Open Source in the Corporate World

Today’s customers are less forgiving than ever, there's a drop in satisfaction across the board. This is allowing startups and smaller, more agile organisations, to encroach upon territory long secured by the bigger brands.

Typical situation

One of The Unit's insurance clients has relied heavily upon proprietary software, specifically .Net and Sharepoint instances. Contracts existed with large software houses and as such, any changes proved too costly to really be effective.

Customer satisfaction was dropping and aggregators were eating into their market share. The out of date experiences, offered by these larger in-house systems, were further driving customers towards the aggregators.

With the opportunity to now steal back some momentum, it’s open source’s time to shine!

Open source as a solution

Adopting web standards is the key to reducing the impact of closed and proprietary systems.

Teams utilising open source products are able to push through bug fixes and design iterations quicker, improving customers’ experience and satisfaction. I’ve seen this trend with all my open source wielding clients.

For example, a Building Society I met with earlier this year, were so fed up of the restrictions placed upon them, that they bypassed the problem systems all together. They currently have a flat HTML website, which they love by the way, and are working on integrating an open source CMS.

All thanks to the next point…

Knowledge share

Each open source platform has a far-reaching community. Should users require assistance, there’s forums, instant chat, community groups and many meet ups to attend. Some even run their own conferences.

Security

Code is open to all. The community scrutinise every facet and quickly identify and fix vulnerabilities.

Reliability

If builders built houses the way programmers built programs, the first woodpecker to come along would destroy civilization.
Gerald Weinberg. Source

The peer-reviewed nature of open source ensures its reliability. When the original business case was discussed, tests were run against proprietary software. The nature of proprietary development meant this software crashed more than open source. These topics are discussed in the articles Cathedral of the Bazaar and the recent, somewhat disconcerting Everything is Broken.

Cost

I've saved the obvious till last.

Money is always going to engage clients, and open source's lack of price tag gets their attention. This lead to the view that it’s not professional, un-secure and somehow, beneath the business.

Many platforms, languages and products have proved this wrong and we see this with our clients’ changing opinions. When a vulnerability is exposed, you can ensure a patch will quickly be available, free of charge. 

To many businesses, this is priceless.

Additionally, at time of writing, the UK government has announced their adoption of open source for all documentation.

A slightly less opinionated version of this article was originally published on The Unit website.