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OSS vs. Them: Redefining Your Competitive Model

Thanks to Tracy from OSP for sharing!

Cooperation is better than competition. The “Golden Age of Open Source,” with most of the web, embedded devices, and more running on Open Source Software (OSS), is the result of a lot of hard work and cooperation over the years. But we could use a reminder of this from time to time. Too often, open source projects see themselves as competitors, when actually, they should join forces more often to fight the real competition – proprietary software. Mathias Schreiber, the CEO of TYPO3 GmbH, the commercial arm of the open source enterprise TYPO3 CMS, had this in mind when he solicited collaboration from prominent open source evangelist and key figure in the Drupal community, Jeffrey A. “Jam” McGuire. At DrupalCon Baltimore 2017 and the TYPO3 Developer Days 2017 in Malmö, their message was that PHP projects are better off as collaborators than competitors.

It’s not just Drupal, WordPress, etc. who is your competition. They’re also open source. Be happy if they get a win. They can be happy when we get one, too. Instead of Schadenfreude at another CMS losing a project or dismay at losing one ourselves, we need to celebrate each other’s wins. We should be spreading the word about the value of open source solutions together.

Join us in Frankfurt to help spread the word about TYPO3 at the 2017 TYPO3 Marketing Sprint.

Sign up here for the TYPO3 Marketing Sprint 2017!

Not enough cake? Then get more cake.

We’re positioning ourselves wrong and competing wrong. Thinking that your market space is the “open source CMS space,” or even the overall “CMS space” is limiting your addressable market size, not your competition, explains Mathias. He continues with a charming metaphor, “You go to a birthday party, and you brought cake, right? Now there are more people than you anticipated were going to come. What do you do? You don't cut the slices smaller. You get more cake.” Getting more cake means redrawing the lines of your market space and making yourself a bigger one.

The open source CMS market is a small part of the whole $1.13 billion CMS web publishing market. And the entire web implementation business blows that out of the water at $2.6 billion – more than double the CMS market. Now tell me, do you want to fight over smaller and smaller slices of the open source CMS market, or do you want to carve out bigger slices of a market worth billions? ... Yep. Me, too.

Don’t just think or sell yourself in terms of delivering a CMS. TYPO3 CMS solves enterprise-level technical problems just as well as the proprietary competition. But the competition sells solutions to problems, marketers’ problems, business problems … not websites, not implementations of technical standards, not the nuts and bolts. And they are experiencing double-digit revenue growth on hundreds of millions in revenue because they don’t position themselves as a CMS; they are selling a better work day and higher productivity for their users and clients. Open-source-based solutions can do that, too … That’s us! We can do that, too!

Define the real enemy

If we define our market space as the entire web implementation business, we can see that we’re better off rallying with our fellow open source players to fight the real enemies: the proprietary software vendors where they run today. And we still have 50% of the web to conquer that is running no CMS at all!

Traditional management theory holds that we should understand who the competition is, carve out our unique position in the market, and use our resources to win against the competition. We – open source players – however, have the unique opportunity to combine resources to grow the size of the market and open source CMS adoption. According to a 2017 Harvard Business Review publication, “Collaboration has become a hot topic in recent years, and indeed, it offers organizations a host of benefits.” In open source, we can say we knew that all along. Let’s rethink who the enemy really is: vendor lock-in, hidden source code that we cannot test for security nor customise to our needs, and high fees for permission to see if a solution might work for us … proprietary software, not our fellow open source enterprise players.

Proprietary CMS deals – sold as marketing solutions or similar – run $500,000 and upwards in license fees alone. Jeffrey A. "Jam" McGuire asks rhetorically, “How much open-source could you deliver for a half a million dollars?” He continues, “You know what? That half a million on licenses is before we even figure out if that proprietary stuff is even going to work. With open-source, every dollar you spend goes to a feature.” That’s a huge competitive advantage you can pitch against the Adobes and Sitecores of this world. And hey, don’t you want to be doing half-million dollar deals, too?

Fight for a common cause

It turns out tens of thousands of developers and businesses are already collaborating building and improving shared open source technologies. TYPO3, Drupal, and many others are largely written in PHP, share 3rd-party external components like the Guzzle HTTP request library, manage dependencies with Composer, and fight the good fight for clean, testable, and reliable code by adopting common PHP interoperability standards. In all these ways, we’re already working together and making each other’s projects better. As Mathias puts it, “Maybe people don't know we're in competition, much like how Doctors Without Borders is competing with the Red Cross – we’re fighting for the same thing.”

We need to do more, though. We need to connect with more people. Win over marketers and IT managers in the business community and show them how we are solving the very problems they have in cost-efficient, sustainable ways. We need to collectively share with them the business value of owning your code and the business risks of vendor lock-in and all the rest.

How can I fight for OSS?

So when open source wins, we all win. And our open source community is a microcosm of the broader open source community. Collaboration is good – essential – for us, too. For every new TYPO3 installation, our community (and PHP, and OSS) benefit. The more we do to support this, the stronger (and bigger!) our community can be. So how can I do my part? Valuable ways to contribute to TYPO3 include sharing knowledge & mentoring, contributing code, participating in community events, and sharing stories.

Sharing stories? Yes! TYPO3 CMS has some significant – and possibly unique – technological and business advantages in the CMS landscape. Largely unknown outside of Europe, TYPO3 CMS has an opportunity to grow and eat proprietary players’ cake. One of these advantages the strong community behind it is you! You, your colleagues, your agency, your stories, and your successes are a powerful set of tools to help us position TYPO3 in the global market and grow adoption.

We’re hosting the next marketing sprint with the TYPO3 Association in Frankfurt on December 5th-7th, 2017 with the aim of enabling community members to tell more stories about the business value that TYPO3 is delivering. We’re setting up projects to highlight the TYPO3 community as experts for business stakeholder audiences. The more we do here, the more cake we get!

Join us in Frankfurt, help us tell the world about TYPO3 at the 2017 TYPO3 Marketing Sprint.

Sign up here for the TYPO3 Marketing Sprint 2017!


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