1
In the following we will call the package "Microsoft Office" or simply,
"Office".
2
In the following pages the application will be called with the name that
is usually used: "OpenOffice" omitting the prefix ".org".
already available study of the different levels of usability
offered by the two solutions performed by the Berkeley
University [2].
II. METHODOLOGY
The Goal Question Metrics (GQM) model was
employed in every phase of the project, from the overall
design to the creation of the questionnaires [3].
The experimental design followed three different paths:
a) Classical experimentation. On one side there has been
the direct experimentation on 22 users of the PA under
study, defined following the guidelines of the classical
experimentation with strict numerical analysis [4]. It has
been based on an experimental pre-test-post-test control
group design of the type represented in Fig.1:
Fig. 1. Experimental design
This model is usually defined as “multiple time series
design with randomisation” [5].
At the beginning a sample of 22 people participating to
the experiment has been identified on the basis of the
representativity inside the Public Administration and on the
effective availability of the directors of divisions and
offices. The sample has then been divided in an “almost”
random way in two groups, the only constraint being the
fact to have in the same group people from the same office:
one group of 11 people experimented the introduction of
OpenOffice (our treatment X ), while the other group was
used as a control group.
The possible presence of artifacts, should not have
influenced significantly the results. A questionnaire has
been submitted to both groups before (O
1
) and after (O
2
)
the introduction of OpenOffice to evaluate the effects of
O
3,1
O
3,2
O
3,i
O
3,n
O
1
X O
2
R
O
1
O
2
O
3,1
O
3,2
O
3,i
O
3,n
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Open Source Systems
Genova, 11th-15th July 2005
Marco Scotto and Giancarlo Succi (Eds.), pp. 250-253
the experimentation on the attitude towards OSS. The
activities of both groups have been constantly monitored
by an automatic system for data collection that permitted
the collection of a series of objective process data (the
series of observations O
3,i
).
b) Quasi-experimental design. On the other side more
qualitative evaluations on the usage of OpenOffice and on
Open Source have been made following the guidelines of
the so-called “quasi experimental” methodologies [5]. The
quasi-experimental design is used to evaluate the
implications of a treatment (in our case the introduction of
OpenOffice) without the typical requirements of a classical
experimentation, like the randomisation and the presence
of a control group. Clearly the results obtained are less
significant than the one of a real experimentation, less
generalisable and more sensible to exogenous effects.
However, they can still give an indication on the effects of
the experiment, in particular if the sample is not of
negligible size, as in our case.
c) One-shot evaluation. The evaluation is based on a
punctual evaluation of a situation without the presence of a
valid sample. This evaluation is used when the presence of
a sample of relevant dimension would be too onerous to be
used in a single experimentation. The resulting data is in
this way very “noisy” and subject to change in future
replications of the experiment.
All the three designs have been applied, however mostly
of the analysis of this paper comes from the classical
experimentation design.
Two types of questionnaires have been submitted to
users. The first identical before and after the
experimentation, to understand the attitude towards Open
Source and the effects of the experimentation on such
attitude; the second has been submitted only at the end,
where all the final results of the project have been
collected and more information for the replication of the
experiment has been determined.
As for the tools used, two different non-invasive systems
for data collection have been employed:
- FLEA (FiLe Extension Analyzer) and DepA
(Dependency Analyser) to analyse the different typologies
of files present on the target system, eventual macros and
the reciprocal dependencies among different applications
installed;
- PROM (PRO Metrics)[6], to monitor the usage of
OpenOffice and Microsoft Office.
III. THE EXPERIMENT
The experimental protocol of the introduction of
OpenOffice used in this study was defined as a predefined
set of steps:
1. A seminar to give a motivation on the reasons of the
experimentation.
2. Installation of OpenOffice and translation of the most
used documents in the OpenOffice format.
3. Training.
4. Usage help with support in case of need through a
forum and an available hot-line.
5. Periodic verification meetings with the OpenOffice
users to identify possible problems.
