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Convincing Your Employer To Go With FOSS? 369

Posted by timothy
from the ask-him-his-favorite-browser dept.
mark72005 writes "My employer is currently looking at adopting a content management system for use by our technical support staff (primarily first-line end user support, but hopefully it will include deeper levels of support personnel eventually). The candidates are currently Plone (OSS) and Confluence (proprietary, closed-source). For those with experience in each, what arguments in favor of Plone could be made to managers more interested in pragmatism than idealism?"
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Convincing Your Employer To Go With FOSS?

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  • by RocketRabbit (830691) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:56PM (#33899512)

    My problem has been convincing them that they con't just pass of the cost of Windows to the customer. They like the fact that they can hire 3-4 MCSEs for the cost of one good Unix admin, but they don't realize that the Unix admin can set things up so that maintenance is much easier.

    Windows is ingrained in business culture here, for the most part.

    • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:02PM (#33899614) Journal

      Our company is even worse than that - we have shown them the cost savings of switching from Microsoft Office (Standard) to Open Office, demo'd the interoperability and the ease of switching, but because it's not Microsoft they just can't consider it "reliable".

      It makes me want to rip my hair out. Then glue it on their faces as silly mustaches. Point is it makes me have crazy thoughts.

      • by mangu (126918) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:14PM (#33899798)

        because it's not Microsoft they just can't consider it "reliable".

        Tell them Open Office comes from Oracle.

      • by Applekid (993327) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:15PM (#33899814)

        Our company is even worse than that - we have shown them the cost savings of switching from Microsoft Office (Standard) to Open Office, demo'd the interoperability and the ease of switching, but because it's not Microsoft they just can't consider it "reliable".

        Consider sneaking into the executive offices after hours and replacing the Microsoft Office adverts inside their copy of CIO with ones for Open Office. :)

      • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:19PM (#33900710) Journal
        It's not reliability they worry about, but liability... that, and going with the "safe" choice. Oh, and Microsoft is indeed the safe choice when things go south... because the manager responsible for selecting MS can divert the blame to them. Remember the old adage "nobody has ever been fired for choosing IBM"? Same thing. Conversely, if you pick a FOSS product and things go south, you are very likely to hear the phrase "what were you thinking?!".

        As to liability, that is a real concern when you use FOSS, especially if you're a juicy fat corporate target. If Microsoft infringes on some patent or other, no big whoop, the patent holder will sue Microsoft and you as a customer will most likely not notice a thing. But if some FOSS product infringes on a patent, your company will be the target. At best you will be ordered to cease using the software, at worst you will be sued for damages. A client of mine actually had this happen to them (and they paid, too).

        The good news is: both concerns can be addressed. To avoid blame for picking a dud falling on your manager's head, spread the blame. Get buy-in from as many stakeholders as you can, especially those high up in the food chain: the budget holder, company architect, service managers, project office manager, what have you... and when you approach one, make it clear that you will get (or already have) at least a tentative approval from the others. We've used this approach on one FOSS project, which in the end did get the green light.

        To avoid legal exposure to IP infringements, find another company to take this risk off your hands by having them act as a "reseller". To my surprise there are actually quite a few companies offering FOSS solutions who are willing to take that risk, for a fee.
      • by mcrbids (148650) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:58PM (#33901226) Journal

        I'm gonna get a karma beating for saying this, but sadly, Open Office isn't entirely reliable. Yes, it works well for smaller projects, is free, cross platform, and mostly compatible with MS office.

        But there are.... issues. Like the autonumbering makes you want to axe murder somebody. Spacing in Impress has a beeeelion little weirds.

        And... get this! The spreadsheet can't have more than 65535 rows! Here it is, 2010 and I have a roaring, quadcore laptop with 8 GB of RAM and a TB hard drive, and I'm limited to an architecture that was considered limiting 10 or more hardware generations ago?!?

