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Companies turning to enterprise social business for collaboration, integration [April 25, 2012]

Submitted on
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
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Search Manufacturing ERP

The explosion in open source computing and cloud computing options has created a new level of thinking in the design of enterprise process execution and how these processes use -- or simply integrate with-- traditional and proprietary software. So-called Tier 2 computing, which combines the on-premises applications traditionally used to execute business processes with cloud-based applications, is also gaining acceptance, particularly where formal operations are temporarily needed (such as mergers and acquisitions) or user levels have not achieved critical mass to deploy a full instance of an application. Enterprise social business tools sit at the crossroads of these trends.

With enterprise social business tools, organizations can leverage the collaborative effects of having processes executed within their “four walls” or throughout their value chain in either a cloud-based or on-premises environment, using either a proprietary or open source platform. Key organizational functions such as purchasing, supplier management and product development appear to be good candidates for enterprise social business. Early results look promising.

Open source computing options for collaboration

I recently had the opportunity to drop in on the DrupalCon 2012 event in Denver. Drupal is an open source computing platform that allows for a number of enterprise-wide activities to be executed in a secure and structured environment. To date, larger traditional platforms that are widely used for program microsites and collaboration--such as Microsoft SharePoint--and enterprise data management (EDM) platforms, such as Oracle mySQL, provide ready-to-use application program interfaces (APIs) to Drupal and other components of a Linux application management process commonly referred to as LAMP.

Microsoft’s investment means Open Source is no longer a community, it’s a movement

For many years now, developers around the world have celebrated and promoted the numerous benefits that open source has to offer IT and business communities. Despite the flare for technology innovation and bringing new offerings to market, the real value of the open source community is the culture of the people that represent it. A shared ethos, coupled with a collaborative working model and mutual respect has delivered and will continue to deliver cutting edge software offerings that are increasingly competing with traditional proprietary vendors.

Dorm room to boardroom [April 17, 2012]

Submitted on
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
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Growth Business UK

Describing himself as an academic at heart, Dries Buytaert never thought of charging people for the system that now sits behind one in 50 websites. GrowthBusiness finds out how he’s monetising Drupal while staying true to its open source principles.

It’s a scene familiar from movie screens: a Red Bull-guzzling university student programming away into the small hours on a venture destined to change the world.

However, for Dries Buytaert the hours spent burning the midnight oil during his final year of a Masters degree have turned his hobby into a business that is now powering 2 per cent of global websites.

Drupal, an open source content management system, was devised by the Belgian national to allow users to build websites with functions such as blogging and RSS feeds. Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Buytaert began with modest ideas about the potential of the tool he was creating.

‘I initially wanted to build a message board to exchange messages with my friends,’ Buytaert says. ‘I set out to work on it for a couple of nights, but ended up developing it for a number of years.’

Having started Drupal in 2001, Buytaert spent the next six years honing his platform, in between dipping back into academia to complete a PhD in computer science, and a quick stint at a software start-up in Belgium.

Critical mass
It was then that all the work began to pay off. ‘I remember one day, I think it was 2006 or 2007, when all of a sudden MTV UK started using Drupal, and then NASA started to as well. That was a personal moment, it felt like additional responsibility,’ he adds.

However, Drupal still hadn’t made Buytaert a penny. Its widespread adoption was driven by the fact that it was, and is, open source, and Buytaert refers to the ‘community’ of developers who use and add to the system. Drupal users have doubled in number each year, and it now has 1.5 million unique users per month.

‘I think open source is changing the way websites are being built, and it’s having a massive impact on the web. It’s a way of democratising the internet,’ Buytaert claims.

This was all very well, but Buytaert still didn’t have a way of turning his ‘passion’ into a full-time job. Together with Jay Batson, who founded successful unified communications company Pingtel (later acquired by Nortel), he founded Acquia in 2007.

Acquia was established to monetise the open source system that Buytaert had produced back in his university dorm, by providing products, services and technical support for Drupal.

‘For Drupal to get to the next level it needed to be successful in the enterprise, to help larger organisations use it: so that’s why we started Acquia,’ he explains.

Acquia’s UK base is in Oxford. ‘I guess I’m an academic inside,’ says Buytaert. ‘We want to attract young, ambitious people, and university towns are the place to do that. It also keeps costs down not being in the big cities.’

Buytaert won’t disclose Acquia’s turnover or profit, but he says that fundraising for the company was on the agenda from day one for a couple of reasons. ‘Firstly, we wanted to take advantage of the fact that Drupal was already established globally in order to monetise it on a worldwide scale.