6. Automatic start of OpenOffice with the files carrying a
Microsoft Office extension.
Regarding the protocol, the selection of the experimental
groups has been done in a way to enable that the
participants were, when possible, in some way in relation
one with each other, physically near and if possible coming
from the same organisational units, to take advantage of
possible network externalities that arise in terms of
document exchange, reciprocal help, creation of informal
centres of competence and so on [7].
The experiment lasted for 32 weeks, the first 10 only
Microsoft Office was monitored and the system
dependencies were collected. OpenOffice was introduced
and monitored until the end of the project, with week 23
delimiting the introduction of the OpenOffice automatic
start with Microsoft Office files.
IV. DATA ANALYSIS
In this section we analyse three aspects derived from the
data collected: the productivity of the new solution, the
users' acceptance of OSS and the system interoperability
issues.
A. Interoperability issues
The study of interoperability constraints is an important
step before a migration. In our case, we performed a
dynamic and a static analysis of the system dependencies.
The static analysis was performed at the beginning of the
experimentation through surveys submitted to IT
personnel, in particular constraints with Oracle and SAP
software were thought to be relevant by the interviewed
personnel.
The dynamic analysis applied with the aid of automatic
tools, reported no serious dependencies in the systems
involved in the experimentation. In fact the dependencies
reported by the static analysis were found, but not so
relevant in numbers.
These results cannot be generalised to the whole PA
under exam and can be also be seen as a sort of limitation
to the experiment, as in more turbulent environments, the
results of the whole experiment may be different.
B. Productivity evaluation
The productivity has been evaluated using the data
coming from PROM.
In Fig. 2, on the X-axis there is the week of the
experimentation, OpenOffice has been inserted during
week 10 and the automatic association has been activated
during week 23. In blue the percentage of opened files
using OpenOffice is represented and in orange the
percentage of average time devoted to OpenOffice among
users that effectively used OpenOffice.
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Open Source Systems
Genova, 11th-15th July 2005
Marco Scotto and Giancarlo Succi (Eds.), pp. 250-253
In Fig.3 the effective number of users adopting
OpenOffice is increasing. At the end of the experiment,
every user was employing OpenOffice together with
Office. Also in this case, the effective increase of usage
happened after the introduction of the automatic start in
week 23.
To further study the loss of time and efficiency caused
by the adoption of OpenOffice, we tried to find an answer
to the following questions:
a) The usage of OpenOffice caused a reduction in the
number of documents used per day? The correlations
studied are the number of documents used each day and
number of documents opened with OpenOffice. A negative
effect on the usage of OpenOffice has to produce a
negative impact on the usage of OpenOffice and a
significant negative correlation between these two
variables, that is the more documents are handled with
OpenOffice, the less are globally handled;
b) The usage of OpenOffice caused an increase in the
time devoted to each document? The time devoted to the
management of the all the documents and to the
OpenOffice. A negative effect on the usage of OpenOffice
has to create a significant positive correlation, that is it
should be evident that the more time is spent with
OpenOffice, the more time is spent globally managing
documents, as OpenOffice required more time to
accomplish the same tasks.
As for question a), the correlation between the number
of documents opened with OpenOffice and the total
number of documents has been -0,08 with an inexistent
significance, the probability of error of the correlation is
66%, therefore it has to be excluded that the usage of
OpenOffice has reduced the number of documents handled
daily.
Relating question b), the correlation between time
devoted to documents handled with OpenOffice and the
total time devoted to document handling has been -0,04
with a null significance, the probability of error of such
correlation is 82%, therefore it has to be excluded that the
usage of OpenOffice has increased the global effort to
handle documents.
The comparison with the control group confirmed
furthermore that the evolution of the usage of documents
among the test group and the control group has been
consistent, excluding in this way exogenous factors.
C. Change of attitude
By analysing the results of the submitted pre- and post-
test questionnaires on the attitude towards OSS, some
interesting effects have been detected.
