In my last post I attempted to overlap what it would take to establish a middle ground and the concept of open source driven solutions. I'm not sure how well my point went across, but I am certain that the notion of a new wave of solution that not only includes, but is rooted in openness is one that's here to stay. With that in mind, I think it's relevant to look into what it will take to facilitate the shift towards flexible, truly open solutions. More than anything I think this entails a change in perception regarding what/how sizable a role open source will play in the mostly nebulous world of "solutioning." In effect, what needs to happen in order to kick-start the evolution of open solutions from embryonic towards maturity?
To those allergic to buzzwords, the term solution might incite a sneeze. However, upon further examination a great deal of technology is delivered as a solution, that is a bundled, ready-to-use component. The consumer technology market, by itself, is rife with examples (see: the iPod, most home PCs). And while the concept that consumers want to purchase products that fit a specific niche practically out-of-the-box, the notion that the same holds for large companies isn't as evident. To be fair, it's not possible to mass produce ready-made technology for organizations with narrowly defined business requirements and use-case scenarios. And in the case of open source, there are hardcore realities that stand in the way of it playing a larger role in driving greater time-to-value and cost efficiency:
- Integrated designs. One solution size does not fit all and the fit is typically determined by the industry in question. This implies a knowledge of specific segments drawn out in the form of industry solution maps.
- The importance of the sales cycle. Solutions are sold, first and foremost. Open source is still being stealthily transported into a great deal of enterprise environments with the sales process a shortened after thought. If the notion of open source solutions is to take hold, it must be sold and accepted wholeheartedly not smuggled in and permitted to stay afterwards.
- Overlap with industry proven models, best practices and methodologies is key. Acronyms like CBM, IFW and BPM might not be everyday terms but they are industry proven and widely accepted as the basis for solutioning.
- The criticality of a top-down approach that initially prizes business value over technology. I won't pose the bottom-up mentality that has buoyed the open source software movement for some time now, against the seemingly inherent top-down nature of most hierarchies. However, it pays to note that technology selection/procurement is at its core a business decision. And unlike individual products, integrated solutions speak more to the business side of things than anything else.
Finally, if open source solutions are to evolve they must rely on more than being cheaper. Especially since the marketplace tends to base its decision on more factors than just price alone. The market for solutions is driven by participants who exhibit demand for addressing their industry-specific performance drivers, are modular and customizable. Add to the fact that providers which can accelerate time to value, reduce risk and deliver integration are its leaders and it becomes evident that the road to broadly relevant open source solutions is a tough one, indeed.