‘Secondly, the kind of company that we are building is relatively human-intensive. We are in the business of providing commercial-grade support 24/7, and it takes more than just a handful of people to do that well.’

Buytaert and Batson started with a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, pitching to a group of carefully selected VCs who matched what Acquia was looking for.

Bigger appetite
For Buytaert, the difference between American and European venture capitalists is one of scale. VCs in the US have deeper pockets, as well as a desire to stay with an investee company for longer.

‘Also, the VCs we have worked with have much more operational experience than those we have met elsewhere,’ he adds. ‘All of them have been CEOs of several companies and experienced several exits.’

Following on from Acquia’s $7 million (£4.4 million) Series A funding round, which included the likes of North Bridge Venture Partners and Sigma Partners, the business has gone on to raise a further $31.5 million in growth capital. Its Series D round in July 2011 netted the company $15 million.

The process of raising funds is one that Buytaert says ‘took a lot of work’. To prepare for the Series A round, he surrounded himself with people who brought business experience to the company.

‘Building a company is all about building the right team,’ he says. ‘The best thing I’ve done is recruited a talented team of people with the right attitude, passion, integrity, knowledge and aptitude – and who are smarter than myself.
‘By surrounding myself with them I have learned a lot about building an enterprise business, and continue to learn to this day.’

Another benefit of investing early in manpower is that Buytaert can afford to take the occasional few weeks off while the business continues to hum along.

‘It also allows me to change my focus on a weekly or monthly basis. Sometimes I find myself working on different projects, while other times I am doing a lot of sales and marketing,’ he says.

Building a successful technology business takes a careful balance of resources between product development and marketing. Drupal continues to host its DrupalCon community events, where numbers have now swelled from an initial gathering of 40 people in Antwerp back in 2005 to its last get-together of more than 3,000 people in Denver during March. ‘On any given weekend there will be maybe up to five different DrupalCamps around the world,’ says Buytaert.

World leadership
In Buytaert’s view, there’s a key difference between US and European start-ups when it comes to growth strategy. ‘I feel there is a belief in Europe that it is better to own all of the company, whereas in the US they want to go fast and are willing to give up more equity in order to grow fast.’

He points out, ‘In the US, people are ok with owning a smaller piece of something bigger rather than a bigger piece of something smaller.’

This strategic rationale ultimately has an impact on success rates, he says. The reluctance to seek outside funding leads to start-ups being ‘underinvested’ and missing out on opportunities.

However, being a web entrepreneur with global ambitions is much easier than it was ten years ago, he says. The world is ‘flatter’ than it used to be, meaning that it’s easier to reach a global audience; as a result, there is room for smaller start-ups that are still profitable and healthy.

Passing it on
Buytaert’s ability to see such opportunities is one of the reasons that he works with various start-ups as an adviser, giving them the benefit of the experience he has gained through building Drupal and going through four rounds of fundraising for Acquia. ‘I try to help them out with all aspects of their business, and it’s a very interesting process for me,’ he says, adding that he would like to try his hand at angel investing in future.

Another motivation for working with start-ups is that Buytaert wishes he’d had more help himself when building Drupal.

‘When I was younger, I underestimated the value of people in your life that you can go to with hard questions. It’s important for entrepreneurs to build up their networks so that they can call upon them when they need to.’ It’s another example of the ‘community’ ethos that is central to Drupal and which Buytaert clearly relishes.

Away from his work with Drupal, Acquia, and other people’s ventures, Buytaert is having a go at bootstrapping a business himself. His start-up, Mollom, is a tool that aims to filter out spam from website comments, forum posts and contact form messages.

With a much smaller team of five, Mollom is already a ‘profitable, healthy business’ that currently filters out spam on 50,000 websites around the world.

Help at hand
It sounds like Buytaert is a busy man, but he says his days (and nights) are less frenetic than they used to be, and he’s now in a position to enjoy family life.

All-night programming sessions and back-to-back conference calls are behind him now, and he is quick to acknowledge the role of the VC capital that Acquia has secured in restoring a modicum of free time to his existence.

The beauty of Buytaert’s dorm room discovery is that the community he has built will continue to contribute towards the evolution of the platform. Its members come from different countries and cultures, but they share the passion for open source that he possesses. That’s why he isn’t overly worried about competitors.

‘We have thousands of people all around the world working 24/7 and being extremely passionate about it, often working for free. It will just blow the others away.’