        OoO is sadly just not as good, and it isn't until you lose 100,000 rows of financial data that you start to appreciate just how bad this actually is. (Which has never happened to me but not everybody is as anally retentive about backups as I am)

        I really wish I were an astrotufing MS shill, but I'm a Linux nerd with more than a decade as such...(check my UID)

        • by homesnatch (1089609) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:51PM (#33902592)
          To be fair, Excel did not support more than 65k rows until Excel 2010.
        • Go-oo.org (Score:3, Informative)

          by Fencepost (107992) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @10:14PM (#33903858) Journal
          Go-oo.org is a fork managed by some folks at Novell that incorporates multiple patches that haven't made it into the main branch yet. One of those is exceeding 65K rows (now 1048576). It's not in the main branch because there are apparently some problems with calculation performance with many rows and some problems with positioning with drawing objects. More details in http://kohei.us/2010/02/20/increasing-calcs-row-limit-to-1-million/
      • by dkleinsc (563838) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @06:28PM (#33901640) Homepage

        It's not really about reliability.

        It's about philosophy. One of the unwritten qualifications for the upper echelons of corporate management is believing wholeheartedly that capitalist corporations are the most efficient way of producing the highest quality goods and services (and it should be pointed out that for many products, they're absolutely right). After all, if you didn't believe in corporations, why would you make the sacrifices necessary to get to an upper management position?

        And here come a bunch of long-haired hippies who explain how their stuff is better. But it can't be, because it's not produced by a corporation. I mean, which car is more reliable, the old beat-up Thunderbird your mechanic brother-in-law tinkered with constantly, or the one just driven off the Mercedes parking lot? And then cognitive dissonance creeps in: If the hippies' stuff actually is better, then perhaps the corporation isn't always right, and perhaps the manager has wasted his better years in the office rather than spending quality time with his children.

        Software is one of those strange products where "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" really works well, because there's tiny tiny costs (namely, downloading bandwidth) for having freeloaders. But for those who've bought completely into capitalism, they react about as well to this idea as a Unix geek would to converting their beloved webservers to run IIS.

    • by PingPongBoy (303994) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:13PM (#33900634)

      My problem has been convincing them that they con't just pass of the cost of Windows to the customer. They like the fact that they can hire 3-4 MCSEs for the cost of one good Unix admin, but they don't realize that the Unix admin can set things up so that maintenance is much easier

      That kind of math is pretty narrow minded, if you think about it. The whole world has become a better place because of computers, hasn't it? The "customers" for a lot of businesses are just ordinary people, and as such rely on Windows, and so far Windows has been quite reliable. Windows has brought joy and good fortune to these customers - is it such a bad thing then to charge them a little extra because businesses look forward to a better future with Windows?

      The whole computer industry could not have evolved so quickly without the cash input from non-Unix users, and businesses find comfort in a unified computer industry. Businesses will buy into Windows as long as Microsoft and hardware makers are working on better technology. The free software is nice, but it has to be paid for somehow or else it doesn't keep up.

      Indeed, only 15 years ago, when Windows 95 came into being, Unix computers cost as much as cars, so it was the Wintel combination that brought costs down to earth while making user interaction very intuitive. Without the efforts at Microsoft, we might have little choice than to buy really expensive machines right now and some clunky software choices.

      FOSS and Microsoft together keep prices down. Without FOSS, Microsoft would be just as pricey as can be, but if Microsoft stopped, the motivation behind FOSS would be shrivel up.

  • Cost (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 0racle (667029) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:57PM (#33899534)
    Free. Thats really all that is required here, but then I work for a bunch of cheapskates who won't be around much longer.
  • by grahamwest (30174) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:57PM (#33899540) Homepage

    I've used TWiki (OSS, all Perl IIRC and aimed at corporate usage) at one job and Confluence at another but not Plone. Confluence is good for non-technical people because it has a pretty good wysiwig editor, but its search was simply wretched. I think we had a lot of 'lost' knowledge in the Confluence DB because nobody knew it was there and the obvious searches didn't show it - I would come across nuggets now and then. If you have the discipline to build index pages, it's probably a good choice if you have a lot of non-engineer type people.

    TWiki (and this was a number of years ago so it may have improved) was almost the reverse. Good search, good architecture for plugins, but no wysiwyg so non-technical contributors had trouble with it. They were writing a wysiwyg plugin so that may have now arrived. It was easy to maintain and of the two I would say I like it better.

