It is fair to say that Open Source has had a major impact on the software industry. If I attempt to take a balanced view then I would say that different circumstances in terms of what we want to use software for, has also played a major part, and has led us to have at least five recognisably different models; Software as a Service or SaaS; Application Service Provider, ASP; Business Process Outsourcing, BPO; Application Maintenance, AM; and traditional license. The quick witted will immediately seize on the principle differences being ownership and maintenance in the way the software is provisioned.
I would also want to point out that we have seen a striking change in why, and who, wants the software, and for how long. An enterprise application is very different from single user collaboration as an example, just as Software to enable an ‘Open Standard’ is very different from software being used for a unique competitive advantage in say Intelligent Enterprises, (one step up from Business Information). At the end of the day for every thing there is a value proposition as to who will pay for what and why, and in the case of Software that’s the big argument still raging between the existing industry giants and the new Open Source providers.
I don’t want to detract from Open Source, but it’s good to remember that one of the leaders; Red Hat still only reported their latest revenues as $118mn in Q1 this year. Not yet enough to shake those big vendors, but neither is it a case for complacency, this is a time of shifts, and if nothing else, there seems to be strong agreement from big and small that Software as a Service, SaaS, is the real growth area.
So back to the question, ‘can you have Open Source Consultancy?’ In so far as there are several boutique consultancies that have a different business model for charging then the answer is yes. It’s also yes in terms of them making the work they have carried out freely available for download, but it’s no in terms of working for free, instead they mostly seem to have changed to a subscription model, more Consultancy as a Service, CaaS. The client provides a yearly retainer and calls in the CaaS as, and when needed, to handle an issue drawing on the retainer until it is all used up, then normal billing takes over.
So here is the real question: is this really based on being able to access a small chosen pool of consultants, a non scalable model by the way, or is it a genuinely new business model? I think the former, but have pretty well guaranteed that I will get a heap of posts from those involved saying it’s the latter. I am fine with this as that’s what a Blog is all about; active and interactive discussion and I really want to understand this point. Bring on the posts but please make them thought provoking!