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Actuate ‘treats’ its sales force to open source 101Matthew Aslett, June 18, 2009 @ 11:43 am ET
I had an interesting chat with Nobby Akiha , senior VP marketing and Rich Guth, VP open source strategy, at Actuate, about the company’s ongoing conversion to open source. Having got involved with open source via the Eclipse BIRT project, the company is going through the process of re-archtecting its strategy to address the open source model.
This year has seen the company turn its attention to the direct sales team. And the company took an interesting approach to ensuring that its sales staff shook off some of the traditional approaches to targeting an installed proprietary software base in order to make the most of opportunities generated from the open source BIRT project.
- gave its entire sales force 2-day study training on the history of open source, licensing, business models, successes, failures, notable personalities
- had the sales force complete a series of essay questions to demonstrate they understood the open source model
- had them take part in half day interactive discussions to ensure they could communicate their understanding
- then trained the staff on being able to hold a feature/function, build versus buy discussion with BIRT users to assess the value of commercial features sold by Actuate that complement the BIRT project
It’s interesting to see a company like Actuate responding to the open source model, and we have written before about the fact that we believe it will become a role model for other companies wanting to learn how to engage with open source.
Certainly the company is a practical example of the fact that engaging with open source is not just a matter of throwing software over the wall and expecting that downloads will turn into paying customers. It takes time and effort to generate revenue from open source, and it takes a different approach to understanding the needs of the customer and proving the value of the complementary commercial products.
In putting together its plan to retrain the work force the company benefited from the experience of its advisory board – including Andrew Aitken, Josh Berkus and Julie Hanna Farris, and also on the experience of its earlier focused sales efforts, involving a much smaller number of telesales staff and technical evangelists.
Additionally, the BIRT strategy is also delivering revenue. Actuate generated BIRT-related revenue of $15.4m in fiscal 2008, up from $8m in 2007, and just shy of its target of $16m. This was before the sales training. Q1 saw BIRT related business exceed $3.5m, up 32% year-over-year.
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