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Open source in plain English

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Much of the debate about open source has been in technical terms, or increasingly in political terms. I'm not criticising either approach, but I suspect many potential open source converts are left cold by discussions that border on the religious in their fervour. What many companies really need is a direct and clear discussion about the tangible benefits of open source, without the political baggage.

At heart, the arguments around open source are simple. They are about cost, and they are about how to give an organisation the freedom and flexibility to run its IT for itself. It's about escaping the world where the tail wags the dog, and reclaiming the agenda to make technology serve your goals.

Look at your own organisation, and you'll see that IT consists of three broad groups: hardware, software and the "know-how" that makes it all work. It has been said that "IT doesn't matter", and increasingly, that's true. The purpose of IT is to serve the goals of the organisation, not the other way round.

We don't create IT systems for their own sake; we create them to communicate internally and externally; to create, manage and store our documents; to help run our organisations; to gain control of our finances and accounts. If we can do all this while figuring out how to do it better and reduce our costs, we are meeting the economic imperative of doing business.

The first part of the IT equation — hardware.

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