Some comments to my recent post entitled ” Open Future “and some notes on the last LinuxCon allow me to retrieve an entry from 2009,” Understanding technology management in the era open source “, which talked about how to manage technology companies in the current scenario.
No, open source does not necessarily mean a company to “release it all and release it already”, as some pretend to fully understand simplistically. Sectarianism and quasi-religious visions of little help topic in a topic that things are far from black and white. The term open source describes a set of practices in production and development of software tools that promote access to the source code of the final product, which may include – and in fact included in the vast majority of companies – a wide range of gray. Companies do not always release all, or immediately, or in the same way.
The important issue, as I said in my post in 2009, is to understand how traditional philosophy fits the vision of the company based on resources ( Resource-based view of the firm ) is studied in all business schools, interpreted as “jealously protect specific sources of competitive advantage” in an environment like this, where it has been convincingly demonstrated, as stated Allison Randal ( Technical Architect of Ubuntu), that ” free software is a model primarily higher for software development.”
The literal interpretation of the Resource-based view of the firm tends toward a technological management based on secrecy in hiding outside of anything that could be considered a competitive advantage. This misinterpretation of the theory has led to several generations of managers obsessed with security, industrial espionage, with the “copy me”. As I mentioned in that entry a few years ago, “they see a company as a place that should reign absolute secrecy, and often fall into the stereotype of looking at communities of open source development as a kind of hippies communists responding to different schemes to theirs and that under no circumstances can you trust.”
Conversely, stereotypes can also act. Some developers of free software companies are like a bunch of opportunists who use parts of its code or use communities for support, but do not return to those communities that gave birth and naturalized to the products they use. And in both cases, of course, there is everything: no naive, exploited, shameless, smart and intelligent. There are positive, negative and neutral statements. And that precisely is the meaning of the word “strategy”.
One of the things I tried to demonstrate in the penultimate paragraph of my recent post was that, today, it was very difficult to find the name of a major company in the world of technology along with the words “open source” and not finding no regard own page. This shows that, no less, is the need for all the companies of open source strategy, a series of guidelines to manage and understand what is going to be how they act in the current technological environment. Today, companies use technology.
Some create it, others acquire it, others obtained from different sources and adapt to a greater or lesser degree … and in that sense, you have to stop doing things in terms of fashion, timely availability or opportunities, and start them strategically. Cases such as IBM, that after focusing and services possible to obtain a greatly superior to its research and development performance through a careful strategy that allocates resources to open source, are extremely interesting.
Apple, let us as we say, is a similar case: not open all your code, but uses and returns a very substantial part, while other parts of their products (notably, the parts related to the user interface) remain strictly proprietary software. Google does the same, and like them, many others. Each day more, a substantial part of the competitive advantage that a company is able to obtain the technology depends on how open source strategy works.
How does this fit into the vision of the company based on resources? Simply understanding that property as a resource. For a business, the ability to release their software and that you get the right level of care instead of falling in absolute skepticism and forgetting, can be a vital resource.
On SourceForge, the world’s largest repository of open source projects, there are over three hundred thousand projects, but few keep a really significant activity. That is, very few get the community so surely when they tried to get up there. Unlocking code is a very difficult task: for nothing is simply “publish a paper,” but demands quality monitoring, documentation and extra work so that code can actually be used or improved by the community that not all companies are willing to undertake.
Understanding how community development work, maintain a position and a good sense in them, choose which projects or what resources work in them, to know what to expect or appreciate what communities are more active than others and how that affects, for example, the choice of development tools or staffing issues … in many cases, beyond today to the traditional understanding of the technology responsible for a significant number of companies.
As it says Marten Mickos, CEO for many years MySQL, “any company with a technology strategy needs an open source strategy.” The supremacy of the philosophy of open source as a development methodology, to this day, is perfectly obvious. Now, for many, lack integrate it as a part of the business strategy: those who are more advanced in their understanding of being able to get great competitive edge. And business schools, of course, already tried this kind of topics are a significant part of the agenda that managers must learn to get along when they leave the classroom.