Today is my last day on the road until I head to Asia in ten days, and during that time I’ve had a great time talking to people on both coasts of North America and different parts of Europe. During one particularly good conversation today someone said that the IT world changes a lot in six months and overwhelmingly in five years. Thus change is the status quo versus having a very static situation for a long time. This means, and I again paraphrase the person to whom I was speaking, that when you talk to a software provider you need to ask him or her about the features in their product that will eventually allow you to rip it out and replace it with something else. Those features are open standards.
This means that if you have software that integrates with other software and uses proprietary trade secrets to do so, you are in trouble. This means that if you are relying on de facto standards and there is really only one implementation, you are in trouble. This means that if you committed to a product that critically uses a vendor-dictated standard, you are in trouble, especially if you could have chosen an open alternative.
Open standards break the link between information and the original application that was used to create and put it in some kind of format for later retrieval.
This means that different departments can use different applications from different providers, either proprietary or open source. This means that you are future-proofing part of your environment and are not placing all your bets with a single provider, either proprietary or open source. This means that at some point you’re going to look really smart when you have the flexibility to substitute in new software that may have better usability features, or is more reliable, secure, or faster, and still use your old data. This means you have reserved choice and control for yourself. Good job.