Archive for January, 2009

Steps to an Open Source strategy – Baselining

The first step an organization needs to take in establishing an Open Source strategy is to baseline the current landscape. Now to be perfectly clear: many people will jump on this step and “pooh pooh” about how unnecessary it is because they

  • Already know where Open Source is being used (they may think they do)
  • Already know which areas within the organization are suitable for Open Source adoption
  • Already understand IP issues and licensing implications of Open Source software in use

However, regardless of what they think they may know – they probably don’t. And if the corporation has carried out a prior assessment – that was probably in 2003 or 2004 when they were benchmarking Linux usage. At least I’ve had enough of those reports waved at me, together with a remark as to the fact that “and we have a few Apaches and MySQLs running”.

So what are the typical goals of this first step? Well it’s to pull together enough information about the internal adoption of Open Source that you can present the complete picture to the various people and departments you need to engage on the next step.

  • What is the organizations understanding of what exactly Open Source is and does that understanding differ within the organization. Make sure that includes asking around in departments responsible for software procurement, legal or license management
  • Where is Open Source being used, why is it being used there and which components or products are in use
  • Where is Open Source not being used and why not
  • Does the organization maintain a repository of Open Source components and/or information
  • Who are the Open Source evangelists already active within the organization (and where are the opponents)
  • Where Open Source is being used – how are those projects/installations fielding support issues
  • Gauge internal and external “pressure” on using Open Source (joint ventures are a good example of when Open Source pressure can come in from the outside)
  • Are there any “sweet spots” already identifiable for potential Open Source usage
  • and many more

The result of asking these questions is that people within the organization will begin to understand that there is more to it than just knowing about the odd Apache installation.


Steps to an internal Open Source strategy

When I go into a corporation or other organization to establish an internal Open Source strategy, the work generally follows the following steps (although they obviously need adapting to each additional organization). I talked about the steps during the Open Source strategy workshop earlier today:

  1. Establish the Open Source “baseline”
  2. Develop policies and guidelines to support and educate all parties
  3. Anchor the Open Source strategy within the organization
  4. Establish an internal Open Source “community”

I’ll talk about each point in more detail during additional posts.

It was interesting to see Ingo Schwarzer, CTO of DB Systel talk about the similar steps they are beginning to take to establish an Open Source strategy during this afternoon’s keynote at OSMB.

Educating Open Source

By chance I’ve spent some time recently consulting with OSS Watch in Oxford, UK. Ross Gardler and his team provide Open Source advice and guidance free of charge to UK higher and further education organizations. Apart from the chance to visit Oxford a couple of times (and loving it more each time), it has allowed to me to gain insight into how Open Source is viewed within the UK education community.

In particular it has been interesting to see how efforts in the UK are growing to provide children in schools and students in universities with the knowledge they need to understand Open Source and have the qualifications many companies now require when recruiting new employees. It is still proving difficult to make sure young people have enough knoweldge (both practical and theoretical) around Open Source and OSS Watch are constantly looking for additional ways of doing this.

So, now I would be interested in hearing about similar initiatives in other countries – or indeed people interested in establishing or building out similar initiatives as I think this will become increasingly important as we see Open Source adoption growing everywhere.

Open Source as part of an IT strategy

Later today, I will be participating in a workshop at the Open Source Meets Business conference here in Nürnberg. The title of the workshop is: “Open Source as part of an IT strategy” and I will be one of several panel members.

My input will focus mostly on the steps that need to be taken to build up an Open Source strategy within a corporation or large organization. Most of this collected from the exeprience I’ve gathered over the past years in helping corporations understand and engage with the “Open Source way”. Hopefully the audience will jump in with their thoughts and it will be a lively discussion.

I’ll post after the workshop with some additional thoughts around the steps that need to be taken.

Lessons from Mozilla

The keynote that stuck with me today at OSMB has to be that of John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla. His keynote stuck out from the rest because it was a refreshing and insightful look at some of the philosophy that is driving Mozilla today. He will be uploading his presentation to Slideshare soon, but here are some of the quotes I took away and some added comments.

Lots of Open Source projects are successful, but there is no clear model on how to get there.

This is something I sometimes feel needs emphasizing over and over again. Especially when I talk to companies interested in going Open Source and building a community. There is no “game plan” on how that may or may not work. It is an individual process that needs to take all the parameters of the underlying Open Source project and the company(ies) behind it into consideration. If there was a single way for an Open Source offering to become successful, then someone would be making millions.

40 % of the Mozilla code is contributed by non-employees

Again, another interesting point if you are trying to build a community around your Open Source project – how much of it has been developed from people outside your organization?

The strongest open systems are “Chaords” – with distributed decision-making, nodal authority and ways to route around

Look at successful open systems that adhere to these principles – Wikipedia or the Apache Software Foundation and the underlying projects for example.

Make it easy for your community to do important things

The best citizens [of a community] challenge the status quo

I would add to the last point that you also need to provide ways for members of the community to actually challenge what goes on inside the community and how the Open Source product is shaped.

In all a good presentation and I hope many of the attendees took away the key points.

Open Source is a safe bet

I’m spending a few days down in Nürnberg at the Open Source Meets Business Conference (OSMB). This year, even after spending just a couple of hours here, the conference has a very “OSBC” feel to it. At least it does remind me more of my visit to OSBC back in 2005 where I was surprised at the commercial adoption of Open Source and indeed the distinct business feel to an Open Source conference.

Larry Augustin is giving the first keynote where he is talking about why he thinks Open Source is a “safe bet” – especially in these days where everyone is talking about the economic downturn. He has 4 main reasons:

New investment continues in Open Source

Businesses are adopting Open Source

Open Source produces better software

Leaner budgets favor Open Source

There are a couple of points in there that I’m sure are open for discussions or a “it depends” caveat. However in general and on a high-level I’m sure these points paint a good picture to get people talking.

There is still a high level of VC investment in Open Source businesses – as we saw yesterday when Lucid Imagination officially launched after receiving a series A funding round of 6$ million. According to Larry, Open Source businesses have received just under 3$ billion since 2000. Companies like Lucid Imagination show that there is indeed a market for companies that form around key technology people (Lucid includes people I greatly respect – such as Erik Hatcher) and provide quality services and other offerings around Open Source projects such as Apache Solr and Lucene. We’ll be seeing more of companies like this arrive on the scene this year.

Already the conference looks as though it will be the most interesting yet.

Is this the hour of the citizen reporter?

This is the question the German online news site “Spiegel Online” is asking in an article on how people were able to quickly obtain news on the Hudson river plane crash. Slowly, even traditional media is waking up to the idea that maybe, just maybe, new ways of producing and consuming news have arrived and they should be thinking about how they can utilize them.

This is the reason we put the effort into building the NYOOZE platform. A white-label solution that both aggregates traditional news sources as well as tapping into citizen reporting via either a news upload, email-in or Twitter search. The important thing is being able to combine the different news sources to create a news-context.

“Just” having news on Twitter is not the right way to go. “Just” having news from a “traditional” journalist is also not the right way to go. But combining these in a single platform …..