I’ve been involved with technology for what feels like multiple lifetimes. Automation has been a critical part of my whole career, in all aspects as a technologist and business owner. Invariably because automation equates to productivity and output, key drivers for successful execution. My first foray into serious automation was back before the .com boom. Like many practitioners of the time, I created an automated provisioning solution for my ISP to rapidly deploy and reclaim systems for re-assignment. Amazing how that’s still an issue today but a testament to the ever changing landscape.
Open source was a key component of most of my engineering experience and I started using open source even when doing so was questionable by most leadership. I’ve seen first hand the transformation of this negative perception. Going from reluctance to enthusiasm over the last decade both in and outside of large companies. Although open source has gained in popularity, there is still a lack of understanding as to how a customer may benefit from a commercial relationship or why a vendor would base their core offerings on something that is … well free?
We’ll explore that question further but this discussion is not limited to open source. This change in perception applies to the new delivery methods of software and services today. The reason for the continuing success can be represented with a simple math equation:
value = use / cost
Simply stated: The value we hope to achieve is directly related to it’s use and inversely related to it’s cost. No matter how many graphs, charts, analysis are provided the value of software has nothing to do with the fact that it’s simply delivered to the customer. Pretty obvious right? Yet this is a mistake that has proliferated across many industries and continues to afflict many enterprise endeavors. Especially over the last decade as complexity of use cases has increased and cost of said software to fulfill these use cases has also increased. it’s in part why these new models have continued to grow in popularity.
Traditional Approach - use is constrained due to :
- Dependence on what vendor provides in product.
- Dependence on what vendor is able to iterate within product development to meet new demands.
- Whether vendor is willing and able to provide further training and that can adapt to meet new demands.
- Whether vendor is willing and able to provide mechanism to support shared content and experiences, also known as best practices.
- Even when above is provided by vendor, they’re directly tied to more cost, happily passed on to customer whether used or not.
New Approach - use is liberated by :
- Source visibility and openness.
- Rapid iteration through greater collaboration, influence and transparency.
- Shared learning paths by practitioners.
- Shared content and mechanism for transparency on pragmatic usage and best practices.
- At the foundation, cost is minimal, entry to market is easy and ongoing improvements are supported by ever growing community.
- Cost is always related to use, commitment is flexible with new pricing and delivery models.
At the practitioner level subscription based, trial and open source software proliferates due to the numerous factors which contribute to ease of use. With an already low cost, value is readily achieved and directly proportional to the continued and expanded use. Commitment is flexible and based on use of consumer which can often times elevated to a commercial relationship at the customers discretion. Taking a closer look at open source software you may ask:
What is the value in a commercial open source offering? Service
This is continually influenced by shared input, patterns of successful execution and service enhancements that directly impact improved use across the board. Acting as facilitator also provides a degree of accountability which is not present in the “Go It Alone” approach which is a typical entry point when using open source software.
Sounds too good to be true, how can a vendor sustain this model?
The vendor capitalizes on the open source offering through :
- Shared knowledge, experience and content
- Which develop larger communities, market visibility and adoption.
- Which identify and correlate more avenues for use
- It’s from both rapid use and having insight into this use that continued service can be provided and then benefitted from.
Why should customers want to contribute anything back?
There is an increase in use and hence value the larger the “community” gets. This includes those giving and receiving. We’ve seen the pendulum of in-house desired expertise swing the other way over the last decade. Many experienced and technical resources are in high demand across all levels of an organization. Attracting this talent is often times is done through involvement in open source based movements that gain in momentum, experience and practitioners. It’s sometimes tough to change ones thinking but this system is not only real, working in use today but also proving more and more successful.
“When a platform is self-service, even the improbable ideas can get tried, because there’s no expert gatekeeper ready to say, ‘That will never work!’ and guess what? Many of those improbable ideas do work, and society is the beneficiary of that diversity.” – Jeff Bezos, 2011 letter to shareholders
It’s an absolute no-brainer to make a simple change to vendor relations to receive a reliable cost model that matches the value received (use) and which scales over time … period. In a follow on article I’ll compare and contrast this to the “Keiretsu” (Hey, I needed one buzzword in the article!)