Acquia and Drupal Experiencing Widespread Moves to Open Source Software [April 9, 2012]

Submitted on
Monday, April 9, 2012
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Sand Hill

Quickly growing open source software company Acquia provides products, services and support for enterprises using the open source Drupal social publishing system. I spoke with CEO Tom Erickson about the hot trends today and how open source will impact enterprises in the next few months.

European public services must follow Iceland's open-source lead

Originally posted: http://www.publicserviceeurope.com/article/1761/european-public-services-must-follow-icelands-open-source-lead

To many in the private sector, the idea of super-size contracts that are expensive to run and almost impossible to break free from seems ludicrous

European public services must follow Iceland's open-source lead [April 5, 2012]

Submitted on
Thursday, April 5, 2012
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Public Service Europe

To many in the private sector, the idea of super-size contracts that are expensive to run and almost impossible to break free from seems ludicrous. Jim Shaw explains more...

Calls for government to help IT sector grow [March 26, 2012]

Submitted on
Monday, March 26, 2012
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Empty Lemon

Prospects for IT jobs at smaller companies could be boosted by an improved nationwide infrastructure and strategic tax breaks.

UK public sector open source adoption falling well behind other major economies [March 23, 2012]

Submitted on
Friday, March 23, 2012
,
Vital Online

The UK Government recently launched an open source toolkit on the Cabinet Office website, to provide a level playing field for open source solutions against traditional proprietary software vendors. But Jim Shaw, general manager for Europe at Acquia believes that cultural barriers and unfounded fears about the technology are holding departments back from making huge savings.

IT industry wants infrastructure, tax breaks and SME support from Budget [March 21, 2012]

Submitted on
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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CIO

Chancellor George Osborne will announce the Budget at midday tomorrow, and IT businesses are calling for useful tax breaks and good national infrastructure, with support for small enterprises.

The government needed to ensure the UK has the right technical infrastructure in place to support business growth, according to Morag Lucey, senior VP at converged IT and billing firm Convergys Smart Revenue Solutions.

"We will be specifically hoping that the government finally puts its money where its mouth is and invests more in the rollout of superfast broadband in the UK," she said.

There was "a sizeable gap between the money committed by the public sector and the private sector" for broadband, she said. "There is a questionable commercial case for communications service providers to bridge that gap alone, but absolutely no question as to the societal and economic benefits the UK will reap from universally-available superfast broadband."

Open source software providers also expressed their frustration at the perceived barriers to non-proprietary system adoption, and said the government needed to tackle the problem.

Jim Shaw, general manager for Europe at Acquia, said that in spite of the government recently launching an open source toolkit on the Cabinet Office website in order to provide a level playing field, cultural barriers were holding departments back from making the change.

"An entrenched culture of scepticism against open source adoption is still rife in the public sector and these barriers need to be broken down for the huge range of benefits the technology offers to be realised," he said. In spite of open source systems powering the Cabinet Office website and some DirectGov services, as well as Transport for London's Oystercard using an open source infrastructure, he said, the UK trailed the US and France for adoption.

"With potentially huge savings to be made through efficient public sector IT initiatives, the UK cannot afford to maintain a lukewarm approach to open source adoption."

Small businesses said the Chancellor needed to offer them tax breaks, as well as assisting with effective ways to prevent late payment by their suppliers.

David Ballard, chief executive at IT consultancy Northdoor, said the government needed to consider "lowering the threshold for entrepreneurial relief to encourage a greater distribution of stake ownerships and including smaller owners or employees". He added: "Although there is increasingly generous relief for entrepreneurs, the government has set a 5 percent minimum stake to qualify for ownership."

The Budget needed to reflect the fact that "many of the green shoots we have seen recently have come from smaller businesses, such as the tech start-ups in London's Silicon Roundabout", he added.

The Forum of Private Business said the Chancellor must tackle late payment, as well as provide better information for supporting the new National Loan Guarantee Scheme that is aimed at ensuring businesses can access credit.

"Small business owners are being expected to drive the economy forward yet find that relentless cost increases, mounting late payments and continued credit restrictions severely hinder their ability to control cash flow," said FPB senior policy adviser Alex Jackman. "Cash is the lifeblood of any business and there must be definite action in the Budget if we are to mend this cash flow crisis among small firms."

While the National Loan Guarantee Scheme was "a welcome step towards bringing down the steep cost of lending", Jackman said the UK industry needs "more competition allowing non-bank funders to compete more effectively in small business finance markets dominated by the big banks".

