Chapter 5. Designing an Open Source Strategy

Figuring out how to make IT work for a company is no easy task. Any comprehensive strategy must take into account not only the company’s technology concerns, but also its short- and long-term business plan, financial condition, competitive situation, existing applications and infrastructure, and consulting partners, as well as the skills and talents of its IT department. Creating such a strategy is hard work. The right strategy is rarely clear and usually involves making difficult and, at times, unpleasant tradeoffs.

Advice about strategy is rarely effective. Commonly rendered advice includes reducing the number of platforms, vendors, and skills; outsourcing noncritical tasks; and waiting six months before installing any new release. All these recommendations have merit. So does telling a stock market investor to “buy low, sell high.” The question is how to execute such advice.

To become useful, general advice must be adapted to specific situations. The goal of this chapter is to synthesize the analysis we provided in the preceding chapters into a plan for adopting open source that will avoid major difficulties. Then the real teacher, experience, can direct users toward getting the most out of open source. IT departments can then follow a path of gradually building skills and expanding the adoption of open source to the point where benefits are discovered.

The first strategic question analyzed concerns how to get started with open source. ...

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