  • by MrEricSir (398214) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:58PM (#33899550) Homepage

    I once asked Richard Stallman how to convince my school to go with FOSS instead of Windows, since most of our CS lab was on Windows.

    His reply: "Defenestration! Throw Windows out of the computer, or throw the computer out the window!"

    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:01PM (#33899606)
      Oddly enough, that was the exact same thing my last girlfriend said to me before she left.
  • Liferay (Score:4, Informative)

    by Tepar (87925) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @03:58PM (#33899552) Homepage
    Might I suggest Liferay (http://www.liferay.com)? Open source, but also commercial, and more featureful than both Plone and Confluence.
  • Wrong order (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:01PM (#33899600)

    You've obviously decided which piece of software you want to recommend even though the only reason you can think of to recommend it is that it is FOSS? If the open software isn't as good it just isn't as good; just because it's FOSS doesn't mean that it is the be all and end all to solve your problems. Compare features, stability, cost, and support; if your boss is actively against FOSS make a point to explain it's advantages (and disadvantages if you want to be fair) and leave the decision to him. After all, it's entirely possible that the closed, proprietary solution fits your situation better; basically, its dishonest to make your decision and then go digging specifically for evidence to support that decision.

    • by TrancePhreak (576593) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:10PM (#33899742)
      Such a good post. I hope more people with mod points notice.
    • by Alternate Interior (725192) <slashdot&alternateinterior,com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:17PM (#33899842) Homepage
      Exactly. The potential to expand, change, etc open source doesn't mean diddly until it actually happens or you decide you're actually going to.
    • by Anonymusing (1450747) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:20PM (#33899892)

      Mod parent up.

      I'd even go so far as to suggest FOSS is the wrong solution for many people -- not because it's FOSS, but because its feature list does not sufficiently meet the project requirements. Some years back, an organization I worked for did a kind of CMS duel between a few FOSS packages and a few commercial packages. One of the commercial packages (Cascade) came out far, far ahead in terms of meeting all the "needs" and "wants" on our project checklist. No FOSS package came close. A local developer proposed to develop custom extensions for the FOSS project so that it would meet our need, but the cost seemed silly, and the idea of supporting customized code long-term seemed silly too. (especially since that FOSS project was expected to have a major leap in version in the following year)

    • by thepike (1781582) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:23PM (#33899932)

      But if the two are essentially the same as far as features are concerned, most bosses will default to the commercial version and will need to be convinced that the open software is just as good an option. That could be the case here; either would do the job so why not go with FOSS?

    • Re:Wrong order (Score:2, Insightful)

      by port23user (216744) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:25PM (#33899956) Homepage

      This is right on the mark. As an employee, you're ethically obligated to help the company make the best decision for the company. It's not your place to decide to promote open source for the sake of open source.

      This doesn't mean that open source is bad. You (and your manager) should objectively identify the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.

      • Re:Wrong order (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @05:17PM (#33900680) Homepage Journal

        This is right on the mark. As an employee, you're ethically obligated to help the company make the best decision for the company. It's not your place to decide to promote open source for the sake of open source.

        There are a lot - a lot - of people who feel that Free Software is inherently superior to its proprietary cousins, and those people believe they're helping their company by advocating it.

        Whether you agree with them is a different issue, of course. That doesn't change the fact that they're acting in their employer's best interests from their perspective.

        Personally, after spending the last several years trying to help my company pry itself loose from the proprietary EOLed products it depends on, I'm very sympathetic to the idea that Free Software is inherently better. Unless a proprietary product is clearly, unarguably better suited to our needs, I'll support the Free alternative every time. From experience, I know which one will be easier to support (or migrate cleanly away from) 5 years down the road.

    • Re:Wrong order (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dancindan84 (1056246) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33900054)
      Exactly. You don't convince them. The software should convince them. Go through the pros and cons of each (features, cost, support, interoperability, scalability) and let them decide.

