4 Tools to Help You Make a Case for Open Source Over Commercial Software

Making the case internally to embrace open source software as a viable, and improved alternative to commercial software, is no easy task.  This is why I have outlined for you 4 tools to help solidify your case for change, and prepare you for opposition you might encounter.

One of the most glaring reasons why enterprises continue to purchase commercial software rather than adopting open source software, is the feeling of security and support that is believed to come with the investment in a commercial software license. 

That's not to say that the feeling isn't justified, however, with the advancements of open source software development, this is like telling the pharmacist at your local drug store that you want to pay extra for the brand name prescription, rather than the generic prescription, because you're familiar with the manufacturers' name and that is just the way you've always done it.

Granted, not all organizations are going to be a perfect fit for the advantages that OSS can provide you with, and for those that are trying to figure that out, kudos to you.  

Each organizational structure is unique, which makes the challenge of internal education extremely complex. I could point you to articles and statistics that discuss the rate at which enterprises are adopting open source software, and how source code scanning and OSS compliance policies are garnering more and more resources every year that goes by. 

Below are 4 tools to help you clearly define your case for change, educate your colleagues, and resolving the concerns you are most certain to face.


Tool - The Venn Diagram

Venn Diagram

Goal - To identify the different departments and individuals within your orgaization that this change will impact, both positively and negatively. The "who" of the conversation.

On the exterior this appears to be a very simple exercise, however this should actually be well thought out and carefully constructed, as this is the foundation for a successful step forward.

Place your proposed vision for change in the middle of all three circles where each over lap and work from the inside out to the exterior of each circle identifying the core components.  Because everyone's organizational infrastructure is different you will need to dermine the best way it is for you to illustrate the over lap between entire departments all the way down to individual titles and job functions.  

Legal and Procurement, the CEO/CFO/CTO, even Sales, might all be examples of departments and individuals that you could include in the beginning stages of this foundation.

The results should leave you with a high level map of the intricacies that each circle maintains independently as well as those that overlap.

(Venn Diagram image credit to EducationWorld)


Tool - The Ishikawa Diagram (aka Fishbone Diagram) 

Ishikawa Diagram

Goal - Identify the root causes of the problem that you are trying to solve for. The "what" of the conversation.

The Ishikawa Diagram, also known affectionately as the Fishbone Diagram, is a critical component to illustrate the depth of the case you are trying to make.

Many requests for change fail to look as deep as this exercise will force you to, thus resulting in the status quo being chosen, simply because you haven't created a level of pain that moves people to action.

There are certainly a multitude of reasons why an enterprise would want to make the change from commercial software licensing to open source software adoption.  Defining the "problem" that you will need to solve for should be unique to you and your organization and as specific as possible.  As you identify multiple "problems" you will want to repeat this exercise.  By doing so, you will avoid mixing issues, and failing to illustrate clearly, the true root causes.

The important thing to keep in mind as you are working through this exercise is that it is the root causes you are solving for.  Execute this using a socratic mindset, meaning that the problem will only most clearly define itself when the root causes are illustrated in such a way that the problem is glaring.

(Ishikawa Diagram image credit to Wikipedia)


Tool - Persona Matrix 

Eloqua Persona

Goal -  To clearly understand the questions that you will need to answer for each individual involved in this decision making process.  The "how" of the conversation.

This exercise will force you to identify the actual questions and thought process of the people whom you need to educate internally in order to win their endorsement, as they go through their decision making process.

The example in the matrix is representative of one a sales person might use when selling into a large corporation. The methodology is the same whether you are selling or educating, because in most cases the two are usually one. 

Listed horizontally across the top you would begin to describe the sentiment that a decision maker would experience and articulate prior to making an informed decision as they progress through the, "Awareness," "Consideration," and "Preference" decision making stages.

Within each stage you would try to replicate the thoughts and questions of a specific colleague (or persona) and identify their own personal "I can't" and "I want" statements, concluded with the key messages that you ultimately want to deliver.  You might be able to identify a whole lot statements that all start with "I can't" or "I want" but looking for the small subtleties between each can be a key indicator as to how close you are to getting the endorsement you are looking for.

Examples of "I can't" statements are; "I can't justify the cost" or  "I can't execute quickly." Examples of "I want" statements are; "I want to mitigate risks" or "I want to understand potential disruptions." By doing this exercise, and identifying different stages that each persona will go through, and being prepared to address the questions you've identified at each stage of this process you will have clearly solved for the "how" in this conversation.

 (Persona Matrix image credit to Eloqua)

Boston Matrix


Tool - The Boston Matrix 

Goal - To define the business case and economic impact that is fueling your desire for change. The "why" of the conversation. 

The Boston Matrix, in its simplest form, provides you with a framework to assess current market share and areas to capitalize on growth opportunites, for each of your products and services. 

We all know that financial decisions made within any organization looking to be profitable, has to either cut costs or increase sales.  Simply saying that adopting open source software as an alternative to purchasing commercial licensing agreements year after year, will achieve both of those KPIs, won't carry too much clout in your discussion.

However, by leveraging the Boston Matrix exercise, and identifying realistic opportunities for your "stars" to become "cash cows," which by definition requires longevity and staying power, and including this analysis in your case for change, you will round out your discussion with a focus on the bottom line.  

By making your case for change from commercial software licensing spend to open source software adoption, you are presenting a viable alternative to realize a reduction in spend and an opportunity to increase revenue by investing more dollars into your "stars" to make them "cash cows."

(The Boston Matrix image credit to Mind Tools) 

You can explore the definitions of the Boston Matrix in greater detail here on Wikipedia.


Championing the internal cause to make the change from commercial software to open source software can be tough at times, but hopefully the tools I have highlighted will help you better prepare for this journey.

Please feel free to drop me a line or comment below if you'd like to learn more about how we have helped people just like you, overcome the internal challenge you are facing.

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Posted: 8/17/2012 11:00:00 AM by Ahmed Dirie | with 0 comments

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