Allevo blog

by Sorin Guiman

Outsourcing vs open source

I often get worried that I have no clue where the next generation’s world is headed. I use the resource-rich world as benchmark (it seems though that the most continuously wanted resource is money) because less gifted countries and nations are sentenced to follow the model of the en vogue ones, as we are indeed talking about tangible, measurable things and not about work of art, where there is still space for eccentricity.  Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe, by following your creed, it becomes possible to create some sort of niche where you can protect all: the comfort, the good condition and the creativity.

I admit it. Sometimes I indulge myself to believe that there’s also space for eccentricity in economics, in engineering. In get comfort only from the thought that there are other dreamers like myself. Some of them have gathered and created Corporate Rebels United (CRU), a group which believes business can be performed on an ethic basis, which chooses to unleash the enormous potential that lies within every person within their organizations. And for sure they are not communists, they are spread across all meridians and parallels and believe me, the majority are not technical persons, which could explain the “infantilism” that spirits them.

A significant number of Allevo team members have joined this movement, have formed the CRU Romania and continue to rebel against corporate inertia. This movement needed a “playground” and Allevo, who had just publicly announced changing its business model to accommodate the open source distribution of its products, has been chosen as the ideal place to rebel. Other similar companies told us, when we met and discussed about our idea to go open source at different conferences or exhibitions, that this is madness, only a lunatic could come up with such an idea. Despite all these “reassurances”, Allevo went on and launched its open source project and published the code. And guess what? The very same time world was in fact quickly sliding towards this “unpredictable” future. Microsoft made extraordinary steps last year towards publishing the sources of few premium products, and just last month, Mike Driscoll, CEO Metamarkets, stated that it is vital for Microsoft to embrace open source.

In Allevo’s case, the team has conceptualized (as it happened in all revolutions I learned about in school) what and how was going to be done. In addition to converting our financial transactions processing suite from a licensed product to a free – unconstrained access one, the company has gone through an organizational restructuring in accordance with the new business model and has created the legal structure that will host the FINkers United community, an association which will make sure Allevo’s donation will be used precisely for the purpose and in the way it was thought of: GPL V3, as coding addicts know it. And because nothing exists without a brand, we dubbed all this as BOOST – Banking On Open Source Technologies.

To be consistent with the CRU manifesto, I’ll further focus on the ethical component of our project. We believe it is every person’s duty (as tribute to the professors and mentors in his profession) to share his knowledge, to make it widely available and to accept debate. The debate is her/ his reward, her/ his chance to capitalize on the opinions given back and eventually, to enlarge and improve his own knowledge and his own “product”. The most common examples of freely sharing creations are the books in a library or the paintings and sculptures in a museum or music sang at the opera. As I don’t want to get confronted with the intellectual fundamentalism (which of course excludes engineers), I will also mention other forms of sharing the source of a creation: aspirin or the popular automobiles. I would add that, at least in the IT industry, the open source products become eventually a collective creation, where contributors offer their own expertize, in the most varied competence areas – from the obvious programming talent and skills, testing, administration, the conception ones (that align the product with present and future market needs, with available and predictable technologies, with regulations and standards, at last but not least with long lasting practices), to the communication skills (and I include here thorough documentation, as not every engineer knows how to do it properly and this article proves it). The result is the creation of a cultural, competence, innovation and “production” core that lasts as long as the community keeps its expertness and the ability to create new things.

Open source, as an IT included industry (to avoid saying niche), undergoes an accelerated growth process worldwide, gathering young, mature and senior people, which complement each other biologically and culturally, participate in innovation and free learning and can measure the result of their work by the market’s acceptance or rejection of their project/product. They can also improve it based on the community’s power and the market’s assessment.

Its counterweight is Outsourcing (starts with an O as well). It takes the form of intellectual lohn, which, quite right, takes a lot of resources, even to that point where a country like Romania is forced to import programmers from Asian countries to deal with the market demand. The professionals working in this field benefit from widening their knowledge, but it is questionable how good they feel in this on-demand environment, and especially how often are they involved in the creation and innovation process. The result of Outsourcing, as well an IT included industry, is initiated by the ones ordering the project and it is harvested by the same people.

I am aware that I oversimplified my speech about outsourcing versus open source, but I do believe in the usefulness of a debate on the policy to be followed in a country like Romania, a country with a total population that equals the number of university graduates in 3-4 years of some of the Asian countries.

Entering the competition without thoroughly thinking it through is suicide for a business. And a huge injustice for those depending on the “leader”, if I may.