      After that, IF the OSS product is superior and they're scared of the OSS boogieman enough to go with an inferior product after you've clearly outlined everything, you probably aren't going to be able to change their mind.
      • Re:Wrong order (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AmberBlackCat (829689) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:16PM (#33902196)
        I installed OpenOffice at a church. The large chemically unbalanced woman, who was in charge of the computer, threw some kind of fit about how it was different from Microsoft Office. The head of the church gave me a talk about how we were getting something free instead of getting what was best. I went on about how there were things Microsoft Office did that OpenOffice didn't, but no one in the church was using Microsoft Office for those things, or even aware of those things. That didn't help. Finally, one of the trustees was also a high level employee at a local enterprise. He used his company discount to get them a new copy of Microsoft Office for $140 and gave me a talk about how much money they saved. They all gave themselves a great big pat on the back.
    • by davev2.0 (1873518) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33900060)
      Also, if one convinces one's boss to go with a FOSS solution and it fails, guess where the blame will fall.
    • Re:Wrong order (Score:4, Insightful)

      by kiwimate (458274) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:35PM (#33900102) Journal

      Hear hear!

      For those with experience in each, what argument could be made in favor of Plone to managers interested in pragmatism rather than idealism?

      If the questioner doesn't actually already have some compelling arguments in favor of this particular solution, then he is making his choice based on idealism instead of pragmatism.

      Do an honest evaluation based on criteria that are important to your organization (including upfront cost, ongoing support, etc) and see what wins. Use a scoring spreadsheet or a decision making tool. You may decide that "open source vs. closed source" counts for 5% of your overall evaluation grade. Adherence to functional requirements may count for another 30%. NFR a further 15%. Whatever. That will produce your compelling arguments in favor of the better tool, and in an open, honest, and transparent manner.

    • Re:Wrong order (Score:3, Insightful)

      by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:41PM (#33900196)

      You've obviously decided which piece of software you want to recommend even though the only reason you can think of to recommend it is that it is FOSS?

      Keep in mind that the blade cuts in both directions. There's this tenancy to paint any FOSS advocate as a zealot and the Proprietary side as "best tool for the job" pragmatists. However, there is zealotry to be found in the proprietary world as well to include strong biases and ignorance towards OSS products. You touched on this with noting "if your boss is actively against FOSS" but I think the point is worth stressing.

    • by aeoo (568706) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:45PM (#33900248) Journal

      To be fair, closed source has all the disadvantages and no advantages over FOSS.

  • A good choice (Score:3, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:02PM (#33899628)
    Protection against lock-in is something employers understand the value of.
    • Re:A good choice (Score:4, Insightful)

      by cptdondo (59460) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:17PM (#33899848) Journal

      No they don't. We use a proprietary, closed source "ticket management system" for lack of a better word. This thing is horrid; it has no recordkeeping, no search to speak of, no customization.... I could go on. We also have no direct access to the database; all we can get is a CD of what are essentially static pages of a particular issue.

      It's also pretty close to being abandoned. No new licenses are sold and no new features are being added; the whole thing is in maintenance mode.

      They jumped the subcription about 6 fold last year. I argued strenuously for something like RT, even worked out the cost of adding our needed features - 1/10 of the cost of the annual subscription of the proprietary product.

      No dice. Not windows based, not supported by a major vendor, not approved by MS.

      They're back to evaluating other, closed source, proprietary, locked in systems. So basically some people never learn.

      I washed my hands of the whole deal when I was told "That's not how we do enterprise" as a response to my suggestion to use FOSS.

      • Re:A good choice (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bhcompy (1877290) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:36PM (#33900114)
        After working for a decade in tech support, the best "ticket management system" (aka CRM) I've seen is Clarify. Closed source, but leagues better than anything else closed, OSS, or other(and I've used Goldmine, SalesLogix, and others). There is nothing wrong with closed source if it's just better.
    • by gorzek (647352) <gorzek.gmail@com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:45PM (#33900256) Homepage Journal

      What are you talking about? Companies love lock-in. They like knowing there is a phone number they can call and always get support. They like buying software from a company that's been around 30 years, so that when they are still using the same version of the same crappy program 15 years from now, they can be pretty sure help for their hilariously obsolete software is just a phone call or email away.

