LibreOffice in the workplace

Office Without Chains

The Social Side

The technical side of a conversion always appears to be solvable and, as a rule, is easier to plan and implement; however, the social side is often underestimated and can lead to failure.

The "social side" refers to the people affected by the migration (i.e., the daily users). If you ignore this area, you've already lost. In the long run, no boardroom will ignore users' complaints and, if in doubt, will take the path of least resistance. In fact, preconceptions often differ widely between the IT department and the users, both with regard to the use of the office suite and the level of knowledge required to use it successfully.

A brief example illustrates this point: In a migration project, the default storage format of text documents was to be *.docx, because an email program used in the company could only display that file format directly. The consequences of not being able to save complex documents in the DOCX format were countered by the assumption that users did not create complex documents, only simple text documents. It was assumed that the storage format would then be unproblematic.

In fact, more than 80 percent of the documents generated in the respective departments were highly complex, and formatting was lost when the documents were saved. The frustration of users who thought their work from the previous day was lost can never be rectified; the migration failed, even though technically everything was done correctly (i.e., properly configured and integrated, servers sufficiently dimensioned, training provided).

The viewpoint on the use of the office product was completely different between the two groups, and the lack of analysis coupled with simple assumptions and adherence to framework conditions (i.e., the email program) eventually led to chaos.

Employee Motivation and Communication

Migrations often fail because of a lack of user acceptance. If you don't want to do something, your productivity drops and unrest grows. In this case, a quick switch to previous software restores peace, even though the underlying problems have not been resolved. Motivation and communication is therefore a key task in any migration – and never a topic for the IT department or administrators.

If you feel that a valuable and modern program is being taken away from you and is being replaced by a free program, you will always worry and feel uncomfortable. If management continues to use the latest Microsoft Office on their state-of-the-art hardware while the rest of the employees get LibreOffice, conflicts are inevitable. These social issues must be discussed and dealt with in the same way the technical tasks are approached, but by people other than IT.

Informative talks in good time, the involvement of power users and decision makers in the test phase, establishing an understanding of the tasks (processes) that employees face, suggestions for improved solutions, and appropriate training measures should accompany the technical implementation of the project. With a little bit of skill, an enormous potential can be freed up and applied to the migration and implementation.


LibreOffice gives every organization a genuine alternative for daily work, with many advantages and options. The use of XML-based configuration files and embedding options offer you the best prerequisites for adapting LibreOffice precisely to reflect the desired corporate structures.

As is often the case with open source programs, however, precompiled versions for the end user are rarely suitable for direct use in the enterprise. If you view LibreOffice as an alternative, then you have to invest some effort in making the program fit for the task at hand. Although you can do this with your own staff, it takes time and effort, so you have to immerse yourself in the project, get involved, and solve problems, which will certainly involve more work than would be invested in a ready-made solution. On the other hand, you can call in external help and long-term support and get the same results.

The Document Foundation offers a special certification program [3] for experts, and links to specialists are published in three categories: Developer (code), migration, and training consultant [4]. Together, they will always find a solution that helps you maintain your independence.

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