Open Source Business Practices: The Next Step in the Revolution

Do consultancies or other businesses have anything to lose by opening their processes up to the world? The debates start again in this new arena.

The natural next step in the Open Source revolution is for businesses to open source their processes. entire budgeting process, including hourly rates. "It's to be determined if that is a good idea," she said.If I put too much out, people might go, "Wow, you really know your stuff," but they're not going to hire me."

That's what Social Signal, a small social media shop in Vancouver, B.C., has done as ever-so-slightly nervous pioneers.

A lively conversation on the subject was hosted by Social Signal's CEO Alexandra Samuel at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival, with developers and coders offering insight from the trenches to many consultants who wondered why they'd want to give away the store.

Gee, that question's never been asked in the Open Source discussion before.

It's perhaps not as simple for a business to open source, particularly for a business that doesn't own all its content. Its clients may own some of the data, and even if it's not illegal to share that data, it might not be a particularly good idea. Especially now, as Open Source enterprise is in its infancy, it's probably a good idea to have discussions with clients before releasing any data particular to them.

But just before Monday's session, Samuel released her firm's

The reasoning behind it was that clients can, up front, have a good idea of whether they can afford her services, or what services they might really need.

Even if you own all the data or process you want to release, there are other things to take into consideration, however. What's your endgame? If you've started your business with the hopes of being acquired at some point, it might not be a good idea to opensource all your processes.

Perhaps the most interesting point of the panel was that the questions and issues involved in open sourcing your business processes is only just technically different from open sourcing a CMS or software.

More than one person in the audience expressed the fear that typically accompanies discussions of open sourcing: "

The best rebuttal of that came in the form of an analogy: A doctor might create a fantastic Wiki explaining, step-by-step, how to perform some operation. But just because you have the exact details on how to, say, take out an appendix, you're still gonna want a doctor to actually DO it.

Sure, perhaps marketing strategies or financial services or whatever isn't quite as life-or-death as surgery, but there is still an expertise involved. Another audience member pointed out that if they're looking to hire someone to do the job, they're not going to suddenly want to do the job themselves just because the processes are posted online.

The next natural step in the process of open sourcing business is to create a community where everyone can contribute their refinements or their versions of, say, billing documents. To build an online library for these documents, a wiki where people can add their edits, suggestions or images.

Anyone willing?

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