      Granted, they eventually feel the pain of being on an ancient system that they have no way to migrate away from, but support is still a huge factor. Right or wrong, open source communities in general don't seem to have a lot of interest in supporting really old versions of anything. In a corporate setting, it is not always possible to follow the advice, "do an upgrade." Enterprise software is often supported for many years even if you don't upgrade. You might have to pay a premium for that support but the point is that you can make a phone call and get help because you are paying for it. Ah, the wonder of support/maintenance contracts.

      "But wait!" you say, "If it's open source, you can fix problems yourself! You can even maintain your piddly-ass ancient version of the program!" Very true. However not all (probably not even most) organizations are equipped to do this. What if you're not a development shop or you have too few developers to spare any of them to maintain some old program no one understands the inner workings of? The source code is basically useless to you unless you have the time, manpower, and available skills to modify it. And there may or may not be anyone to contact for support.

      Your average midsize-to-large corporation considers "vendor lock-in" a security blanket. They want support. They want a contractually-established level of service. They want a real organization they can call, not a bunch of anonymous developers on the Internet who may or may not feel like answering posts to their mailing list.

      I love free/open source software, but let's not have illusions about why many companies don't want to use it for anything critical. There is a lot of fear and apprehension involved. A lot of it isn't rational but that doesn't mean there are no valid criticisms of FOSS as a model for supporting software. I don't argue that you can't develop great software in an open source fashion, but support can be very hit-or-miss, and good companies devote whole teams of people to providing world-class support for their applications--phone, email, even on-site assistance. How many FOSS groups can say the same?

  • by stimpleton (732392) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:03PM (#33899634)
    I speak only from my works own dynamics - If opensource software was to appear on work machines(lets say an open office variant) it would last as long as one of our managers receiving a docx from some outside manager with fancy things(annotations, drawings) and the ensuing discussions as they work out they are not looking at the same thing. The manifestation for me it the manager would turn up at my desk with his "look of death" and the question would begin "Can you tell me why...." Been there, done that. The whole thing falls like a deck of cards.
    • by seebs (15766) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:09PM (#33899716) Homepage

      That would be a totally coherent or relevant comment in an alternate universe where the question had to do with a replacement for MS Word. Please tell us how you get to that universe, so we can loot their alternate technology to improve our own.

      In short, "let's say an open office variant" is a pure non-sequitur, because "competition for MS Word" is a field where compatibility is widely imagined to be important. (Note: I've had a lot of trouble with compatibility between MS Word and MS Word -- in fact, more than I've had between MS Word and OpenOffice.) We're talking about a tool for internal use, at which point, all that matters is its compatibility with itself -- it's not something that other people send you stuff for. And, even if it were, the chances that the commercial one is an effective monopoly aren't high.

      MS Word is really a very special case, and no example based on it is likely to be relevant to other cases.

      FWIW, we use Foswiki at work these days, I think, and we're pretty happy with it. Search is sorta frustrating, though -- it really does need someone keeping it maintained.

  • FLOSS weekly 137 (Score:5, Informative)

    by keith_nt4 (612247) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:06PM (#33899670) Journal
    I haven't used either system but the podcast FLOSS weekly recently did a whole episode [twit.tv] about PLONE that may help you decide if it is right you.
  • Confluence (Score:3, Interesting)

    by C_Kode (102755) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:07PM (#33899674) Journal

    Confluence integrates with Jira. I like and can't argue against it.

    I've never used Plone, but as the old cliché goes, best tool for the job.

    • Re:Confluence (Score:4, Informative)

      by Zero1za (325740) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:15PM (#33899802)

      Also, strictly speaking, Confluence IS open source, it's just not FOSS. You get access to the source code with your license, and as long as you keep your license up to date, you can download the source for the latest version at any time. If at some point you decide not to pay for support, their license allows you to keep working with what you have, binary or source. I think Atlassian as a company have taken a very enlightened approach to this issue, and I have no qualms in paying for their excellent software. Most of the issues I would have with closed source proprietary solutions are not an issue. You are free to tinker, just not redistribute, and they give you the insurance policy, in source code, that you can keep going should there ever be an issue with them as a company.

