Open source in an economic downturn

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We are in an economic downturn, perhaps even a full-blown recession. Any doubts I had about that were removed by two related, recent phenomena.

The first is that whenever I walk down a high street I see almost every single retailer involved in near permanent 'sales'. Looking into the figures confirms the picture - sales on the high street have fallen for four of the past five months.

The second is that high street retailers are now deep in conversations with Open Source companies. Some, like Specsavers, are so far into migrating to Open Source that they are essentially running on it end-to-end. Retail's economic challenges will soon be everyone's.

We all know that with profit margins of 10% it takes £10 of sales to generate £1 of profit. As sales continue to fall, even those in the relatively comfortable position of 10% profit margins have to look everywhere they can to cut costs - every £1 saved goes straight on the bottom line, and can make the difference between business survival or business failure.

In these circumstances the IT budget is one of the first places to come under scrutiny, and most IT departments are coming under increasing pressure to save every penny.

And there is a particular lack of grace to the position the IT department finds itself in - not only is it's own budget falling, but the proprietary vendors with which it deals need to ensure their own survival during a recession, and I'll let you imagine how flexible those providers will be in price negotiations if they are in a monopoly position and know you have no choice.

Open Source software has many virtues, but one above all others is suited to the current economic environment - it enables you to strategically cut costs more than any other IT tool available to you.

When I say strategically, what I mean by that is simply this. There is an Open Source product that does the job of every single piece of software you are currently using in your business. You choose if you replace it, when you replace it, and how much of it you replace.

What is elegant about this is that Open Source fits in so well with proprietary software you can leave the rest of your IT systems undisturbed. You can create a strategic migration plan that delivers consistent cost savings over any time period you choose.

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