These are interesting times for Enterprise Software

While discussions concerning open-source software development tend to focus on the innovative techniques used to produce complex systems by mobilizing highly distributed programming talent, progressive software enterprise leaders note the significance of open-source software as a platform for effective learning and collaboration through apprenticeship. Open-source programmers often start with code developed by others and then develop enhancements for specific environments. As the code is developed, it is posted for review and testing by a broad community of experienced programmers. Programmers in open-source projects learn at four levels: 1) they observe and work with code from other programmers, 2) they observe their own code in action, 3) they get feedback and commentary from other people who execute their code, and 4) they have access to feedback and commentary about code developed by other open-source programmers. Programmers typically begin on the periphery of the platform and advance, by building their skills, to become coaches and mentors. In the way, they structure their own learning environments, pulling in whatever resources are most relevant and timely.

In lieu of accepting the usual limits on the available constrained resources, open-source programmers constantly seek to expand the range of resources through ad-hoc social networks, through the enterprise, or through various open-source platforms. Rather than seeking to dictate the priorities and actions of the stakeholders involved in open-source projects, programmers take the initiative to utilize the tools and people required to address opportunities as they arise. Open source platforms harness programmer’s passion, commitment, and desire to learn, thereby creating communities that can rapidly improvise and innovate. The open source world isn’t the only niche community where this kind of learning and innovation takes place.

Software enterprise leaders can leverage this highly efficient development model to their advantage, through collaboration platforms uniquely tailored to the enterprise. Collaboration platforms foster flexible interactions among project stakeholders, building closer relationships between the user-community and programmers. Collaboration platforms offer an environment for rapid feedback, rich reflection on the results of distributed experimentation, and greater scalability. The results are clear, looking at successful open-source vendors – secure and deep competitive advantage continues to be realized at a time when traditional distinctions are disappearing. In collaborative open networks, distributed teams are very skilled at autonomously identifying and mobilizing just-in-time resources, including third-party resources, to accomplish extra-ordinary results.

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