  • by MeanMF (631837) * on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#33899774) Homepage
    Atlassian makes the source for all of their products available to anybody who buys a license. It doesn't cost anything extra, and even the $10 starter licenses come with full source.
  • by apdyck (1010443) <aaron@p@dyck.gmail@com> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#33899778) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps the question you should be asking is, cost aside, which would better suit your needs? Sure FOSS is great but if there is a better fit for your needs and someone else is going to foot the bill, who are you to say that management is looking in the wrong direction? I, for one, believe that there is a place for both commercial and FOSS in the business (and in the home for that matter). Perhaps a cost-benefit analysis needs to be done. Ultimately the decision needs to suit the needs of the business and not the ideals of the employees.
  • by WhiteDragon (4556) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:13PM (#33899780) Homepage Journal

    Plone is a CMS, Confluence is a wiki. Incedentally, both products are quite good. I used Confluence at a previous job and it is a very nice wiki. We used it because of it's tight integration with Jira, an issue tracking system by the same software vendor.

  • by Bicx (1042846) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:14PM (#33899790)
    So are you saying you would rather have your boss make the idealistic decision? When it comes to business software, pragmatism reigns. It's the responsible thing to do.
    • by Interoperable (1651953) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33900058)

      I'd agree with that. You should make the recommendation based on which piece of software is better suited to the task. The consensus of other posters seems to be that that isn't Plone. More generally, given two identical feature sets from a commercial and an open-source application, the argument of which to use in a business setting still shouldn't fall to idealism. You'd have to look at support and frequency of updates. An open-source project with a large community may well be suitable but a smaller project might not be.

  • by funkman (13736) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:16PM (#33899836)

    The requirements sound like you need knowledge management system. Not a content management system.

    Of course that being said (without knowing the requirements), why wouldn't a wiki work? There are lots of wiki solutions available.

  • by PineHall (206441) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:18PM (#33899856)
    If you compare features, Plone easily wins [cmsmatch.com].
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:20PM (#33899894) Homepage

    This gets much less attention than it deserves:

    http://www.fsf.org/working-together/whos-using-free-software [fsf.org]

    Testimonies from Cern, NYSE, the EU, Wikipedia, and the US Department of Defense, plus another page of testimonies from individuals:

    http://www.fsf.org/working-together/profiles/meet-the-free-software-community [fsf.org]

  • by Phoenix666 (184391) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:21PM (#33899898)

    I know this isn't one of your stated options, but ModX 2.0 is worth a look. It's so well optimized for SEO that we cloned our site in it as a test, switched it on, and within a week its organic search ranking was just under the original that we pay $40K/mo. in paid search to promote.

  • K.I.S.S of death (Score:2, Interesting)

    by drsmack1 (698392) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:23PM (#33899936)
    Keep it simple stupid - there is the old saying that no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft.

    What never gets added is that people have gotten fired for going above and beyond to advocate for FOSS and then got fired when there was a show-stopping problem (which can happen no matter what new scheme you bring in).

    FOSS has it's time and place, but *you* sticking your neck out trying to jam in FOSS into an environment that is not culturally ready for it is just asking for being the center of a CYA shitstorm.

    I'm guessing that a bunch of people on slashdot have been severely stung from drinking the kool-aid. It hurts the company, the boob that was a advocate instead of a advisor, and most of all it hurts FOSS.

    Don't push, FOSS will get there on it's own schedule.
  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedyNO@SPAMtpno-co.org> on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:26PM (#33899960) Homepage

    If you want to make a solid business case, you need to approach it objectively; what option will cost the least, in the short, medium and long term?

    Maybe it's OSS, maybe it's not. But drop your bias right now before you research associated costs.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:27PM (#33899984) Homepage

    I have been all up and down that road. Cost isn't the only consideration. Accountability isn't the only consideration. Perception is often the most important consideration. Think of the difference between an H2 and a really nice pickup truck. If you think an H2 is a Humvee, you would be wrong! The construction of an H2 is a lot like a pickup truck. But the perception that the H2 is a civilian Humvee remains. So, people kept buying those stupid, over-priced pickup trucks thinking they were something they were not.

