January 31, 2002

BCG study highlights factors contributing to success of Open Source software

Author: JT Smith

A recently completed survey of the Open
Source Software (OSS) community provides insight into employee motivation and
the development of resource models, according tithe Boston Consulting Group
(BCG). The survey conducted online interviews with 526 OSS community members
who are registered users of SourceForge.net, the world's largest Open Source
development Web site. The study was released today in a presentation at the
Linux World meeting in New York City. It is available online at www.bcg.com
and at www.osdn.com/bcg.

"Members of the Open Source Software communities have created robust
products such as the Linux operating system and Apache Web server which have
captured significant market share from their commercial competitors," said
Karim R. Lakhani, a consultant at BCG, a doctoral student at MIT's Sloan
School of Management, and coauthor of the survey. "This survey highlights the
motivation factors that contribute to the success of Open Source Software-
factors that can be adapted to improve a company's intellectual capital and
its innovation and product development processes."

These OSS contributors self-identify as "hackers." A hacker, as defined
by Eric Raymond, a major voice in the Open Source community, in his New Hacker
Dictionary, is someone who enjoys exploring the details of programmable
systems and who is good at programming quickly, rather than a malicious
meddler who pokes around for sensitive information-the correct term for this
person is "cracker."

"This survey shows that intellectual stimulation, or pure enjoyment, seems
to be the primary motivating factor for this fervor, followed closely by a
desire to improve one's skills," said Bob Wolf, a senior manager at BCG and
coauthor of the survey. "Imagine the competitive advantage that awaits a
company that achieves this level of motivation across all of its core
processes." Wolf went on to say that "this survey has created a fact base for
understanding self-organizing communities in general and Open Source
communities in particular."

"We are excited to be working with The Boston Consulting Group on this
research initiative," said Jeff "hemos" Bates, Director of OSDN Online.
"Although the Open Source movement has existed for several years, the business
implications of this movement have never been adequately analyzed."

"I've estimated that large organizations typically operate at something
like 10-20 percent of their creative potential, measured by their actual
accomplishments in peak situations compared with their accomplishments on an
average Tuesday afternoon. It's worth considering whether the Open Source
model responds to that and other possible corporate shortcomings," notes Bob
Shapiro, the former CEO of Monsanto and retired chairman of Pharmacia and now
a senior advisor to BCG.

"In fact, there already are some examples of companies that are
successfully following approaches evident in OSS," Mark Blaxill, a senior vice
president at BCG said. "IBM has embraced the Open Source movement,
simultaneously increasing the credibility of Linux and promoting its own
position. By allowing consumers of its Mindstorm toy robot to rewrite its
operating system and programming language, Lego increased the functionality to
the user and outperformed its initial sales forecasts. Similarly, Harley
Davidson relinquished control of its brand to its biker community, with
overwhelmingly positive results. Even industrial products companies have
created value by more dynamically linking networks of experts to increase the
efficiency and utilization of their operations."

Wolf and Lakhani note the following key findings from the survey:

Participants note extremely high levels of creativity in their
projects, with 63 percent indicating that their current project contributions
were at least as creative as anything they have ever done.
Having fun (43 percent of respondents ranked as top 3 motivator),
enhancing skills (43 percent), desire to support the OS community (34
percent), and user needs (personal at 30 percent; professional also at 30
percent) drive contributions to the Open Source community. Defeating
proprietary software companies is not a major motivator.
The Open Source community is truly global in composition with
respondents coming from 35 countries.
Most participants dedicate at least 10 hours per week in their shared
programming efforts.
While some hackers are students or academics, most contributors are
skilled IT professionals (56 percent). The average programming experience of
the sample was more than 10 years.

About The Boston Consulting Group
The Boston Consulting Group is a general management consulting firm that
is a global leader in business strategy. BCG has helped companies in every
major industry and market achieve a competitive advantage by developing and
implementing unique strategies. Founded in 1963, the firm now operates 52
offices in 34 countries. For further information, please visit our Web site at
www.bcg.com.

About OSDN
OSDN, the Open Source Development Network, a subsidiary of VA Software, is
the leading news, collaboration, and distribution community for IT and Open
Source development, implementation, and innovation. Each month, more than 5
million IT professionals, developers and systems administrators visit OSDN
destinations, which deliver more than 110 million page views per month. OSDN
sites offer IT news, development tools, distribution and discussion channels,
cutting-edge editorial, and ongoing education and evangelism among the IT and
Open Source community. For information on OSDN please visit www.osdn.com.

Editor's note: OSDN owns NewsForge.

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