Open source collaboration

December 20, 2007

The FOSS community is a beacon of collaboration. What surprises me is that there haven’t been any real hardcore collaboration software created (though the community does so much of it!).

There have been several posts of late about the kind of collaboration software available in the open source domain. One slashdot post went on to say that there weren’t any good alternatives to Outlook + exchange combo, esp for calendaring.

In the open source world, there seems to be a lot of activity happening. I am hoping I can get at least one word out about each of the things happening.

I thought I listing all the major projects going on, but I was beaten to it. Here is a list of collaboration software. Since we have the list with us, there are a few companies I have looked at and thus will talk about.

In the collaboration market, we know of Zimbra – this project started to create a web based collaboration suite and they succeeded. Yahoo! bought them for quite a significant $350 mil! This goes to show there is quite some zest in the market.

Other players in the league are Scalix – the Exchange Killer.

We are seeing lots of action on the Chandler Project. There are others like SOGo, which are working on the TBird and Lightening combination.

From what I have heard, SUN is showing a lot of interest towards Thunderbird and trying to make it compatible with Openoffice. How that pans out would be great to see.

And for all you web only afficionados, Ulteo has done something wonderful with Openoffice – take it completely online and added collaborative document editting features. So the open source brigade seem to be gearing up to take on the big guys: M$ Office + Exchange + Outlook, Lotus Domino series.

What seems to be the best part about the FOSS projects is that there are a few that also help do what a Sharepoint does. Wouldn’t it be great to have a piece of software that combines most used features of Outlook + collaborativeness of Sharepoint but be a completely platform independant open source software. Would you bet on such a software? Would you be willing to pay for it?

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An interesting discussion – the introduction of BRPs

December 16, 2007

As I said, I would be quoting a few people. I have been trying to find the link to Hugh Macleod’s post about SAP and Thingamy in which there is a cool discussion about ERP (Easily Repeatable Processes) and BRP (Barely Repeatable Processes). Unfortunately, somehow I am not able to. Here is the text of that post:

For the last couple of years I’ve been a very minor shareholder in my friend, Sigurd Rinde’s ERP software company, Thingamy.

Not being the ERP business, Sig doesn’t tell me much about what’s going on with Thingamy. Seems to me he has spent the last year or so mainly in his cave, tinkering away.

Then suddenly I’m noticing a whoosh of thought-provoking activity in the blogosphere.

1. First, Sigurd posts about the difference between ERP [ he calls it, “Easily Repeatable Processes”] and what he calls BRP [“Barely Repeatable Processes”}:

I. The Easily Repeatable Process (ERP for me)Processes that handles resources, from human (hiring, firing, payroll and more) to parts and products through supply chains, distribution and production. The IT systems go under catchy names like ERP, SCM, PLM, SRM, CRM and the biggest players are as we know SAP and Oracle plus a long roster of smaller firms.

[…]

II. The Barely Repeatable Process (BRP)

Typically exceptions to the ERPs, anything that involves people in non-rigid flows through education, health, support, government, consulting or the daily unplanned issues that happens in every organisation. The activities that employees spend most of their time on every day. Processes that often starts with an e-mail or a call. A process volume, measured by time and resource spent at organisations, probably larger than for the Easily Repeatable Processes.

2. Then I notice our mutual friend, James Governor picking up on it:

According to Sig, ERP actually stands for Easily Repeatable Process: “Processes that handle resources, from human (hiring, firing, payroll and more) to parts and products through supply chains, distribution and production. Known to be rigid, but handle events and transactions with precision and in volume. Systems deliver value through extensive reports and full control over resources. Resource oriented, transactional, event driven systems. Delivered by system vendors with roots in accounting using up to 25 year old technological solutions.” But Sigurde is far more interested in the Barely Repeatable Process (BRP): “Typically exceptions to the ERPs, anything that involves people in non-rigid flows [like] the daily unplanned issues that happen in every organisation. The activities that employees spend most of their time on every day. Processes that often start with an e-mail or a call.

3. Then it seems the former Editor of Harvard Business Review, Nick Carr has picked up on it, as well:

Governor quotes Doug Merritt, a guy from SAP who apparently has been up in the alps with Sig recently: “I don’t worry about IBM and Oracle. I worry about Google, Amazon, and Facebook.” Then again, Merritt says, “the ‘consumer’ companies haven’t fully realised the change that’s upon us yet.” Bingo twice over. You need the BRP for the people and you need the ERP for the institution – and you need them tied together in a seamless web-wise bundle with a pretty ribbon that doesn’t scream “software!” at you. Governor thinks the twain shall meet in SAP’s upcoming offerings. “SAP delivering 37Signals ad-hoc collaboration with real enterprise process data and objects is sexy,” he says: “‘Wow. We only just hooked up – and you’re going to let me see your … purchase order …’”

So what’s going on? Is there some kind of new paradigm I don’t know about? Is BRP the future of whatever? Is SAP trying to long-term outflank of Microsoft and Oracle? I have no idea. Sig won’t tell me one way or the other, mainly because of the relatively high volume of readers I get on my blog, as he simply doesn’t want too many people finding out too much about Thingamy too quickly.

Interestingly enough, there does seem to be a strong pattern emerging here! My thought about these barely repeatable processes (BRPs) is that it is a clever new term coined. It is but another word for tacit interaction within an organization. After all, that’s the reason we need tacit interaction to begin with. But to call them BRPs is to try to bring significant attention (of the software world) to this real and important issue.

In other worlds they call the same issue one of Enterprise Collaboration – multiple people working together – firefighting. I suppose they are trying to address the same issue but are looking at it differently.

With all due respect, this kind of reminds of the four blind men and the elephant. 🙂 Each man sees the world in the color of his glasses.