Italian Open Source Offering: System Integrators and the Open Source Opportunity Workshop

In addition to hold workshops, and presenting or keynoting at conferences, I give private speeches at companies, talking about open source business models, Italian open source offering and how to build an effective commercial open source strategy.

Earlier this week I was invited speaker at one of the biggest Italian system integrators, and I want here to take a chance to recap some highlights and few answering questions from the audience.

Weather the recession with open source software is about understanding that open source is not just a marketing choice, but (also) a feasible way to cut R&D costs. Studies on the economic impact of open source say that open source could save industry software R&D investments, that might be spent in innovation. Influencing open source projects is not a free meal, though. Symbiotic approaches to communities are the most promising, possibly bringing an IT company to the highest stages of open source adoption, enabling business strategies based on open source software.

Choosing the most appropriate open source packages has been extensively discussed, mentioning the first attempts and the most recent methodologies. As reported earlier, the  Italian Open Source Observatory maintained by  National Centre for ICT in the Public Administrations is not of great help, in this respect.

Rich open source directories like Ohloh were reported to be viable tools to hunt good developers, or simply to know more about an open source project. Google trends offers a fast answer to questions about the popularity of a given project, often a more effective metric than downloads numbers.

Converting users into customers is key, and we had an open and wide conversation on how to get more mature as you age, either as vendor or purchaser. Closing the “open source collaboration gap” – i.e. fostering participation of companies and institutions – requires developing appropriate open source policies, coming down to the open source governance issue. Public Administrations could address specific problems, as seen in USA with projects like TriSano or VistA, deriving mutual benefit from sharing the cost of production of a public good.

Intellectual property and open source was another hot topic, showing how licensing can be a useful tool to protect company’s intellectual property. In this respect SugarCRM’s original way to abide the GPL gained audience’s interest.  All that lead to trade-offs in terms of competition and innovation, what in the past I have been calling “lucrative coopetition“, ending to talk about the importance of open source ecosystems.

Open source Microsoft strategy was invoked more than once from the audience, naming CodePlex and other facts (e.g. DotNetNuke) to bring to the general attention that merging open source and proprietary is just another option.

Open source is getting mainstream in many regions, medium to large IT companies have to watch out for open source opportunities. If vendors won’t fit customers’ needs, the open source self-sufficiency party will take over the opportunity to do by themselves.