|By Hal Steger, Alberto Onetti||
|October 1, 2007 08:15 AM EDT||
From a commercial open source company's point-of-view, open source is ideally the ultimate in "grass roots" marketing where people learn about the project by word-of-mouth and where they volunteer their time and effort, resulting in a vibrant community that benefits the company in many ways.
While this ideal may apply to some open source projects, for the vast majority of open source companies, it is not a case of "build it and they will come." Instead, most open source companies need to understand who comprises their community so they can formulate a viable business model. In particular, they need to understand that communities consist of heterogeneous types of people, with their own interests, motivation, needs, and ability.
Open source companies need to identify the groups in their community, decide which ones to focus on, and choose the best way to work with them. This is de rigueur for determining how best to monetize the interest in their software, ideally without disrupting the community spirit that differentiates their software from proprietary offerings. This is where "old school" marketing can help. Obviously these techniques need to be adapted for open source, requiring the blending of traditional marketing techniques and community relations.
Treating a community as an undifferentiated blob can result in failure to generate sustaining revenue as well as alienation of a community. As a community is perhaps the most distinctive component of an open source company, losing its community is tantamount to failure. If the community is not properly nurtured, an open source company's potential won't be realized.
This article suggests a general approach for segmenting a community to aid in formulating a business model and marketing plan to reach a project's potential. Moreover, it uses the example of an open source company, Funambol, Inc., to provide concrete examples of how open source community programs can be effectively used.
Does Open Source Need Marketing & Segmentation?
For many (Cherkoff 2005), open source is meant to be a disruptive business model where the conventional laws of business and marketing don't apply, e.g., it's ideally meant to be the ultimate in "viral marketing" (Rushkoff 1994, Helm 2000, Skrob 2005) or "guerrilla marketing" (Levinson 1984), where only interested parties raise their hands and volunteers give their time and/or money to the cause, and where you don't need to spend much time or money on traditional marketing.
While that may be the case for some open source projects, especially those that don't need to make money, and while it may work for start-ups and early stage projects (Rosenberg 2005), established commercial open source companies need to determine how they can monetize the interest in their software, ideally without disturbing the open source philosophy that differentiates their software from commercial offerings.
This is where time-honored marketing principles and best practices apply (among the others, Baker 2000, Doyle 1998, Kotler 1999 and 2002). This means understanding your community and what makes users tick, determining their needs and interests, and formulating products and services that your organization can offer and that the community is likely to want and buy.
The most successful open source companies such as MySQL, Red Hat, SugarCRM, and Zimbra all do this to a certain extent, albeit in a stylistically different way than pure commercial companies. The sooner an open source company comes to grip with the reality that it needs to practice standard marketing techniques such as segmentation, target marketing, and direct marketing, the better it will be.
Obviously, these techniques need to be adapted and adjusted to take into account the appropriate ways to communicate and interact with open source community members, so we're talking about the blending of two disciplines, marketing and community relations.
A widespread stereotype about open source is that communities mainly consist of hardcode hackers who only contribute code. In reality, communities are comprised of many different types of people, each of whom has their own interests, motivation, needs, and ability to contribute. As a project experiences success and crosses the "chasm" between the early and mainstream stages (Moore 2002), the community is composed not only of "techies" (developers and IT people), the typical early adopters, but increasingly by non-technical people, i.e., end users looking for products and solutions. Moreover, communities are increasingly composed not of individuals but professionals who work in companies such as system integrators, OEMs, and service providers and are involved to further the business objectives of their corporations. The fact that communities have corporate members is relevant because business-to-business marketing requires a different approach than marketing to individuals/consumers.
Communities are really heterogeneous groups that need to be addressed differently: various people and segments require communication through different channels with different messages. An open source company should identify the different groups in the community, decide which ones it's going to address, and choose the best way to leverage the target groups. Community segmentation and marketing are essential for designing effective business models and actions.
The risk of unfocused actions is to de-energize the community, which could result in losing the unique competitive advantage distinguishing open source companies. The community is an open source company's primary distinctive asset and if not properly leveraged and nurtured, the "disruptive" potential (Christensen 1997) can stagnate (Onetti and Capobianco 2005). Just being open source is not itself a guarantee of success; there are plenty of companies without active communities. Anyone can go to Sourceforge and see projects that languish because of minimal community involvement; furthermore, projects are like stars, they can shine for periods of time but if they don't continuously renew their energy, they can burn out. Consider the case of a highly popular and publicized open source project such as Evolution, a one-time alternative to Outlook that has languished.
Recognizing that your community consists of several kinds of people and grouping them according to their needs and profiles has broad implications for the business model in terms of how to best work within each of these groups. This article aims to describe, through case study research, a generic approach for how commercial open source companies can segment their communities to aid in formulating a business model and marketing plan to reach their potential. It's for anyone who works in an open source company or project who's trying to determine a viable business model.
The article is structured in two parts. The first part proposes how an open source company can segment its community. In the second part we will present the experience of Funambol, a provider of open source consumer push e-mail and personal information management (PIM) synchronization. We'll describe how it segmented its community and created nurturing and leveraging open source programs.
Segmenting an Open Source Community
An open source community often consists of an assortment of people, developers, end users, IT people, ISVs, SIs, ODMs, and partners. Segmentation helps by identifying these distinct groups. One question we'll try to answer is how it's possible to segment an open source community.
