Is collaborative work just a buzz word, or is it a productivity factor, unleashed by the open source movement ?

Original version of Medhitech's 2003-2004 guide, by Paul Everitt and David Sapiro.

Open source is a rapid development process in which all developers can see and modify software. While open source is driving the development critical infrastructure, it also is influencing the way we collaborate and approach information technology. One such market is content management, in which large groups of diverse contributors author and organize a company's information.

The move to faster teams

Just as the PC replaced the mainframe, Internet-driven collaboration systems are replacing large-scale, corporate approaches to information management. Companies can see that big systems, with large costs and long project schedules, are being replaced by faster projects with early paybacks.

While big is being replaced by fast, top-down is being replaced by bottom-up. Large-scale messaging systems, like Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes, are managed like the mainframe systems of years past. And just like the PC revolution. small workgroups want the empowerment of their own systems.

With the advent of a commodity platform based on Internet technologies, these workgroups now have an alternative. The "big design" of tightly-coupled technologies, like COM and CORBA, are switching to the loosely-coupled model of web services, peer-to-peer, and weblogs.

Open source gives the last piece needed for faster teams. Not only do you have commodity, Internet-based technologies, but you also avoid the procurement process. Download, develop, and start collaborating.

Trends point to open source collaboration

The move to open source is part of larger trends in the software industry. Open source embraces these ideas -- fast instead of big, bottom-up instead of top-down, and open collaboration -- on a very large scale. People from different continents, who have never met and certainly aren't in the same company, all working together on professional-quality software.

For companies, open source adds one more valuable piece to the collaboration puzzle. You directly join a global community of talented people. The value of this is immense.

Organizations still need central value

When mainframes gave way to PCs, companies still needed to connect the individuals into networks. The same is true for Internet-driven collaboration. Companies need to balance individual empowerment with the requirements of workflow, security, metadata, archiving, and more.

This is the world of content management. One industry analyst said that in 2002 that 80% of all information in an organiation is unstructured content. Another reported that ""content management continues to emerge as the preferred way of empowering individual users across companies to create, capture, approve and manage the lifecycle of all types of critical business content."

The challenge is in balancing the "cathedral" of content mangement with the "bazaar" of Internet-driven collaboration. Open source provides one answer to this challenge.

The lessons of open source collaboration

This is the experience that open source brings to collaboration and content management. Open source systems such as Cocoon, Midgard, PostNuke, Zope, and Wyona have dramatically changed the content management market. In fact, systems like Zope, and the Plone CMS based on it, prove that collaboration can be used in building content management.

Hundreds of developers in over 20 countries work together to create a professional-quality enterprise system for content management. The tool itself is used in the development. This experience is part of the value that businesses can get from open source collaboration and content management.

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