One of the things that I have often come across when consulting with clients is, obviously, the phenomenon of open-source software, and next week (17 May 2005) I will be presenting to the local CPA Australia IT discussion group on the topic of Pits, Traps and Windfalls of Open Source Software.
Now, I happen to think that open source software is better than the proverbial sliced bread on a picnic, but it does come with some real dangers hidden with its benefits. A real commercial issue is that, for software that is “free”, no purchase order is required and a business can find itself heavily reliant upon the open source software (and the skills of the person who knows how to use it) without any of the usual gatekeeper controls to ensure people understand what it’s all about (many businesses require a business case to purchase new software – but, no outlay means no business case means no commercial considerations are part of the decision).
And once you get out of the top five or ten open source projects in a particular software category, your ability to find someone that can actually use the software decreases markedly (which usually means that, once you find them, you’ve got to pay them quite well thanks very much). So fairly soon, and without any real red flags to indicate that it’s happening, the business can become very reliant upon the skills of one single solitary person (who may or may not be a good bloke, but is still susceptible to the all-too-common “hit by a bus” problem).
But, I use Open Office at home (fairly seamlessly for most documents) and we do sponsor open-source software such as DotNetNuke to our clients, as it’s a category killer in open source portal tools, and is based upon some standard technologies. I think it will always be interesting to run the numbers for clients and see which way they are better off. And this is exactly why I’m presenting next week on exactly this topic. So if you’re in the Brisbane area, please feel free to drop in and say “hi” by registering and perhaps discuss the finer points or two of this topic in the business context.