Note that for this article, we broadly define the use of the term "community" to include everyone who participates in an open source community. This includes people who download project software and documentation, read or post messages to community mailing lists, visit the project Web site looking for project information, and participate in project events such as webinars. This definition of community may be different than the more narrowly defined group of hardcore developer enthusiasts but in our experience, the broader use of the term is more relevant to an open source community. Note that it doesn't necessarily include commercial customers and partners though there's likely to be some natural overlap.
A community can be segmented according to several characteristics. We could refer to demographic variables such as age and technical skills (dividing community members into "techies" and "unskilled" individuals), or psychographic characteristics such as the purpose of community involvement (separating people who operate for business purposes from individuals moved by hobby/volunteering aims). Moreover, for corporate community members, we could segment using typical B2B criteria, e.g., dividing them by company size (discerning SMEs from large corporate), location, industry and/or business type (e.g., distinguishing among service providers, system integrators, independent software vendors, device manufacturers, and so on).
|alberto onetti 04/09/08 09:41:48 AM EDT|
Hi Ross, thank you for the update about Evolution project. You provided to us a really helpful insight.
|Ross Burton 09/28/07 10:21:38 AM EDT|
"Consider the case of a highly popular and publicized open source project such as Evolution, a one-time alternative to Outlook that has languished."
This isn't really true. The Evolution project in the last six months has gained three core maintainers, and just released EDS 1.2/Evolution 2.12.
Evolution has strict time-based release cycles, releasing every six months, and my tools tell me that in the last six months there have been 2018 files changed, 395302 insertions and 214719 deletions. That doesn't look like a stagnating project to me.
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound effect on the world, and what should we expect to see over the next couple of years.
Nov. 26, 2015 01:30 AM EST Reads: 421
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, Sandy Carter, IBM General Manager Cloud Ecosystem and Developers, and a Social Business Evangelist, wil...
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 520
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNub’s Data Stream Network.
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 278
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true change and transformation possible.
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 479
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" in this scenario: microservice A (releases daily) depends on a couple of additions to backend B (re...
Nov. 25, 2015 10:00 PM EST Reads: 389
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Nov. 25, 2015 09:00 PM EST Reads: 362
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user experience, both offline and online. The focus of this talk was on IBM Cloudant, Apache CouchDB, and ...
Nov. 25, 2015 08:30 PM EST Reads: 365
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at Built.io, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application delivery by allowing increasingly popular Mobile Backend-as-a-Service (mBaaS) platforms to quickly crea...
Nov. 25, 2015 05:00 PM EST Reads: 301
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound cha...
Nov. 25, 2015 02:45 PM EST Reads: 493
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 7-9, 2016 at Javits Center, New York City and Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 18th International @CloudExpo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
Nov. 25, 2015 02:30 PM EST Reads: 506
The cloud. Like a comic book superhero, there seems to be no problem it can’t fix or cost it can’t slash. Yet making the transition is not always easy and production environments are still largely on premise. Taking some practical and sensible steps to reduce risk can also help provide a basis for a successful cloud transition. A plethora of surveys from the likes of IDG and Gartner show that more than 70 percent of enterprises have deployed at least one or more cloud application or workload. Yet a closer inspection at the data reveals less than half of these cloud projects involve production...
Nov. 25, 2015 02:15 PM EST Reads: 424
Cloud computing delivers on-demand resources that provide businesses with flexibility and cost-savings. The challenge in moving workloads to the cloud has been the cost and complexity of ensuring the initial and ongoing security and regulatory (PCI, HIPAA, FFIEC) compliance across private and public clouds. Manual security compliance is slow, prone to human error, and represents over 50% of the cost of managing cloud applications. Determining how to automate cloud security compliance is critical to maintaining positive ROI. Raxak Protect is an automated security compliance SaaS platform and ma...
Nov. 25, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 353
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Nov. 25, 2015 01:30 PM EST Reads: 466
There are over 120 breakout sessions in all, with Keynotes, General Sessions, and Power Panels adding to three days of incredibly rich presentations and content. Join @ThingsExpo conference chair Roger Strukhoff (@IoT2040), June 7-9, 2016 in New York City, for three days of intense 'Internet of Things' discussion and focus, including Big Data's indespensable role in IoT, Smart Grids and Industrial Internet of Things, Wearables and Consumer IoT, as well as (new) IoT's use in Vertical Markets.
Nov. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 517
Today air travel is a minefield of delays, hassles and customer disappointment. Airlines struggle to revitalize the experience. GE and M2Mi will demonstrate practical examples of how IoT solutions are helping airlines bring back personalization, reduce trip time and improve reliability. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Dr. Sarah Cooper, M2Mi’s VP Business Development and Engineering, explored the IoT cloud-based platform technologies driving this change including privacy controls, data transparency and integration of real time context with p...
Nov. 25, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 364
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data shows "less than 10 percent of IoT developers are making enough to support a reasonably sized team....
Nov. 25, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 430
We all know that data growth is exploding and storage budgets are shrinking. Instead of showing you charts on about how much data there is, in his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Scott Cleland, Senior Director of Product Marketing at HGST, showed how to capture all of your data in one place. After you have your data under control, you can then analyze it in one place, saving time and resources.
Nov. 25, 2015 09:45 AM EST Reads: 116
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
Nov. 25, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 268
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningful and actionable insights. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Paul Turner, Chief Marketing Officer at...
Nov. 25, 2015 08:15 AM EST Reads: 353
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Summit, Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, demonstrated examples of com...
Nov. 25, 2015 07:45 AM EST Reads: 347