"Particularly, we want support for innovative crowdsourced funding models that are less dependent on automated risk criteria, the over-reliance on these being a central criticism levelled at major lenders in recent years," he said.

Annette Iafrate, managing director at online marketing firm Constant Contact, said access to credit needed to be under a "simple, clear-cut scheme" that operated quickly.

Small businesses could help greatly with national job creation, given the right resources, Ballard at Northdoor said. "I would also like to see a Budget supporting SMEs in developing and deploying their own graduate programmes, which unlike large corporations, have relatively limited resources and experiences in developing such schemes."

Gary Stewart, director at IT and business change organisation Xceed, agreed. "If the government hopes to encourage private businesses to take up the slack of public sector redundancies then they need to give them the tools to become job creators. The restrictions of red tape, regulation, poor availability of credit and tax burdens all need to be stripped back if SMBs are to help bolster economic growth."

DrupalCon Denver Keynote: Focus on Mobile, Innovation #drupalcon [March 21, 2012]

Submitted on
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
,
CMS Wire

In his morning keynote, open source CMS Drupal creator Dries Buytaert offered a vision of what to expect at this week's DrupalCon, and explained the expectations for Drupal 8.

Before introducing Buytaert at the morning keynote, Jacob Redding, Executive Director of the Drupal Association, answered the question of who owns Drupal, the popular open source content management system. “You do," he said. "You own Drupal. Whenever you contribute code you become a collective owner." Redding says that the goal of the Drupal Association is to foster the growth of Drupal and its community. One of his slides showed one of the 22 Drupal servers housed at the OSU Open Source Lab. “We want to make you guys rock,” he said.

Keynote Focus

Buytaert took the stage next and said, “What I wanted to talk about today is winning the hearts and minds.” He discussed past products that have won “hearts and minds,” such as Kodak products, and he looked at current innovators, including Facebook and Google. Buytaert says that the difference between innovators of the past and the current companies is continuous innovation. Kodak, he says, invented digital photography but never capitalized on the company's invention by reinventing itself. “This reminds us to continue to embrace big changes,” he says.

According to Buytaert, Drupal 8 is in the development phase, whereas Drupal 7 just reached the maturity phase. Drupal 5 and 6 are now on the decline. In fact, Drupal 7 grew 2.5 times faster than Drupal 6, growth that was measured by how fast Drupal 7 reached 100,000 installations. Because Drupal is just one product, each version must be innovative and better than the previous version to stay relevant. Mobile, according to Buytaert, is a threat to Drupal, so it shouldn't be seen as just an afterthought.

What Keeps Buytaert Up at Night

Buytaert says that the rudimentary authoring system is a weakness for Drupal. In the past, IT departments were involved in the CMS selection process, but now content authors have a strong say in which system gets chosen, so the emphasis needs to be on the authoring experience. He also says that the aging web development framework is a weakness. The small Drupal talent pool is also a problem, but the Drupal Association is making it a priority with outreach efforts, such as Google Summer of Code participation.

An estimated 1.5 million sites are built on Drupal, but Buytaert points out that that's only 6.7% of all CMS sites. Only about 30% of all sites are even built on a CMS. Buytaert says the biggest opportunity for Drupal is in mobile, then he showed a slide that said, “Time to kick ass with Drupal 8.”

What to Expect in Drupal 8

Drupal's creator says that Drupal 8 will focus on three audiences: developers, site visitors and authors. Buytaert says that although Drupal is currently the most powerful CMS, the market is changing and Drupal needs to take this opportunity to reposition and reinvent itself to be a leader of tomorrow.

When it comes to site visitors, “We need to build a great mobile experience,” Buytaert says. "We need to do it before the rest of the world does it,” he adds. “We need to build Drupal so that it's ready by the time the rest of the world wants it.” Although Drupal wins on technical merits, Buytaert says that if you look at the authoring experience, “Frankly, most of the other systems are better.” In-line editing is a particular weakness, he explains.

Buytaert says that content authoring can be easier if more is added to Drupal 8 core, such as more in-line editing, improved content admin tools, better media support, and page and layout building tools. He says that this will make the core bigger, but it needs to remain pluggable. He acknowledges that it's difficult to get consensus on what is good user experience, and what belongs in the core or doesn't.

Drupal 8 is targeted for release in August 2013 at the DrupalCon Europe event. According to Buytaert, Drupal 8 needs to focus on authors, site visitors and developers, which are key to winning hearts and minds.

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