Open source platforms: An information systems ‘miracle’

sflogoIn partnership with the Department of Technology at the City and County of San Francisco, I’ve been studying the deployment of new applications using open source.  We looked at three projects (including the site), and found the people involved reporting results that seemed almost too good to be true:  working systems developed and deployed in record time, at very little cost, that increase the skills and importance of locally-employed IT talent.  It seems like an ‘IS miracle’, especially in these tough times.

While cost-cutting is often seen as the big selling point for open source, faster ‘time-to-market’ for new applications is the focus of our results.  To quote one of our respondents:

“Now, you can stand up that site in 8 hours, four hours, have it done by the
end of the day.  It flips the customer out.  Really?  I thought it would take 2
months.  Being responsive is huge.  Technology changes fast, but business
requirements change faster.”

For example, there’s no way the site would have been built in less than three weeks without using an open source platform (WordPress), and without a new technology mindset.  It’s a mindset where the IT department sees itself as offering great new products for its diverse customers, rather than trying to control and constrain them all the time.

The paper with our preliminary research results is currently under review.  Please contact me if you’d like a draft.  Special thanks to the City’s CTO Blair Adams, USF MBA Dave Geller, and all of the study participants.