    People also think that commercial software comes with "accountability behind it." Well, that depends on your contract with the vendor and if anyone has read an EULA, they will tell you that they make no guarantees about suitability or applicability or reliability. They take no responsibility for data loss or any loss at all resulting from the use of their products... it goes on and on and on... you buy it, you get to use it, but if anything bad happens, they will be happy to send you a copy of the EULA with yellow highlighter indicating the relevant disclaimers. But somehow, business people have it in their heads that "they have someone to sue if things go bad." (All that said, some sate laws do enable accountability despite the EULA... "void where prohobited.")

    And as far as cost goes? "ROI" doesn't calculate so well when the I = 0. It confuses people. If you want F/OSS in your company, get a vendor to sell it to you as a support contract.

  • Errr.... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kaffiene (38781) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:28PM (#33900000)

    Actually, I'd go with Confluence. It's not OSS, but it's and awesome Wiki. Choose what's the best tool for the job, not what suits your religion.

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:31PM (#33900022) Homepage
    It's baffling that the question is posed that way so often. For a rational businessperson, the question is really:

    What argument could be made in favor of paying for a software package when one of equal or greater value can be had for free?"
  • Confluence is better (Score:3, Interesting)

    by abigor (540274) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:32PM (#33900038)

    1. Written in Java, which means you're more likely to have on-site language expertise in case something goes seriously awry (you get the source when you buy a license).

    2. Lots of support available, as it's the most popular enterprise wiki system.

    3. Integrates with SharePoint, which for many places is a must-have.

    Basically, Atlassian focuses on the enterprise market, and it shows. Best tool for the job, etc.

  • by div_2n (525075) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33900062)

    I've used Plone as a CMS in a company before and here's what I can tell you.

    Plone security works great especially if you fine tune it. For example, you are definitely going to want to think about going in and tweaking what happens when documents move to different publishing states. I tweaked the "Publish External" to have the same privileges as internal publishing because for us, there was no such thing as external publishing since it was an internet facing company intranet and client extranet.

    You will also want to proxy your access behind Apache if this is going to be internet facing.

    Plone has a great ability to version files. Unless, of course, they are large files. IIRC, anything greater than 32MB causes versioning to fail. I know you can get around this by using external storage (external to the PloneDB) and I think they made it easier with version 4 that was just released, but I haven't tried Plone 4.

    Plone is written in python, so if you want to build your own plugins, you are going to have to learn it. The built-in DB is like nothing I've ever seen and is not relational in any meaningful way that I saw, so if you ever have any ideas of doing something relational with it (i.e. a trouble ticketing system), you are going to have to use an external database for your plugin.

    WebDAV works great in Plone. Versioning with it does not. Pick either versioning or WebDAV access for a folder.

    Oh and unless things have changed, you cannot (AFAIK) do file level restores from backups. It is an all or nothing affair. You CAN restore to a test environment and then export an individual object to import on your live instance. For most issues of accidental deletion, you can recover from the management back-end though.

    Like any solution, you will have lots of customization in front of you if what comes out of the box isn't sufficient for your needs. Depending on how dirty you want to get your hands with it, the learning curve can be gentle or very very steep.

  • by Americano (920576) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:33PM (#33900066)

    Here's how you SHOULD be approaching it:
    1) Gather requirements from your key stakeholders - the people who will use it daily, the people who will administer the systems, and the people who will write the checks to fund the effort. (users, admins, managers) - define the use cases the tool needs to support.
    2) Survey the available solutions and generate a list of the top solutions that appear to satisfy your requirements - this is your list of tools to investigate.
    3) If you have time, do a hands-on proof of concept with each, or at least try to get some time poking around the live system, perhaps with a vendor demo.
    4) Evaluate the PoC's against your list of requirements, and also pay attention to usability, maintainability, support costs, licensing costs, reliability, and fault tolerance concerns.
    5) Compare how each one fares across all categories, and decide which gives you better value for your dollar - in other words, which is the better investment for your company.
    6) Purchase a copy of that tool, and implement a pilot. Try to get the vendor to provide you with additional support during your pilot phase, or at least free licenses until the system goes live.
    7) Work out the bugs in the pilot, then roll it out across your company.

