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Déjà vu: SAP buys SuccessFactors, customers feel in danger

I’m always surprised at how large companies are taking their IT politics too easily, and then are surprised by what happens.

Today, Josh Bersin (of Bersin & Associates, a great guy to follow: @Josh_Bersin) published an article on the plans by SAP to buy SuccessFactors (probably the leader in employees performance management software, at least in terms of completeness), and the fact that some customer of SuccessFactors was worried about support for important features being dropped.

It’s just the same old stuff repeating over and over again, and it’s why BeezNest has been pushing open source development forward since its creation: One CANNOT rely on a single provider for critical IT infrastructure, even less when it offers a closed source software. When this provider dies, gets bought or otherwise changes direction, there will be nothing for you to do. At best, you’ll have a useless piece of software that you cannot upgrade, cannot fix, cannot improve, and on which you won’t be able to train people.

Using, supporting and co-developing an open source solution would ensure you’d always be able to take ownership of the software and/or find another provider willing to take over the task of maintaining the software. In the worst case scenario, if you find yourself with a bad provider, you’ll most probably be able to find another one or to migrate to another system, because most open source software uses open standards, so migrating your data is just about reading the docs and executing a simple migration.

As BeezNest starts developing its employee management software development skills in the next version of Chamilo LMS, I find it slightly frustrating to find myself aiming at medium-sized companies while our solution fits the larger ones, and with only 30% of the annual budget companies spend on these closed solutions, we could reach a similar level very quickly with open solutions. It certainly has something to do with the fact that we are not very present on the US market for now, and the US market is certainly the most active in employee management right now.

I hear many voices say that we, open source software providers, pretend to be capable of delivering large scale solutions when we are not. Think again. It’s pretty much like any company: there are reliable companies, and there are unreliable ones. Only the free software companies understand and adopt the way things change, much more so than conventional software companies. They are able to adapt quickly, are globally local and do not having the running costs of giant software businesses.

To them, I say we’ve already done the kind of things we pretend to be capable of, and that’s why we’re so sure about it. We’ve migrated companies and universities from proprietary software. We’ve made them save 100’s of thousands of dollars in closed software licenses and customized the software to their needs. We’ve also been able to do so improving our software regularly, in a sustainable fashion and at a tremendous scale (from 0 to 700,000 “public” users in just 18 months must be kind of a proof). Companies of up to 200,000 employees use our software for free too. Apparently our customers are quite happy about it. If you need a quote, send us an e-mail, I’d be pleased to have a skype conversation with you.

BeezNest is a company present in Belgium and Latin America, focused on the development of software and services based on free software. In the last 7 years, it has taken the leadership of the Chamilo LMS software and its ancestor, making it grow at a rapid pace amongst its free and non-free equivalents. BeezNest provides services to companies and universities in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain, Germany, New Caledonia, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela.

Chamilo LMS is a free software Learning Management System which empowers teachers and trainers with easy-to-use digital tools to increase the efficiency of their training and the availability of their training resources. With more then 700,000 people around the world using Chamilo, there remains only less than 25 countries which DO NOT use it. It is the first e-learning platform to have included a social network with friends and activity groups. It is highly internationalized, with translations to Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Quechua, French, English and many more languages. Chamilo can be tested freely at http://campus.chamilo.org

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