Orange Conference Call-to-Action: “Jump in and Participate!”
A highlight of last week’s Orange Conference for Orange Leap users was the keynote address by Keith Bright, one of today’s leading advocates of open approaches to technology. Keith is IBM’s global development program director for the company’s Linux Technology Center, which works to accelerate the growth of Linux as an enterprise operating system. (Linux is, of course, the most popular open source operating system for all types of computers and an alternative to the proprietary Windows operating systems.)
In his inspiring speech, Keith talked about IBM’s visionary decision in the ‘90s to support open technology, growing adoption of open solutions in the commercial sector, and the promise of open source software for nonprofits. Keith was kind enough to do a Q&A with us after his presentation and I am delighted to share it with you below.
Question: How is open source software changing the way that the commercial world operates?
Keith Bright: In addition to providing the choice and freedom that the commercial world has needed for a long time, free open source software is raising the value bar that all software must achieve to be successful. It gives companies the ability to customize only the unique or competitive advantage parts of their environment, leaving the common technology to be maintained and enhanced by all.
Question: What can nonprofits learn from the commercial world’s experience with open source software?
Keith Bright: Each day more and more Fortune 500 companies deploy open source applications to reduce complexity and consolidate vendors. Open source is evolving beyond edge of network function to more mission critical applications. Financial institutions, the intelligence communities and militaries around the world are all deploying open source software, which should lend credibility to its use. Discipline regarding source code management should still be adhered to with as much care as closed source software.
Question: To what extent is open source is the future of software for nonprofits and why?
Keith Bright: Nonprofits have a natural bond with each other that can lend itself to the community aspects of the open source process. This makes the use of open source software for nonprofits a perfect fit. For taking full advantage of what open source software offers, participation is key. Every nonprofit needs to take an active role in its respective “open community.” Reducing the total cost of ownership (TCO) of its technology and environment puts more money back into the true mission of the organization.
Question: Are CRM solutions for nonprofits especially well-suited to the open source model? If so, why?
Keith Bright: They are very well suited. The fact that almost every nonprofit is so unique makes going with an open source CRM package a more natural choice. Flexibility and the ability to tailor are critical to nonprofits. Yet there are so many common aspects to nonprofits that the community aspect to open source will lend value in covering those things in common.
Question: What is the call-to-action for nonprofits vis-à-vis open source software?
Keith Bright: Jump in. Participate. Participate. Participate even if it is by writing documentation, being active on forums, testing and providing feedback. Everyone does not have to be an open source developer to participate in the open source process.