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Open Source for the Enterprise by Gautam Guliani, Dan Woods

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Closing the Requirements Gap

Closing the requirements gap—that is, the gap between the software’s out-of-the-box features and your particular needs—is always a major challenge for IT departments. It does not matter if a company is using commercial products or open source projects, or if it is developing from the ground up. The gap still must be closed. The difference between the options resides in the nature of the software, how well it is designed for configuration and adaptation, how much skill is required, and how much help is available.

There are three parts to this equation: requirements, software, and skills. Commercial software succeeds for the most part when an IT department’s requirements fall squarely within the scope of the problems the software solves. The ideal, one that mature commercial software reaches frequently, is that a small amount of configuration makes the software work exactly as desired. That is probably why Linus Torvalds was happy to choose the commercial source-code management system. He knew what he needed from it and he knew his needs were not likely to change, so he didn’t care that the software was commercial, as long as it did the job.

The risk with commercial software comes when new requirements appear that might be outside the original scope. This doesn’t happen much with stable systems, which can be thought of as commodities. But for flexible and dynamic systems, requirements change all the time. If configuration cannot make the software work in ...

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