Achieving competitive advantage is a key driver for companies’ involvement in open source. Drawing on experiences from product development at Canonical, Steve George examines the role of innovation and open source for creating and capturing business value and explores the barriers, benefits, and lessons learned.
In an increasingly collaborative world, open source is a key strategic response to driving innovation. Steve covers the need for innovation and how organizations use innovation strategy to impact both the top and bottom line and outlines some of the approaches to innovation, such as a permeable organizational barriers, that have led to distributed and networked innovation. Steve then explores an open innovation process containing phases of value creation and value capture. The key point is that driving innovation in technology is increasingly accessible, particularly with the collaborative nature of open source.
Steve demonstrates how FOSS can fit within an innovation process by examining situations where an open source approach might work and the benefits that can be achieved. Using examples from company-led to foundation-led projects, Steve runs through the barriers and trade-offs for increasing value creation through collaboration as well as the variety of set-ups that are used to collaborate through open source, including the differences between tight-coupled projects and loose-coupled ones.
Steve ends with an explanation of value capture—critical for achieving competitive advantage. Value capture presents the biggest challenge for using open source strategically. Steve looks at what sorts of value are available from open source projects, be they technical, intellectual property, or know-how. Steve considers some of the specific challenges and what sorts of organizational, governance, and technical approaches can be used to ameliorate them. Tactics for value capture have been a source of controversy in the open source community and can limit collaboration; consequently understanding the trade-offs in this phase is critical. The key point is that there is no free lunch, but the trade-off in value-capture can be worth the increased value creation of open innovation.
Steve George has been professionally involved with open source since 2006, when he joined Canonical with a mission to develop Ubuntu as a platform and create an open source business. At Canonical, he led a range of efforts including creating Canonical’s corporate business, developing Ubuntu as a popular cloud and server platform, and enabling the growth of the business to 800 people across 40 countries. In a career spanning 20 years, Steve has worked in a range of technical and business roles in the technology sector. His interest and support for FOSS goes back to 1997, when he got hold of his first copy of Slackware on floppy disk.
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