Open-source trial benefits all

Emotions run high in the debate over whether to use open source or propriety software in the enterprise. Different users have...

Emotions run high in the debate over whether to use open source or propriety software in the enterprise. Different users have different views, which in some cases they pursue with a religious ferocity.

But all the mud-slinging does not help IT managers who have to make tough commercial decisions about which software best suits the requirements of their organisation. What they need is fact-based evidence and hype-free rationale to help them decide on the best way to progress.

And there are signs that the debate is maturing. There is a desire to put ideology to one side and draw on real life examples of open source software projects.

Open source projects being run by MG Rover and Newham Borough Council are just two examples to have been announced in the past two weeks

Newham Borough Council is experimenting with open source software while at the same time Microsoft audits the council's entire IT system in conjunction with consultancy Cap Gemini Ernst and Young.

Here we have trials that will directly compare Microsoft operating systems and applications with their open source equivalents.

This can only benefit users, enabling grown-up debate with empirical evidence to draw on. Although the outcome of the trials is eagerly anticipated, it would be futile to try to predict the results. One thing is for sure, however: there will be many more trials in the near future.

Work/life balance is a productivity issue

Overworking your IT staff is a false economy. That is the message from Department of Trade & Industry minister Patricia Hewitt, who writes for Computer Weekly this week on page 34.

Hewitt is right to highlight work/life balance initiatives as a vital part of any successful workplace.

If a person cannot enjoy time away from their job because they are too tired or stressed, they will be less productive and motivated at work.

The IT industry is notorious for its culture of long hours and stressful project deadlines and although this might create a "buzz" around the workplace in the short term, it will be detrimental to productivity if it persists in the long term.

IT managers need to stay aware of these issues and promote working practices such as flexible working and homeworking that have been shown to result in higher productivity and lower staff churn.

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