Moving to Open Source Tools & Business Processes

    July 21, 2006

Many have written about how going Open Source changes your business model or sales process. Dana Blankenhorn notes that the open sourcing of Hyperic’s product changed how they work. It required them to write code for stability and continuity, as well as adopt more Open Source tools.

This is not a big story, but it’s the kind of thing that is happening constantly in the open source world. Once companies commit to open source, they often move to open source tools and open source business processes. This is something companies considering the open source way need to understand before they get started. Open source does not just change license terms. It can change everything.

Nat Torkington highlights this by saying:

…There needs to be a phrase that’s the exact opposite of “throwing code over the fence” to describe this change from closed source company to open source. I saw this when Sun opened Solaris. They looked at every facet of their software, from repository to decision-making to the libraries it used, and changed everything so it would work as an open source project. A huge task, but Sun knew it was essential if the open sourcing was to work. If Sun ever transitions from a hardware company to a consulting company, these best practices for open sourcing are something it could sell. Think Producing Open Source for the whole company…

As Socialtext gets ready for it’s Open Source release next week, we know it will change everything. We don’t have the luxury of undertaking an exhaustive process prior to opening, but we do have the benefit of being an adaptive startup that has iterated towards this milestone for years.

While most people know that Open Source results in quality code as a by product of having more eyes on it, simply knowing that it will be public has provided great incentives to developers enhance the quality of the code. That said, we know when we go Open that sunshine will be a great disinfectant for the bugs in the shadows.

But beyond the license and the code, we know there are many changes in store that we can’t anticipate. Changes embraced.
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Ross Mayfield is CEO and co-founder of Socialtext, an emerging provider of Enterprise Social Software that dramatically increases group productivity and develops a group memory.

He also writes Ross Mayfield’s Weblog which focuses on markets, technology and musings.