A blog for the enterprise open source community
Resurrecting the total innovation opportunityMatthew Aslett, December 19, 2007 @ 5:32 am ET
A long time ago, in a different life, I coined the term total innovation opportunity as a means of encapsulating the potential open source has to lower development costs for business users, while enabling developers to focus on innovative development.
I was therefore interested to see this week that Hyperic’s John Mark Walker had picked up on the phrase and applied it to the community development model.
In coining the term, I was focusing on the opportunity for businesses to cut development costs by building on existing code while focusing their attention on more mission critical application development efforts. As John Mark points out, however, “building on the knowledge of others does not necessarily mean code re-use, although it can.”
From John Mark’s perspective, the innovation opportunity as applied to community development, relies on ensuring regular interaction between internal developers and outside community members, increasing the audience a product ‘touches’ at each stage of its development.
“Sheer numbers of outside touches, ie. users, are indeed essential, but the diversity is actually more important – the user base should consist of developers, system architects, sysadmins, managers, and an assortment of end user types,” he writes.
However, in order to maximize the benefit of these wider touches it is important to put systems in place to handle the “multiple types of data streaming in through the interfaces you’ve built, such as bug trackers, forums, wikis, etc., and often in parallel”, he adds.
“Failing to close these parallel feedback loops will necessarily mean less than maximum value from your community. Thus, it’s important that each community layer have clearly defined methods of interacting with the project maintainers.”
This is an important point, and it is one that applies to the TIO of open source software as I was originally thinking about. Just because open source provides the opportunity for improved innovation, does not mean that it is guaranteed. Clearly processes need to be put in place through which businesses understand how and why they are using open source software.
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