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What outsourcers can learn from open-source communities

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | Nov. 10, 2008
Enterprises using outsourcing for their programming needs could stand to learn some management and process techniques from the open-source community.

Adds Dave Neary, head of Neary Consulting, a free-software, strategic consulting services company, and a leading GNOME developer, "When we talk about 'community,' we mean it. I have my doubts whether a supplier/client relationship, coupled with the worker profile in outsourcing companies, is amenable to the kind of emotional implication which is normal in free-software communities."

"I would personally try to avoid the implication that outsourcing and free software project management have a lot in common," continued Neary. "I think many CIOs may see them as similar. It is, after all, an unseen gaggle of hackers solving problems while you sleep: The 'code gnomes,' as an American member of the GNOME community once referred to his European colleagues. But the management methodology is completely different. You care what other members of the community do, and rewarding them and recognizing their effort is fundamental to maximizing their participation. The more people feel like they are part of a family, the more they will contribute and become part of the family. When people feel that you depend on them and trust them, then they work harder to earn that trust."

That being the case, Neary has great difficulty in seeing any outsourcing company successfully create that kind of dynamic. He says, "It is much easier for me to see it happening in great companies, where employees are treated as an important part of a big family, and not as man-hours, interchangeable with Indian or Chinese PhDs who work for below-minimum wage."


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