What Outsourcers Can Learn from Open-Source Communities

What Outsourcers Can Learn from Open-Source Communities

Perhaps your company's outsourcing efforts would go more smoothly if you picked up a few of these effective programming tools and methodologies from open-source developers.

Think your development team could use any of those attributes?

Peters concluded, "I think because people are so empowered, they are less likely to give up when they don't get an answer. They are motivated and feel empowered to find answers so getting silence for a day or two (on one channel) is a roadblock but not a dead end."

That alone should get outsourcing companies' attention. All too often, outsourced projects have abrupt starts and stops. Switching to an open-source style asynchronous communications approach may be just what's needed to get a project on time and on budget rather than floating around with a vague due date.

Don't Take The Analogy Too Far

Of course, an important fundamental difference between open-source developers and outsourced developers is motivation. As Dan Kusnetzky, well-known analyst and president of the Kusnetzky Group, says, "The open source community is driven by irritation. People get irritated over what a piece of code can and can't do and apply their efforts to fix things. Outsourced developers do exactly what they're told, the way they're told to do it, even if they know that the results will be less than optimal."

Adds Dave Neary, head of Neary Consulting, a free-software, strategic consulting services company, and a leading GNOME developer, "When we talk about 'community,' we mean it. I have my doubts whether a supplier/client relationship, coupled with the worker profile in outsourcing companies, is amenable to the kind of emotional implication which is normal in free-software communities."

"I would personally try to avoid the implication that outsourcing and free software project management have a lot in common," continued Neary. "I think many CIOs may see them as similar. It is, after all, an unseen gaggle of hackers solving problems while you sleep: The 'code gnomes,' as an American member of the GNOME community once referred to his European colleagues. But the management methodology is completely different. You care what other members of the community do, and rewarding them and recognizing their effort is fundamental to maximizing their participation. The more people feel like they are part of a family, the more they will contribute and become part of the family. When people feel that you depend on them and trust them, then they work harder to earn that trust."

That being the case, Neary has great difficulty in seeing any outsourcing company successfully create that kind of dynamic. He says, "It is much easier for me to see it happening in great companies, where employees are treated as an important part of a big family, and not as man-hours, interchangeable with Indian or Chinese PhDs who work for below-minimum wage."

Join the CIO Australia group on LinkedIn. The group is open to CIOs, IT Directors, COOs, CTOs and senior IT managers.

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags outsourcingopen source

Show Comments