This is a tricky topic for me.
It's not tricky because of the concept of open source itself. I've been a huge proponent of open source for the last 10 years. The large majority of products and tools that I use day to day are open source or built on mostly open source technologies.
And we have already begun to open source components of our system as we modularize and separate off single units.
But our main product Buster, as a whole, is not a piece of open source technology as of now. I'm familiar with the huge list of benefits from generating a community of developers that we are missing out on at the moment, but let me tell you about our short list of reasons for not doing it (yet).
Customer Satisfaction and Control
Open source software can be wonderful in the sense that it can hand you a product so you can go off and do what you wish with it. This is fantastic for software developers and experienced businesses owners.
But when trying to design a product that is naturally easier to use because the existing systems out there are too complex (i.e. ERP and business development systems today), bad open source implementations can burn customers. Unvetted implementers can pick up any open source product, market their services, and convince customers to allow them to implement for any price.
There's of course some benefit to that, but I do not want the name of our product to be associated with a horrible experience that a customer went through with a careless implementer.
Licensing and Copyright
We are a young company who currently doesn't have the resources to handle misuse of the open source project itself or misuse of our copyright built into the project.
I want to strictly stay focused on our customers and our product as this point.
Simplicity and Avoiding Confusion
The product Buster was grown because of the lack of simple ERP software systems for small to medium sized businesses. The majority of my time is thinking about how to organize a product and business that is as simple and easy to use as possible.
This spreads to pricing strategies as well. I have struggled to design a scenario where our customers and potential customers do not get confused between the services offered by Buster and the hypothetical open source version of the software. I have seen open source systems that have the most complicated pricing of any product out there. They design it to include user licenses, per feature/per app pricing, multiple tiers ranging from community to enterprise, and then separation of support, implementation, and billing between the company who builds the product and the implementers.
It makes my head hurt even thinking about the spider web of options put in front of a 10-20 employee business in the Midwest who just wants to get off of spreadsheets and access databases. We can't put that on our customers.
To the future
I'm thinking about strategies for open sourcing the large majority of our product because of the huge number of benefits that we're missing out on right now, but we have to be able to handle these concerns first. I'm looking forward to that day coming soon.
Thanks for reading
Appreciate you reading this.
If you're feeling extra nice today, give us a follow on LinkedIn or Twitter to stay up to date with stories and updates about my business, or try out the free trial of our business management software.
Holden, Founder of Buster Technologies