Advancing a culture of IT openness

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I’m going to go out on a limb here and quote a sentence from Wikipedia’s entry (here today, changed tomorrow, changed back the next day) on aspects of culture:

the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution, organization or group

What might this mean for you when we think about openness in IT?

First and foremost, I believe it says that an understanding of the value of and a preference for truly open standards must be both part of the policy of and inherent in the common practices of an IT organization. Technologists and IT administrators must live, breathe, think and reason in terms of open standards. They should feel repelled by dictated or faux-open specifications that were developed without balanced community involvement and innovation.

Second, a culture of IT openness must support the idea and use of open source software on a level playing field with traditional proprietary software. I understand that this is not enough for many people, but if we could get more IT users, especially governments at all levels, to give explicit parity to open source, we will have made huge strides.

At that point we can compare apples to apples, so to speak, when we look at software from different providers. Yes the TCO (total cost of ownership) models will vary, but ultimately the right software with the right services, if any, at the right total cost should win.

Openness in procurement models, again especially for governments, should further help people understand where software is being chosen on its merits and where, unfortunately, lock-in is being perpetuated by previous policies that helped extend market dominance at the cost of innovation, competition, and lower costs.

In a culture of IT openness, leaders in the organization set the tone and example for others to follow. Yes, they help to develop the policy but it is their personal commitment to openness that makes that core to the ways their organizations operate. Policy may spell out the details, but examples lead others to the appropriate behavior and, yes, cultural acceptance.

A culture of IT openness looks to the applications and use of information in the future, and does not keep us stymied by poor, closed practices of the past.


  1. On the other hand, the “Ones we love to compete with” are advocating ditching your open-standard browser and replacing it with IE8 .

    “Only with Internet Explorer 8 can you stand a chance of winning $10K”.

    It must be marketing dollars. But to what end ?

  2. Culture is everything when choosing a job, choosing to stay at a job and your success and happiness. I’ve seen dieing or incestuous cultures lose literally billions in work and destroy careers and even families. The company culture is the difference between a happy success and unbearable survival. Keep in mind one of Swanson’s Rules: “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter is not a nice person. This rule never fails.”

  3. Salary and prospects are significant, too.

    However, my understanding of the ‘Public Interest’ is that businesses should compete. Pres. Obama, and Gordon Brown, and the rest of the world’s leaders have every right to expect the IBM Lotus Notes salesman, and the Microsoft Office System salesman, to both come knocking on their doors selling the respective corporations’ products. Probably a number of other sales reps, too. And then they have a choice.

    It’s the fact of the choice that’s important, long term.

    It’s hard to remember that, when you’re in the middle of a corporation and on quota to sell, though.

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