Forget about meeting customers’ expectations: Innovation comes first

… and so does pesky market research. The IT bubble has been spreading the word about this Forrester report and as you can imagine it got many of us wondering what it really means. Well it got me wondered about a few things too, but perhaps not for the same reasons others twisted their heads around. Let’s start with a good one.

“OpenOffice derivatives ” at around 13%?

I mean… really? It’s not that I don’t believe the number – I’d stick it around 15 to 17% actually but… so be it. The funny thing here is that since 2001 (the birth of no such study had placed any “OpenOffice derivative” at that number. We heard 2%. We heard 5%. We never heard of anything like a double digit. And even more incredibly, that number, 13%, went down to a combined total of 5% of market share. Unless no one of us at the Document Foundation and perhaps at Apache caught that in 2011, nobody knew Forrester had seen that market share. So it all looks like we learned about these good news 3 years later. The other funny thing is that until this study, many analysts in the industry would have told you that such a double digit number (and granted, not a really big one) would have gotten Microsoft shivering and the whole IT press circuit on orbit for 3 months just with that percentage. But for some odd reasons it went completely unnoticed.

“Google Drive: 13%”

This is the big news and here again I’m not surprised by the number. But where’s the catch? The catch is a double one: most organization I know of use Google Docs in conjunction with another office suite, and not a cloud-based one, mainly for collaborative work inside the company. It’s thus important to realize that kind of scenario is out there and is far from being a minority one. Granted,  there report mentions that multiple answers were possible. The second very important point is that if customers have been switching to Google Docs in this proportion, then it confirms what many office suite migration experts will tell you (privately): most of the migration is about change management. Forget about that “very important VB macro the accounting and Joe from Sales can’t do without”. Overnight the new kid on the block has changed, it’s called Google Drive and it sits on a cloud. The macros and the document fidelity all seem not that important in hindsight (just try several formats in Google Drive just to see what I mean by the relative lack of importance of document fidelity).

In other words: stop listening to the customers and innovate.

Oh yes, and it’s not just because Henry Ford once said it. What about this large administration that refused to migrate over to LibreOffice because they felt the pivot table support in Calc was just too different, if not as good as the one in Excel? Well, they’re on Google Drive now, and the only thing left to do is to wish them good luck with testing the comparative strength of each pivot table support.

The real challenge is for LibreOffice to expand to the cloud and to the mobile platforms while at the same time find the right solution to let users use whatever storage they want: various cloud services, a mobile storage provider, or even a peer to peer or unhosted technology. To be fair, this report is by no means a wake-up call: we know the need and how critical it is. However it  is somewhat of a useful whip for all of us… and an invitation to grow our resources to do more and reach further for the benefit of all!

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