After the experiment, all users have an opinion about
OSS, also those that were neutral have split in positive and
negative towards OSS. The importance to know the
instrument they are using has increased, as the importance
given to training.
Half of the users reported OpenOffice as having the
same functionalities offered by Office, while the other half
considered it with less functionalities. However, when
asked about a possible substitution, almost all said that it
was suitable with no or very few problems.
V. LIMITATIONS
The data collected represents the results of a single
experience and as it is the results cannot be systematically
generalised, as the essential comparative aspect is missing.
The selection of the sample followed also some
constraints imposed by the PA under exam.
The field of office automation in particular may not be
comparable fully to other desktop environments where the
open solution is not as strong as OpenOffice. As already
reported, the focus of the study has not been on the
substitution of the old solution, as the proprietary
application has been maintained together with the new one.
A scenario of a complete substitution would need a
separate experiment.
VI. CONCLUSION
The placement of OpenOffice side by side with Office
was evaluated with a gradual and measured approach, that
includes techniques to ease the OpenOffice diffusion, like
the automatic association with the Office extensions. The
good results can bring in our opinion to a positive large-
scale installation of OpenOffice in the PA considered.
Fig.2. Increase in OpenOffice usage
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
Fig. 3. Increase in the effective number of OpenOffice users.
0%
20%
40%
60%
80%
100%
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Open Source Systems
Genova, 11th-15th July 2005
Marco Scotto and Giancarlo Succi (Eds.), pp. 250-253
However, a generalisation to other PAs or to other fields
different from the office automation are to be taken with
care, keeping in mind the limitations of the experiment. As
a final note, the insertion of the experimental data in a TCO
(Total Cost of Ownership) framework, like the one that is
being developed by the COSPA project, can better help in
evaluating the convenience of a full transition.
VII. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We acknowledge Dr. Hellmuth Ladurner for his precious
help and support. Acknowledgments also to all the users
involved, participants to the experiment, technical
personnel, supervisors: without their constant effort and
their availability this study would not have been possible.
VIII. REFERENCES
[1] The COSPA Project, Consortium for the Open Source
in the Public Administration, http://www.cospa-
project.org
[2] Everitt K. e Lederer S. (2001) A Usability
Comparison of Sun StarOffice Writer 5.2 vs.
Microsoft Word 2000,
http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/courses/is271/f01/proje
cts/WordStar/
[3] Basili V. (1995) “Applying the Goal/Question/Metric
Paradigm,” in Experience factory, in Software
Quality Assurance and Measurement: A Worldwide
perspective, ITP An International Thomson
Publishing Company, chapter 2, pages21- 44
[4] Lloyd J. (1999) “Statistical Analysis of Categorical
Data”, Wiley
[5] Campbell D.T. e Stanley T.D. (1990) Experimental
and Quasi-Experimental Design”, Houghton Mifflin
Company
[6] A, Sillitti, A. Janes, G. Succi, T. Vernazza,
“Collecting, Integrating and Analyzing Software
Metrics and Personal Software Process Data”,
EUROMICRO 2003, Belek-Antalya, Turkey, 1 6
September 2003.
[7] Shapiro C. e Varian H.R. (1999) Information Rules:
A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy”, Harvard
Business School Press
Proceedings of the First International Conference on Open Source Systems
Genova, 11th-15th July 2005
Marco Scotto and Giancarlo Succi (Eds.), pp. 250-253
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A Usability Comparison of Sun StarOffice Writer 5.2 vs
  • K Everitt
  • S Lederer
Everitt K. e Lederer S. (2001) A Usability Comparison of Sun StarOffice Writer 5.2 vs. Microsoft Word 2000, http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/courses/is271/f01/proje cts/WordStar/
Consortium for the Open Source in the Public Administration
  • Cospa The
  • Project
The COSPA Project, Consortium for the Open Source in the Public Administration, http://www.cospaproject.org