In an earlier article on Microsoft's open source journey, I suggested a seven-stage model, which can also be applied to SAP:
- Open source as enemy: Outright opposition to open source. It may not seem much of a step, but obsessing about an enemy is a sign that the threat of change has been understood.
- Damage containment: Open source messages are for marketing purposes and are isolated to business units or product dimensions that are market followers rather than market leaders.
- Embrace and extend: Larger strategies are reframed as "open source" while semantic games attempt to conceal the resulting cognitive dissonance. An open source office is created to manage this and build reputational credit with developers.
- Executive air cover: A new C-level exec is able to defend actions by the open source office and to counter strategies elsewhere in the corporation that threaten to destroy the reputational credit the open source office creates.
- Exploratory opening: The company sets limited business unit strategies that involve coherent plans for profit while depending on effective software production in the community.
- General opening: Open source is the default for new business activities, and existing businesses are expected to transform profitably into open source-based business. Holdouts get escalated to the CEO.
- Full embrace: Software freedom -- both delivering it to customers and benefiting from it within the business -- is a fundamental part of the overall company strategy.
While the pace is stately, these are all genuine, strategic steps SAP is taking on its open source journey. SAP seems to have reached the middle of the model I proposed since there's still little impact on their proprietary products. Nonetheless, SAP's exhibiting at OSCON is most welcome, despite the company having a long way to go.
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