Lessons learned from Munich's migration to Linux

I attended LinuxTag in Berlin last week and there was a very interesting presentation about the state of Munich's migration to Linux on the desktop. Andreas Heinrich explained that their goal is to migrate 80% of the 15000 desktops to Linux. At the moment, 6200 desktops have been migrated and they intend to have a total of 8500 Linux desktops by the end of the year.

Here are some of the key lessons they shared with the audience:

  • Technical activities and requirements are easy to manage but managing social factors of change is hard since all change is associated with fear. They have specific people who are responsible for change management and for communication. For example, they organize events to share information and provide training. They also give away CDs so that employees can use the software at home.
  • Make sure the new system is accepted: if users don't like the system (for whatever reason), their boss and other employees will know immediately since "bad news travels fast". Make sure that user needs are met: they talk a lot to their users to find our what their needs are and how to meet them.
  • Don't make a "big bang" migration: instead of migrating everyone at the same time, they prefer gradual change. They started with some users, saw what worked and what didn't and then used that knowledge to improve their migration process.
  • Don't migrate everyone: their aim is to convert 80% of desktops to Linux. There are some users who have specific needs for which only proprietary solutions exist. If Linux and open source offers no solution, it doesn't make sense to migrate those users.
  • Don't go with dual-boot: if open source meets the needs of your users, there's no reason to provide an alternative. On the other hand, if open source does not meet their needs, don't attempt a migration.
  • Continuous improvement: after making a new release of their software or migrating users, don't consider the migration as complete. Instead, see how you can further improve the user experience.

It seems that the city of Munich has learned a lot from their Linux migration. We can hope that other Linux migrations will make use of the lessons learned by the folks in Munich.