Thursday, September 09, 2010

What has freedom of choice in computer operating system to do with process safety?

Today I attended a one day conference in Copenhagen on the open source office productivity suite OpenOffice.org, which is actually owned by Oracle after their acquisition of Sun Microsystem last year. The conference was organized by the Danish Open Source Suppliers Organisation at the Museum of the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen. This museum is normally not open to the public, so your only change to visit is by attending an event there.

The conference started by well published story about how Münich converts 15.000 PC to OpenOffice.org. Not much new here except for their Java based formular extension Wollmux to OpenOffice.org. The step by step approach used by the people in Munich have been described in a whitepaper published by Sun Microsystems a few years ago. Later in the day Oracle gave a presentation partly based on this paper.

Novell's Flemming Stensgaard gave a presentation titled "OpenOffice - and what is then the next steps?" in which he argued, that reading EULA's could pay off well by avoiding CAL payments by switching to open source solutions. His basic theme was, that when you have a domination market share, then you can only grow by finding new revenue sources.

The OpenOffice.org community has just celebrated their 10th anniversary in Budapest during their annual conference attended by about 65 persons. The community have noticed a major difference from the very open approach used by Sun Microsystems to the more closed approach used by Oracle. This was also evident from the days two presentations from Oracle. There appear to be a very tight lid on any news prior to Oracle World in a couple of weeks.

Well, the above is just introductory remarks to my main point: user choice! The final presentation of the day was by IBM Danmark, the main sponsor of the event. They explained how their employees could choose between a Windows PC, a Linux PC or a Mac. They even had the option to bring their own PC to work. And yes, there is a significant number of IBM employees, who do their computer work using an IPad. Freedom of choice drives innovation! - at least at IBM.

Could we make the same happen in process safety? When I worked in the process industry the company I worked for allowed any type of process control system - as long as it was made by Honeywell. We had system engineers which made wonderful things happen with the old PMX I system (no GUI, just a character based CRT).

In process safety we attempt to make every do thing exactly the same way. We perform a job analysis to ensure the job is done according to the written procedure every step of the way. We have done this for years. Has it improved our overall safety performance? I don't think so. But it has properly kept one or two intelligent technicians from suggesting procedure improvements. In other words we have blown away new ideas before they could lit our thinking. Does this make sence?

What do you think? If you have time take a look at connections - social software for a company.