    If Plone can't stand on its own merits against Confluence, then you are sacrificing your own professional credibility and the best interests of your company and users to push an ideological agenda, and you will (rightfully) earn the derision and scorn of the people you are supposed to be supporting. If Plone is a solid piece of software - I'm not suggesting it isn't, I'm just not familiar with it - then it will probably emerge the winner in an evaluation.

    And to all the people saying "just tell them it's free," since when is the cost of licensing a major component of the overall cost of supporting the software over its lifetime? The "free" system might be less stable and require a lot more (or higher-cost) support personnel to keep it running, and you need to take that into account if you're going to ask your company to invest a lot of money, time and effort into rolling out a new business system like this.

  • by immakiku (777365) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:36PM (#33900108)

    The choice is never straight-forward. From a business perspective, it is often easier to go with a commercial solution rather than a stand-alone FOSS product for the same reason people rather invest in a hedge-fund rather some random high-yield bet: risk. If something breaks, there's someone else responsible for fixing it in a timely manner. It's also the reason Red Hat is able to make a business off free software.

    The main things you want to look at when considering your options include: feature set (is one option missing features), support (does the commercial company have a good record for supporting their feature? does the FOSS solution come with some kind of paid support service?), and reliability of the software itself.

  • by mykos (1627575) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:37PM (#33900144)
    I've been trying to get my employer to switch from expensive Adobe Robohelp for years to some open source wiki software. We spend six figures on licensing every couple of years.

    Their response is "well there's no guarantee that the software will continue to be updated."

    For what Robohelp costs, we could keep an IT person on full-time who could customize the software to our needs and make adjustments or add features in realtime.

    The problem with bigger companies is the same problem as objects with a lot of mass...it takes a lot more energy to change their direction than to change the direction of a smaller one.
  • by Qubit (100461) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:42PM (#33900212) Homepage Journal

    If you think you can appeal to the guy on the basis of FOSS vs. proprietary software, then do it.

    If you think there's a money angle (on initial cost, or on continued maintenance costs), then make it.

    If there are things that Plone offers that Confluence does not, make a bullet list of those items.

    If you're going to be the one maintaining this thing, spend a Saturday setting an install up in a VM so you can tell your boss all about how you already know how to use this tool. Human costs are often much greater than software costs, so if he thinks that the two offer roughly similar feature sets, your prior knowledge of the tool may tip the scales.

  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @04:55PM (#33900386)
    We use Confluence at work (as well as a bunch of other tools from Atlassian). It's ok, but it's search functionality has much to be desired (at least it's not as bad as JIRA's search functionality). What's wrong with using MediaWiki (the engine behind Wikipedia)?
  • by rtechie (244489) on Thursday October 14, 2010 @07:03PM (#33902028)

    Your real question is:

    Convincing Your Employer To Go With Plone?

    The answer to this depends on how good your organization is with Zope/Python. If you have onsite developers with Zope knowledge (who can support Plone), Plone is a no-brainer. And if you have developers familiar with other OOS software like Java, you have plenty of other products to choose from:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Open_source_content_management_systems [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.cmsmatrix.org/ [cmsmatrix.org]

    If you don't have any onsite development staff, the value proposition of OSS/Plone goes down because you will presumably have to hire someone to run it.

    Frankly, that's what I would stress. If this is a large enough project you're going to have to hire someone to run it anyway. You can save on software costs by hiring someone who knows Plone.

    If you're not hiring new staff it boils down to who within your organization is running the CMS and what THEY want. Most other considerations are relatively trivial. The more "out of the box" they need the software to be, the more that leans towards a proprietary solution. They might also want to be able to have a vendor to complain to and to provide direct support, again, proprietary has an edge here.

    Popularity also factors in. I don't really know how popular Plone is, but Confluence is really popular. That means there will be lots of online resources (forums, FAQs, etc.) for Confluence that you might not find for Plone.

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