Freedom, openness, knowledge sharing, and user empowerment are some of the important values that are common to a collaborative intranet initiative and to open source software. I’ve been musing about this for a long time and wondering if both could actually converge to deliver common benefits.
The advantages of open source have been widely recognized already. The classic virtues everyone seems to acknowledge are quality, freedom to make changes, avoidance of single vendor lock-in, interoperability, and durability.
I can’t help but think that these benefits are also great criteria when it comes to choosing an intranet solution. Here are my top five reasons to consider open source for your next intranet initiative.
Reliability and Security Enable Adoption
The quality of open source software is often advanced as one of its key advantages. Software whose source code can be freely read, copied, modified, improved, and tested by anyone encourages users and programmers to find bugs and security flaws.
Naturally, for an intranet to be successful, it must be adopted by employees. It has to be a trusted location that’s always there before your staff start sharing knowledge and use the space as a privileged location for their work interactions. Thus, reliability is essential.
Security is also a no brainer. Access and data must be safely guarded in an intranet as it conveys mission-critical information.
Customizability Enables Business Agility
A lot of software can be altered through plug-in modules. But open source has the extra advantage of its core source code being easy to modify too. While it’s not always desirable to fork an open source product, being able to adapt it precisely for your real needs, beyond what a software vendor has made available through its plug-in interface, might make a big difference.
We live in an era of rapid change, where business agility has become an imperative. Enterprises must be able to adapt quickly and change their processes and tools to stay ahead of competitors.
Having the ability to make changes to your intranet as needed to accompany your organization’s maturity with collaboration and social will put you in a much better position to accomplish your digital transformation.
Interoperability Connects Business Apps
Because open source software promotes the value of sharing ideas, developers are often keen on adopting open standards. Network protocols, email, and web page formats are all examples of open standards that have been key to the rise of the internet. Generations of software tools have been able to interoperate thanks to open standards, which helped generate mass adoption.
Similarly, the free sharing of ideas is also a key adoption factor for a social collaboration initiative. So in order to fully leverage the potential of collaboration in a corporate environment, business apps should be integrated into an intranet so they can send signals to people. Open standards such as WebDAV, CMIS, Ical, or OpenSocial are there to help interface your intranet with your most critical business apps.
Continuity Protects Your Operations
By adopting open source, you don’t surrender to a single vendor. If a proprietary software vendor decides to stop operations or discontinue your software package, it unfairly jeopardizes your operations and forces you to move to an alternative. Open source doesn’t have this problem, because at any time, a developer can take the source code and rebuild your own copy of the software so you can keep using it.
There’s no doubt that continuity is important for any class of software, but for software such as an intranet, which affects virtually every employee in an organization, it can be a big deal. A living collaborative intranet will be the home of many interactions between staff as they try to get their work done.
Disrupting their work might very well mean disrupting your business operations. An open source intranet solution gives you some certainty regarding continuity.
Affordability: Spend on What Matters
Many people cite the lower total cost of ownership of open source software. Indeed, acquiring a copy of open source software is usually free, so only the support costs remain.
In fact, though, purchasing and installing a piece of software does not generate value per se. It’s when you start using the software that it can deliver benefits. Hence, your money can be better spent on support and customization.
On an intranet, special care should taken first to support your users in their adoption of a collaborative mindset. Technical support is also essential, as you want to maintain a system that’s up to date and performs well, in order not to disrupt the service.
Because your employees will rely on their collaborative intranet for most of their work interactions, they must trust it and know that it will always be there when they need it. By adopting open source intranet software, your money can be spent on things that generate value for your company.
Onboarding your employees to a social collaborative system that is highly reliable, adapted to their needs, and closely connected to their daily work flow—a system they can trust to get their work done—is not only a matter of succeeding in an intranet project. It’s planting the seeds of your digital transformation. Those who understand the stakes should consider open source for the backbone of their digital workplace: a social collaborative intranet.
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