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The Role of the Community Manager Open Source software
 

The Role of the Community Manager Open Source software

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El rol del Community Manager: papel emergente para y desde el crecimiento del software open source

El rol del Community Manager: papel emergente para y desde el crecimiento del software open source

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    The Role of the Community Manager Open Source software The Role of the Community Manager Open Source software Document Transcript

    • Research Publication Date: 8 December 2009 ID Number: G00172718 The Community Manager: A New Role Emerges From the Growth in Open-Source Software Brian Prentice Proprietary vendors are increasing their involvement with open-source software because they realize it is critical to achieving key strategic objectives. Ensuring that a direct and committed effort to understand and engage the associated communities exists is an important part of the successful achievement of those objectives. Key Findings ! Software vendors need to proactively manage communities as the use of open-source software accelerates. ! Each software community has distinct characteristics from traditional channels, and will require entirely new competencies and metrics. ! Work with communities cannot be bound by traditional notions of users and partners — the defining criterion is their shared vested interest. Recommendations ! Unlike traditional channel management, community management roles, as they emerge, cannot be bound to sales teams and revenue objectives. ! Community managers should be given responsibility for assessing actions, steering participation (where possible) and recommending actions based on the extent to which an open-source community is aligned with the objectives of the organization. © 2009 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction and distribution of this publication in any form without prior written permission is forbidden. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. Gartner disclaims all warranties as to the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of such information. Although Gartner's research may discuss legal issues related to the information technology business, Gartner does not provide legal advice or services and its research should not be construed or used as such. Gartner shall have no liability for errors, omissions or inadequacies in the information contained herein or for interpretations thereof. The opinions expressed herein are subject to change without notice.
    • ANALYSIS The days when stark distinctions could be drawn between an "open-source software company" and a "proprietary software company" are largely gone. In the current software market, vendors of all types are embracing open-source software as an integral component of their overall software delivery strategy. So pervasive is this trend that Gartner has been predicting that by 2011, 80% of all commercial software offerings will include elements of open source. Gartner has been observing an emerging trend in open-source projects where a very small group of core developers maintains the base distribution of the central code base, while a larger group of "edge" developers maintains plug-ins and modules that are not included in the base distribution. This is consistent with the manner in which traditional proprietary software vendors have been getting involved in open source. In some cases, they will choose to begin actively participating in an existing open-source project (i.e., Oracle and IBM's participation with Linux). Or, they could initiate a new open-source project on top of a significant code contribution of their own (i.e., Google's mobile operating system Android). Open-source software's prevalence in the software vendor community indicates a growing and nuanced understanding by senior management of its strategic potential (see "Open-Source Vendor Strategies: Where OSS and Commerce Meet"). Generally, senior management is catching up to their R&D teams in this respect. Although management can set the organization's open-source strategy and development can fulfill the code contribution commitments, someone, somewhere needs to be tapped into the project's community (the individuals and organizations that are supporting the growth and stability of the project's code base). While it's a perfectly acceptable strategy for a software vendor to commit to an open-source project with the expectation of being the sole contributing party, most vendors engage in open-source projects in the belief that there will be some form of sustained community participation (Linux being an operative example). Therein lays the challenge. Open-source project communities, by their very nature, are fluid. The simple act of kicking off, or contributing to, an open-source project doesn't in itself sustain community participation. Ultimately, a vibrant open-source community is an intersection of its members' vested interests, and those interests will ebb and flow based on their own strategic objectives. Accessing and responding to these shifting allegiances will require new roles within software vendor organizations. Those roles will need staff with the appropriate skills and meaningful metrics. For this reason, Gartner believes that a key emerging role in the software vendor community will be that of the community manager. Community Management Requires Community Managers Notionally, the concept of a discrete function to deal with open-source communities seems logical enough. The goal is also simple enough — to assess options, steer participation where possible and recommend actions based on the extent to which an open-source community is aligned with the strategic objectives of the organization. How such a role would integrate with most vendor organizations is what will ultimately prove most challenging. At face value, community management seems a natural extension of existing channel management responsibilities, but there are significant differences in perspective. They include: ! Objectives: Channel partnerships are largely bound to joint sales objectives. As a result, each party's objectives are directly linked and quantitatively measurable. Publication Date: 8 December 2009/ID Number: G00172718 Page 2 of 5 © 2009 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
