Can open-source professional services work?

I’ve been thinking about whether the concepts of peer production and open-source could be implemented within services based industries, such as professional services and business consulting. What would this do to the overall impact of those industries? I quite often see the impact of digital disruption, positive and negative, to the delivery of services and it really makes me think as to how services-based industries can respond (and win!) One of the ways to respond may be to introduce digital business models, such as peer production and open-source, to the way that services based organisations compete.

Open source professional services

Open source professional services

Frameworks & methods

A lot of services companies think that their frameworks, methods, and models are completely unique and give them a particular competitive advantage. Please don’t get me wrong, some of these frameworks and methods are unique, have withstood the test of time and do have real tangible value. I’m certainly not suggesting that all frameworks and methods don’t have value nor a reason for being. However, some frameworks & methods, might actually be limiting an organisations’ competitiveness as rigid structures and repeatable processes can ironically limit learning cultures.

Open-source services

I recall the story of when IBM started using Linux as one of their Operating Systems and began contributing to the Open Source development practices of Linux and Apache. I can just imagine how difficult those board room and/or executive level conversations were within IBM about whether they should participate in the open-source community. Yet, in the fullness of time, most people would now view this decision as a sound strategy. This raises a few key questions.

  • Is there value in peer production, mass-collaboration and open-source communities within services organisations? And who would, or could, capture this value?
  • What if services organisations were to move the level of competition from their IP, frameworks & methods to customer experience & client outcomes?
  • How and which frameworks could a services based organisation move into an open-source community?
  • Would this increase their ability to develop learning cultures and create a sustainable competitive advantage?

Learning at scale

The change in our institutions from “efficiency at scale” to “learning at scale” is driving major changes in the structure, resources and alignment of our organisations. See My view is that the organisations that adapt (and continually learn) the fastest, will ultimately be the most successful. I think there is a place for peer production and open-source models within services organisations. The question is where are the best used and how do they contribute to creating learning cultures? What do you think?

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