Open Source Franchising (Matthew Aslett)

Few days ago Matthew Aslett wrote a post Open Source Franchising, commenting Matt Asay considerations about the franchise model.

Aslett reported some remarks from the EU study, saying:

As an example of a more recent development in business models, which could provide a future scenario for SMEs in general even beyond the FLOSS sector is the Orixo network of mainly small and micro-enterprises in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, UK and Switzerland specialising in massive mission-critical web server applications based around customising the FLOSS web server Apache and related Java/XML technology (such as Cocoon) for large users. Orixo works by each national SME member acquiring national customers and partners in other countries supporting each other’s clients.

As founder and former president of the first Italian consortium of Free and Open Source companies I believe that lousy coupled organizations, like consortia, are easy to create, members are required to spend a limited effort, but its management might be complex and time consuming.
Hierarchies are needed for the coordination of continuously generated change, and commercialize products and solutions is definitely not an activity modular in nature.

I shared my ideas about consortia’s management with Gianugo Rebellino, Apache Vice President of XML and former partner of Orixo, and that’s what he told me:

I must admit the least important part in the Orixo experience has been doing business as a common entity. Orixo was able to attain quite a few notable goals: we met, we got to know each other, we exchanged experiences and business ideas, and we did a few cross-company projects. two companies who met in Orixo went the extra mile, eventually merging and providing the initial step to our next phase, that is Sourcesense, which gathers as a company (not a consortium) three Orixo players.

The EU study about says that Open Source firms to cooperate don’t need any complex legal arrangements, since FLOSS licenses provide a simpler alternative as reported by the study, but when it comes to developing common business opportunities Open Source doesn’t help much.

As reported by the Observatory of European SMEs noticed that small firms have a short-term perspective and expect quick and concrete results, and a flexible and opportunistic – as the opposite of strategic – organization like a consortium is usually not efficient.

Getting back to Open Source Franchising Aslett wrote:

All the elements that make up a McDonald’s are freely available, apart from the McDonald’s system by which the burgers are put together and the fries are cooked and the staff carry out their duties, and of course the trademarks and copyright.

It makes perfect sense to me comparing the Open Source Franchising to Mc Donald’s. Open Source franchising is all about marketing IT basic services to SMBs using OSS, with a fixed-time fixed-price methodology meeting clearly defined performance criteria (SLA).

As seen with Geeksoncall, there is space for growing in computer services franchise arena, and no one has explored yet such potential market using commercial open source software.

I believe that software/hardware vendors might run a franchising model more effectively than any other. Pure software vendors instead are eligible for the franchising model if and only if their products represent the first OS mover in an arena dominated by high priced proprietary products.

Do you agree?