My good friend and cohort in CRM blogging, Martin Schneider, posted a review yesterday about a recent article from Psychology Today that analyzes why developers participate in open source communities. While I agree with Martin’s thoughts, I think the motivations go a bit deeper…right into the wallet.
First, let’s take the “street cred” idea a bit further. What I’ve seen in the Sugar community is that independent consultants and system integration firms can turn “street cred” into “business cred” or marketability and make some money. Simply put, companies hire you for projects if you are a credible Sugar community member. Also, IT developers NEED to have open source experience on their resumes these days to get the best jobs. Hiring somebody who actually contributes code to an open source project gives companies real competitive advantage for their business.
So being a prominent member of the Sugar community turns into actual dollars (Euros, kroners, Linden dollars, whatever). That’s a VERY powerful concept that is glossed over with the ticky tacky term “street cred”.
Now let’s take the “self-actualization” idea. Yeah, coders code because they like to code. Coding is cool. Believe it or not, one of my favorite ways of relaxing is to fix bugs in Sugar. Now call me wacko (my wife calls me other things), but Sugar is my baby and I want to see her not just sing, but friggen Rock the Cazbah (shout out to John’s current favorite band). So I certainly agree with the point on “self-actualization.”
However, the ability for a company, a project manager and/or a developer implementing SugarCRM to take control of their own destiny around the Sugar app is HUGE. I’ve project managed implementations of proprietary CRM systems in past lives. There’s nothing better at blowing up your project schedule than a showstopper bug or unexpected limitation in an API.
With open source, a company can fix the problem themselves if needed or extend an API to meet their needs. Now SugarCRM works very hard as a company to respond to all of our customer’s reported issues in a timely manner, but when your go-live date is looming ahead of you and your CEO demands no delays, there is nothing better than having the ability to fix any issues yourself and not be tied to the responsiveness of your vendor. And if you are an independent consultant or system integration firm, time = money. Again, control is a very powerful aspect which drives developers to open source that goes way beyond “self-actualization” or even “altruism”. It drives sanity for the developer and bottom-line value for the business.
Personally, I think these two ideas of marketability and control should have been included in the Psychology Today as these are the motivations I hear about everyday from Sugar community members. And marketability is about putting money in your wallet and control is about keeping money from flowing out of your wallet.