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First impressions count most with open source

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Today Alfresco is presenting the findings of the second Open Source Barometer. This is the largest study of the usage of open source in the enterprise stack by the Global 5000 and Governments across the world. The survey was conducted throughout 2007 using opt-in data provided by 35,000 Alfresco community members.

For those of you who did not read the first study, it is designed to provide a leading indicator of enterprise open source adoption trends examining:

  • How and where is open source used in the Global 5000 and Government enterprise stack?
  • Is it a pure or hybrid stack?
  • Is there a leader in each part of the stack?
  • Does usage differ from evaluation to deployment?
  • Does usage differ by geography?
  • What are the trends over time?

For those of you who did read the results of the first study we have added the following questions:

  • Which Office suite do you primarily use?
  • What virtualisation product are you using primarily?
  • How are you planing to evaluate Alfresco (On a Laptop, Hosted server or Corporate server?

This is what brings me to first impressions. With traditional enterprise software your first impression is probably going to be drawn from your discussion with a sales person and the demonstration by a sales engineer.

If the impression is good then the next steps are probably for a sales engineer to install the software for you and a for proof-of-concept to go ahead. The software is often kept at arms length and the last thing the sales person wants you to do is “drive” it solo or unattended.

Open source is very different. Users hear about the software, they research it, download it and then try it - nearly always unattended and nearly always solo. The key thing here is the first impression is much more about how easy it is to get the software and use it successfully the first time. Otherwise the user is free to go somewhere else.

One of the things we focus on is the customer impression and where they should be after:

  • 1 minutes and 5 minutes
  • 1 hour and 5 hours
  • 1 day and 5 days

The Open Source Barometer has some interesting finding that have a big impact on this. In the study - of users interested in open source:

  • Over 50% want to evaluate on Windows
  • 44% want to evaluate on a laptop

Open source users wants to rapidly get an impression of a product. And, that impression will very likely be made on their office laptop running Windows (even if they plan to deploy on Linux).

The lesson for the open source community is make that first impression great -on Windows. The rallying cry of Simple Open Source (SOS) means helping users get up and running without:

  • Having to download many separate pieces of software
  • Having to run multiple different installers for each product
  • Reading a lengthy installation manual for each product

In our case we do one simple install for the database, Tomcat, with a Browser integration and all of the necessary software in a way any Windows user would recognise as a single, simple integration.

The second rallying cry should be work out of the box with the tools the user uses everyday. In our case we simply work with MS-Office.

Open source is not like a long enterprise software courtship - which is expensive for the vendor during the sales process and expensive for the customer in the end.

So don’t only think like a stack, think like a stack with choice at each level. Because that is what companies want.

Make the first impression great in a Microsoft environment and when users eventually make a choice it will be very different to the initial evaluation environment. But more of that in my next post.

Now read Glyn Moody on Alfresco's Open Source Barometer

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