    • Furthermore, there is an entire taxonomy of sales-related activities that are employed to ensure reciprocal value — i.e., product and service margins, lead distribution, territory management. However, communities that emerge around open-source projects are more commonly bound to shared value chain system objectives (see "Collective Competency: A New Business Pattern"). While sales may factor into a community member's consideration, it is likely to be well downstream of the main objective, so tried- and-true channel tactics are of little value in soliciting participation. ! Obligations: Channel partnerships are usually formal, either via a direct contract or through a structured channel program. While formal relationships are linked to some form of coercive capability on either party (e.g., contract termination for nonperformance or program expulsion due to failure to meet minimum standards), coercion doesn't factor into communities because communities are informal. Obligation is strictly personal — a function of a specific community member's perceived reciprocal value, whether financial or emotional. ! Continuity: Channel partners ultimately require perpetual motion. There must be a constant and sustained effort in order for there to be value for both sides of the partnership. Measuring a partnership based on the amount of ongoing effort is a key part of channel partner assessment. In a community context, however, continuity can neither be assured nor a particularly useful metric. For example, a community member who regularly checks code or fixes minor bugs is certainly a valuable member, but so is the individual or organization that makes rare, but significant, code contributions. For communities, it is the cumulative value of each discrete contribution that must be measured, rather than their regularity. ! Authority: Channel operations have been evolving from their traditional hub-and-spoke model with the vendor firmly in the middle, to more integrated supply chains. Open source accelerates and alters the trajectory of the central vendor's role between these organizations. Software vendors would be putting themselves in a precarious position if they come into an open-source community assuming they are somehow the center of authority for a project — even if they are the dominant participants. A particular aspect of open-source is its ability for derived projects to be spun off ("forking"). If unnecessary authority is exerted by any one member, it can have the detrimental effect of motivating another community member to fork the project. Community involvement requires a level of delicacy not traditionally associated with channel activities. Because of all these factors, community management is becoming an imperative for software vendors. However, the unique characteristics of open-source community models mean that existing channel management roles cannot simply be extended to cover this responsibility. While community management responsibilities can be vested in a distinct group that reports to the CEO, it is also acceptable to embed community management into channel and alliance teams, given the potential to create more-holistic relationships with key partners. Regardless of its placement in the organization, a number of factors must be considered when defining the role: ! No sales targets: As highlighted, open-source communities are not based on direct sales relationships. Therefore, it doesn't make sense to measure community managers on a revenue target. Even if the organization's objectives for participating in an open- source project are linked to driving sales, the community manager should not be measured on that basis. The focus must be on everyone else's vested interest, not on one's own. Because of its intricacies, community management is more politics than sales. Power is derived from the rest of the community and is given only to those who clearly have everyone's best interest at heart. Publication Date: 8 December 2009/ID Number: G00172718 Page 3 of 5 © 2009 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
    • ! No borders: Channel management in multinational vendors often follows nationally defined organization models. Open-source communities have no such distinctions. They're inherently global by nature. Community managers should be aligned by project, regardless of whether it fits into the existing sales or channel territory definitions. ! Everyone qualifies for membership: Software vendors must understand that the distinction between "user" and "partner" is meaningless in an open-source community. These distinctions come from a traditional view that certain organizations "buy stuff" and other organizations "sell stuff." However, open-source communities are about intersecting interests, and they can come from both types of organizations. Community managers must be given the freedom to work with either organization, without concern for direct or indirect sales team relationships. The community manager can best be described as a "vendor diplomat." This manager is there to represent and align the organization's interests with a group of sovereign community members. Successful community management requires: ! Strategic perspective: Value chain system dependencies, which are of growing importance in the open-source landscape, require an ability to understand the financial and operation impact — both for one's own organization and for that of others. Community managers should be measured based on their ability to identify the members of an open-source community and, importantly, to identify their reasons for participation. ! Focus on environment factors: The shared problems that motivate active community participation today may not be shared tomorrow. If market or industry conditions change, then this can fundamentally alter the reason for participation, either for your organization or for other firms. A key responsibility for the community manager is to map these environmental factors to the reasons that are sustaining community members' current participation. The objective is to project whether the community participation rate will be sustained sufficiently enough to keep the project market relevant. If not, the project needs to be flagged to senior management so that decisions on whether to increase internal commitment to it or abandon it can be made. ! Ability to convince: The ability to help others understand why it is in their best interests to participate without coercion of any sort is a unique skill. It requires both analytical and interpersonal abilities. Community managers should be given responsibility for engaging community members to sustain or increase their participation. This is directly linked to the outcome of the environmental assessment for which they are also responsible. RECOMMENDED READING "Collective Competency: A New Business Pattern" Publication Date: 8 December 2009/ID Number: G00172718 Page 4 of 5 © 2009 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.
    • REGIONAL HEADQUARTERS Corporate Headquarters 56 Top Gallant Road Stamford, CT 06902-7700 U.S.A. +1 203 964 0096 European Headquarters Tamesis The Glanty Egham Surrey, TW20 9AW UNITED KINGDOM +44 1784 431611 Asia/Pacific Headquarters Gartner Australasia Pty. Ltd. Level 9, 141 Walker Street North Sydney New South Wales 2060 AUSTRALIA +61 2 9459 4600 Japan Headquarters Gartner Japan Ltd. Aobadai Hills, 6F 7-7, Aobadai, 4-chome Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-0042 JAPAN +81 3 3481 3670 Latin America Headquarters Gartner do Brazil Av. das Nações Unidas, 12551 9° andar—World Trade Center 04578-903—São Paulo SP BRAZIL +55 11 3443 1509 Publication Date: 8 December 2009/ID Number: G00172718 Page 5 of 5 © 2009 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates. All Rights Reserved.