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How to overcome hidden barriers to open source adoption

Paul Rubens | Aug. 13, 2014
Your organisation may be unintentionally biased against free software. Here's how to recognise and overcome that bias -- in procurement agreements as well as in IT departments.

"What that means is that companies may need to be aware that they have to be more hands on (with open source software)," he adds. "They can't just expect to sit down and watch a PowerPoint presentation."

The view that there's an unintentional bias against open source software is echoed by Alain Williams, the head of Linux consultancy Parliament Hill Computers. He points out that because proprietary software has been around longer than open source software, proprietary software vendors have had had more of an opportunity to grow into large companies.

"Often there's a condition for a large project that it mustn't account for more than 20 percent of the vendors' turnover," Williams says. Since proprietary companies are more likely to be larger, more open source vendors will fall foul of this rule than proprietary software vendors. That's another unintentional source of anti-open source bias, he says.

The fact that most open source projects have a considerably smaller marketing budget than proprietary software vendors further exacerbates this bias, Williams says. "That means getting the marketing message across is more difficult for open source software."

Open Source Software Communities Stable, Functionality Customizable
Despite the prevalence of open source software, some organizations still have lingering worries about the viability and stability of open source projects, preferring to deal with a large commercial organization with an established financial track record to minimize perceived risk.

"We certainly see companies worried that they don't see a mega corporation standing behind open source software, and wonder if they can buy in to it," says Greg Soper, managing director of SugarCRM consultancy and development house SalesAgility. "I counter that by pointing out that we [at] SalesAgility are stable."

Soper also points out to potential customers that SugarCRM has a healthy community that surrounds it, which is a good gauge of a healthy project. "Even if there was one company backing the project and that company went away, a healthy community ensures that the project continues," he says.

Soper adds that some objections to particular open source solutions stem from feature comparisons with proprietary software solutions. However, organizations can often add the features that they want, so this kind of comparison rooted in the proprietary "you get what you're given" mind-set is often irrelevant.

"Why not get the open source software that you plan to use for free, and then use the money that you would otherwise have spent on proprietary license fees to modify the open source software to meet your needs more closely?" he asks. "Why pay for software that's the same for all users when you can pay to have something that's unique?"


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