Tom Cahalan | 12th January 2012 @ 17:54
Just lately we’ve seen a new wave of open source hysteria.
Okay, perhaps hysteria isn’t exactly the right word to use, but the emergence of Magento, in particular, has caused a bit of a stir in e-commerce land over the last 18 months.
So, what’s it all about? Should you just ditch everything and start again with a new open source platform?
This is a very big subject, very big, and anyone who’s had the distinct pleasure of chatting with me will know it’s a subject of great interest to us here.
Both proprietary and open source options are great, and will suit different businesses at different times, but there are pro’s and cons for both.
Our next email will look at the proprietary option, but here are 3 key points to consider about open source if you’re at the fork in the road and need a bit of insight…
Why open source?
In our experience very few people who choose open source fully understand the reasons for their choice.
Sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Mostly, it will be a knee-jerk reaction to a bad experience with a proprietary provider. Truth is, this is frying pan to fire if the work is outsourced.
“I’ll never go proprietary again, it made me feel trapped and tied to an agency’.
PRO: Yes, you will own the IP to your application, and in theory you will be free to take it to another agency in future if you wish. You will not be beholden to an agency if you bring it in-house either, and can make those crucial changes immediately.
CON: Bringing everything in-house has employment and skills implications – are you a retailer or a web development company? Can you afford to employ high calibre, technically capable people?
If outsourced, you’ll still be reliant on a 3rd party, so what’s changed? Add to this that portability and even upgrading is rarely an easy option once a system is heavily customised. Three different developers will approach the same question in 3 different ways. You must ensure best practice is followed to the letter to have any chance of portability in future. This includes thorough documentation of work.
Second: ‘Magento has great features’
PRO: Features are ‘nice to have’s’. The mind-set is ‘the more features the better’, and having a feature must necessarily translate into more profit. Some features will make your life easier and allow you freedom in running the business day-to-day.
CON: Most, if not all enterprise grade proprietary systems have the same features, but no feature in the world will absolutely guarantee results – just look at H&M: all the money and features in the world, but bad website. Also, it’s dangerous to compare platform against platform as they can work very differently
Truth is, it’s much more about planning, implementation, and then service, so don’t ignore these vital aspects. Beware the dreaded ‘featuritis’ disease: don’t just buy features, buy into an agency’s ethos too.
Thirdly, ‘Anybody can work with it’
PRO: Portability IS theoretically possible, but that’s slightly overstating it.
CON: A slight crossover with the first point, but also worth noting that there are only really a handful of technically very capable agencies good enough to run it effectively at enterprise level.
There’s going to be some official accreditation for Magento agencies next year, so watch out for this when it happens and make sure you choose one of the highly accredited companies if you do decide to take this particular open source option.
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