Roadmap, or Roadblock?
by Jay Batson
I continually marvel at how much better the open source world works than the old proprietary software software world.
Yesterday I encountered an amazingly good illustration. I was discussing Drupal Commons with a team from a large, household-name enterprise that is planning a social business site. And boy, they had lots of questions!
Their business unit leaders, their IT staff, and their web designers all had some version of “Can Drupal Commons do (X)?”
Happily, I could answer either:
- Yes, X is built-in to Drupal Commons already;
- X can be had by merely installing an existing Drupal module available on drupal.org; or
- There’s no pre-built module, but you can have X quickly via adding a bit of custom code to the open source base.
I felt confident that a Drupal-based solution for this customer will satisfy nearly every requirement they had with either 1, 2, or 3.
But the interesting part is this: When we asked whether the competing vendors had feature X available, we heard (more than once):
“Well, it’s something (proprietary vendor) said is on their roadmap. We’ve heard it’s in their next release, but we’re not sure about that.”
And bang - it hit me: the proprietary vendor's roadmap was a roadblock for the customer at that moment, despite the bright future that the roadmap supposedly leads to. This sounded so familiar that I had to stifle a laugh; in my past I’ve worked many years in companies that sold proprietary software, and we always needed a product roadmap response when we lacked a feature. And the list of roadmap features that never got implemented - and thus blocked a customer’s business - would fill my laptop’s hard drive today.
My happy realization at that moment was that I will never need a Roadmap response in the open source (Drupal) world. If a customer absolutely positively needs something, the only delay in getting it is the time it takes to get a programmer to implement it - either directly from Acquia, or from the staggeringly vast population of open source Drupal programmers.
Wow. What a difference! No roadmap (roadblock) promise required. No roadblocks for customers, ever again.
The other thing that hit me was that in the proprietary software world, the roadmap is always influenced by the biggest customer deal in the sales pipeline. If a big enough check comes in, Customer 2 will promptly delay the release date of Customer 1’s most-desired, and already-promised roadmap item. In a proprietary software company, the roadmap is a BIFO queue: Biggest In, First Out. Tough luck for you if you’re not the Biggest.
Can you guess what I’m saying next? This is totally not the case in the open source world.
And again: Wow. What a difference! No competition for highest-priority on the roadmap.
This was apparent in spades in our customer visit yesterday; we can deliver exactly what this customer wants, and do it now - without making the customer wait for some future release of a proprietary program or API. Plus, the fact that I could answer “There’s a module for that“ was an amazing demonstration the value of using open source: the breadth of available plug-ins amazingly accelerates the delivery of their business objectives.
This customer provided a textbook demonstration of the major advantage of using open source Drupal Commons instead of a proprietary social business software solution: The Freedom from technology limitations - and roadmapsblocks.