Building a realistic business case for OSS

Some proponents of Open Source Software can be their own worst enemies in the efforts to distance themselves from the traditional software license based vendor. For instance I read in a recent article that two of the benefits of OSS were:

“Never again will you fear the BSA (Business Software Alliance, not the Boy Scouts!) knocking on your door wanting to perform a software audit. The BSA even takes out advertisements on Google search pages for and up to $200,000 reward a disgruntled ex-employee can receive for reporting your company to the BSA! That's quite a powerful motivator.”

And

“In the world of Open Source Software, if you can't wait on someone else's schedule for a new feature, then you add that feature yourself. What? You don't have programmers on staff? You can always outsource to a programming company and have them do it for you.”

To translate OSS is really great because you won’t get nailed for breach of licensing agreements and you can always write your own software. Not exactly compelling arguments for any business case!

While there really are arguments for ”going OSS”, most firms will not take such a strategic move. In most cases, OSS is used to solve specific problems – just like any other piece of software – not change the world.

And the business case covers the same territory as for closed source: a combination of technical evaluation and assessment of cost and business risk.

The second point is challenging only in that we are less familiar with evaluating OSS in this way - and isn't helped by over enthusiastic promoters of the OSS religon.