Much is said in enterprise-learning circles about change management, and we all know that when you make a change in your organization, whether it’s an acquisition or merger, the rollout of a new suite of products or services or the introduction of new practices or technologies, you’ve got to get your people up to speed in order to make it work. But what happens when you make technology changes to reduce operating costs?
Chief learning officers need to be aware of all of the major moves the organization makes to ensure its strategic success. The move from proprietary software to open-source software like Linux, which is generally free or low-cost, can save your organization a lot of money, and many organizations have been making the switch. But beyond being aware of the major technological changes your organization might make, you also need to know what affect these changes will have on the end-users who use the systems and the IT professionals who support them.
Linux is an operating system, similar to UNIX, that provides a free or low-cost operating system for PC users. Most users report that Linux is extremely efficient and fast-performing, and many tout the software’s excellent security. Among recent high-profile switches to Linux is Amazon.com, which made the move from Sun Solaris to Linux running on HP machines, a move that the company claims will reduce its capital outlay by 25 percent.
“These kinds of rollouts absolutely are happening,” said Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), a nonprofit organization that runs a vendor-independent professional certification program for the Linux operating system. “It’s not a matter of if or when they will happen, it’s a matter of how do we deal with the fact that they’re happening now? The number of high-profile success stories of IBM and HP and Dell stating that they’re making Linux sales—it’s quite a significant number. And we as a certification body are starting to see the results of that.”
The results of increasing rollouts of Linux technology in the enterprise is an increasing demand for training and certification in the skills and knowledge needed to support the technology. LPI’s mandate is to ensure that there is a substantial number of Linux-skilled professionals in the marketplace.
“When LPI first started out, our goal was to maximize the pool of skilled Linux people out there,” said Leibovitch. “We wanted to make sure that no company would ever object to installing Linux because there weren’t enough skilled people out there to support it. That was the very beginning for us.” This initiative led LPI to create its multiple levels of certifications, which are well-known and well-respected by many IT professionals.
Who in your organization will be affected most by the increasingly popular switch to Linux? Since Linux is most popular right now in the back end of the organization—on the Web servers, databases, file servers, etc.—you need to focus first on the information technology team. You need to develop the skills and knowledge of your systems administrators so that they will be able to support the systems running Linux.
“Obviously there needs to be a pool of skilled people,” said Leibovitch. “And by skilled people at this point, we don’t necessarily mean the alpha-geek developer types. At this point in time, as enterprises deploy Linux, they need junior-level admins, and they need intermediate-level admins. They’re looking for people who can make sure that their installations work. Linux is boasting this great uptime capability and so on, but it still is going to need people to maintain it, to add users, to check print queues and things like that. The mechanics of this are not particularly different from what you’d have in a Windows or a UNIX environment, it just means that you need skilled people who are capable of doing that under Linux.”
Up until now, organizations running Linux on the back end have seen little to no effect on the end-users, according to Leibovitch. He said that because Linux has grown specifically on the server, most of the end-users working in a Linux environment haven’t even been aware that they are using Linux. “They’ve still been using their regular Windows applications on the desktop, and it’s been the Linux software on the back end that’s been doing Web work and mail work and that kind of thing,” said Leibovitch.
“The mainstream of Linux has been in the back office,” he added. “It’s been in the computer room. It’s been in the data center, and most end-users just haven’t had to do any training on Linux because they keep using their regular programs. …That’s why it’s been up until now mainly a system administration issue—because it’s always been in the back end in the servers.”
But, Leibovitch said, executives can look for that to change slowly as Linux begins making headway on the desktop. While it’s unlikely that Linux is going to take on the popularity of Microsoft Office soon, it will be an “increasingly viable alternative on the desktop,” said Leibovitch.
“Until recently, there just haven’t been any Linux equivalents to Outlook or Explorer or MS Office,” said Leibovitch. “What’s happened within the last year though is that situation has radically changed.” New open-source applications have emerged that, though not as polished as Microsoft’s Office Suite, are giving enterprises a viable alternative to the proprietary software.
“You now have Linux applications that are capable of doing most of the jobs people need to do with their regular desktop,” said Leibovitch. “And now you’re starting to see a number of instances where companies are starting to deploy Linux not only on the server, but also on the desktop.”
As Linux grows, both on the back-end in the server room as well as on the regular employees’ desktop systems, chief learning officers will need to be aware of the need for change management and training in the new technology. Keep an eye out for the growing number of deployments in large enterprises, and keep an ear to the floor of your own organization to discover if your executive peers are considering making such a change. By staying on top of these developments, you can help ensure a smooth transition.
Emily Hollis is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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See https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=1866 for more information.
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See https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=1861 for more information.
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See https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=1858 for more information.
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See https://www.clomedia.com/common/newscenter/newsdisplay.cfm?id=1847 for more information.