Free and Open-Source Software have considerably changed what a
computer user can do with his/her computer. But it has even more
impacted the Software Industry itself. FS+OSS have introduced an
extreme agility that was virtually unknown in big organizations ten years ago. Even if FS and OSS are a potential threat for
current software vendors, they are also a
tremendous opportunity for optimization and productivity
increase. Firefox is the live proof that ENGINEERS (developers, developers, developers !!!-) can develop a product from A to Z. That's entirely new in our world...
- Will software alternatives eventually kill pure proprietary
closed software (PPCS) ? I don't think so. In fact I would not bet a
single cookie on the final and global victory of software alternatives.
- Will software alternatives make PPCS vendors suffer ? Yes,
clearly. In some niches, OSS and FS will succeed.
- Can PPCS vendors react and make OSS and FS developers
suffer ? Oh yes they can. But only if they reinvent themselves and
fight with new weapons that are not very common in the corporate world
: flat and distributed organization, extreme agility, very fast
decision process, break the almost
hierarchical link between engineering and marketing, no bureaucracy,
and so on.
So, on my left hand side, dozens of small distributed
very good at guerilla. On my right hand side, very well
organized and vertically managed big armies very good at big operations.
A big army can fight a commando in two different ways :
- massive attack with wide power and forces. It will take a
looooot of time to succeed if it ever succeeds. The army will spend far
much on this fight than the commando. New commandos can appear and
re-ignite the war at any time.
- form itself a commando far more agile and reactive than the
whole Big Army. Of course, the structure and officers of the Big Army
will shout a lot, think it's stupid, say a small commando is not the
solution and this sort of things. Business as usual, nobody ever
accepts easily an intruder...
PPCS vendors need commandos. Using a more corporate
vocabulary, they need disruptions. They cannot start commandos
entirely by themselves because they're total strangers to Commando
Culture. They are not trained to think and act that way.To
fight OSS and FS projects - competition and choice is good for the user
AND the whole industry - PPCS vendors need to hire people able to
introduce disruptions, people able to act completely differently,
people able to form or join teams that look almost external to the
company. And people able to drop all political correctness. Of course,
the companies need to be prepared for those new very different hires or they won't
Opening a parenthesis here, with a few years old true
story. The french guy is me, Ryan is not the real name of the other one.
- (everyone's talking) Excuse me,
I think you know I am French. Are you French ?
- (deep silence around the meeting table)
Me ? Not at all ! Why do you ask ?
- Because you act like a French : we absolutely need a
decision right now, you are terrified to take one and you form a
committee to study - and delay - your problem. (laughs)
We all remember Apple's Think
Different. The first time I saw an ad with that title in the
streets of Paris, I stopped my motorbike and spent ten minutes just
looking at it. I was working for EDF's
R&D division at that time, and that was precisely
what EDF needed. I even wrote it in an internal strategy note.
Time for big software companies to Act Different. Agility, agility, and only agility. Commando Culture is probably one of the new big keys to success in the Software Industry.