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Humanner is an open source community committed to making available to all the best and most reliable middleware technology for everyone. Our mission is to develop open source code middleware and to foster a vibrant community and business ecosystem. The FOSAB like a consortium is an independent non-profit organization open to companies, institutions and individuals.

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But, in our view, open source is essentially a business development strategy: in some software market segments it can be a way to break through existing entry barriers. 

Open source and middleware go well together. The middleware layer stands between the operating system and business applications. Firms can cooperate on developing common middleware code while at the same time be competitors in offering business solutions to endusers. Or, to apply the value chain sequence identified above, firms can share the same components and still develop different products and implement different solutions.

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Participant stay active in the Humanner ecosystem as long as they identify positive returns on their investment. Such returns can be measured in many ways. Maybe a technical exchange has allowed a participant to make the right technology decisions (better technology alignment) or has shortened development time (improved time to market). Or participating in the Humanner ecosystem has allowed a member to increase market share, to sign new partners, to improve market visibility, or more simply to carry on doing business with the open source license of its choice.

As is typical to open source, participants are expected to contribute to the ecosystem. Since Humanner is about developing a base of open source middleware, code is the first contribution expected from participants. There are, however, many ways to contribute to the Humanner ecosystem: sharing expertise, providing feed-back, reporting bugs, submitting specifications,and providing success stories and marketing resources to promote the consortium.

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Humanner

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 Community

Strategic Members are organizations which choose to base the development of their open source strategy on the Humanner ecosystem. Therefore, they stand out through providing significant resources to support the Consortium's objectives and play an active role both in setting the direction of the FOSAB code development activities and in facilitating the use and acceptance of its technology.

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This is a deliberate strategy because we reckon that, in technology markets, academic research is an essential source of competitive advantage through innovation.


32. The FOSAB Ecosystem

The FOSAB ecosystem is organized around the Humanner community. The FOSAB is a non-profit organization, its role is to provide the governance and service framework through which members work together in developing a mutually beneficial business ecosystem.

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Local Chapters, the third Activity are set-up to facilitate community interaction on a regional scale, in a business neutral way. In a Local Chapter, a group of Humanner members join their efforts to promote the goals of the consortium within a community characterized by its geography or its language. Local Chapters aim to extend the consortium's marketing effort and to foster social linkage between members. Local Chapters are also a way to implement some sort of global governance and to empower members throughout the world.

 

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3. Platform Design

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3.1 Creating a Business Ecosystem Platform Design

The Humanner Consortium is a governance and service organization set-up to promote a business ecosystem established to leverage a code base of open source middleware. The organization works for the benefit of the ecosystem participants. It is a "platform" (as theorized by Rochet and Tirole, 2004) designed to facilitate interactions between participants in the ecosystem, a business ecosystem platform.

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The governance and service value proposition of Humanner is threefold. First, it is a technical platform delivering collaborative services to project teams, such as a forge for collaborative software development, bug trackers, wikis, downloads facilities, mailing lists, etc. Second, the FOSAB is a catalyst for social and business interaction: its governance system helps organize activities in a way that grows the social capital available to all. Third, the consortium is a communication machine for developing projects' visibility and market awareness; members' market power is higher when participating in FOSAB than individually.

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3.2 A Long-Term Organic Process

The type of relationships which define a business ecosystem take time to develop.

But this is only the beginning. It quickly appeared that consortium members needed time to make the project their own. Humanner is still undergoing a maturation process. After a first stage of benevolent skepticism, members started exploring the possibilities of processes they themselves had contributed to define. The Humanner business ecosystem is made up of multidimensional interactions, between participants and, because of this complexity, it requires some time before delivering on its promises.

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3.3 In Search of the Critical Mass

It has been known for a long time in the high-tech industry that the cost of developing a market is much greater than that of developing a technology (Davidow, 1986). For a new organization like Humanner, communication efforts are very uncertain and can easily be wasted with no result at all. There is a threshold beyond which marketing investments actually start to yield positive results and to contribute to the cumulative visibility of the organization; this is how we define critical mass in our context. The Humanner Consortium has not reached this point yet; analysts still regard Humanner with skepticism (if not contempt), journalists are not particularly interested in writing about Humanner and end-users still need convincing that, despite its quality, implementing Humanner code is a sound decision. Humanner is still at the stage where it needs to overinvest in marketing in order to see results.

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This is why we have launched a broad effort to develop case studies and story telling articles.

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3.4 Coordination, Communication, Complexity

There are not many organizations such as the Humanner Consortium on the market; our strategic endeavor is original and unusual. However, because we are inventing something new, all stakeholders (either Consortium members or outside observers) are not exactly on the same footing and, sometimes, they do not share the same understanding of what Humanner is really about or what its priorities should be. Each member has its own open source strategy (and open source strategies come in many different flavors!) and its own – sometimes rather opportunistic – particular agenda and expectations vis a vis Humanner. Although the Humanner consortium benefits from the converging efforts of its members, it must also navigate through diverging business interests. This internal complexity calls for intense communication and a lot of explanation if we are to maintain a  consistent strategic trajectory. This is part of our maturation process. In a new relational organization such as Humanner, it takes time to gradually develop the shared vision which will eventually provide the framework for a stable cooperation equilibrium, as we speak of market equilibrium, between members.

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3.5 Not the Average Manager

Implementing a business ecosystem is a complex task with no hope of a quick result. To build an ecosystem is to develop relationships at the edge of business. It is not for the average manager driven by his short-term P&L. The big picture is paramount, and decisions must be based on a clear understanding of the potential gains which lie within intangible connections between stakeholders. Sometimes this means forgoing an immediate profit in favor of a long term and more sustainable one.

Thinking in terms of business ecosystem requires managers to think strategically. But it also requires thinking laterally in ways that might not be intuitive at first sight. It has to be understood that, although it can be pushed a little, a business ecosystem goes through its own organic growth process. It develops by itself. The movement in a business ecosystem is essentially bottom-up, and participants' initiatives are decentralized. There may well be some power play but there is no chain of command in a business ecosystem. Sometimes it can be wiser to let go and share than to try and control a situation or maximize an advantage at all cost.

 

4. An Open Source Business Ecosystem

The open source movement is based upon a software development process by which coding and debugging efforts are shared among the greatest possible number of developers thus improving the quality of the code (for a classic introduction to open source, see Raymond, 1999).

But, in our view, open source is essentially a business development strategy: in some software market segments it can be a way to break through existing entry barriers. 

Open source and middleware go well together. The middleware layer stands between the operating system and business applications. Firms can cooperate on developing common middleware code while at the same time be competitors in offering business solutions to endusers. Or, to apply the value chain sequence identified above, firms can share the same components and still develop different products and implement different solutions.

Participants in the Humanner ecosystem have essentially technical and business expectations. On the technical side, first of all, they seek a reliable service infrastructure which will support their development efforts. They also look for technology vision, technology independence, technical framework and expertise sharing. And on the business side, they expect marketing guidance, market credibility, revenue growth and access to international markets.

Participant stay active in the Humanner ecosystem as long as they identify positive returns on their investment. Such returns can be measured in many ways. Maybe a technical exchange has allowed a participant to make the right technology decisions (better technology alignment) or has shortened development time (improved time to market). Or participating in the Humanner ecosystem has allowed a member to increase market share, to sign new partners, to improve market visibility, or more simply to carry on doing business with the open source license of its choice.

As is typical to open source, participants are expected to contribute to the ecosystem. Since Humanner is about developing a base of open source middleware, code is the first contribution expected from participants. There are, however, many ways to contribute to the Humanner ecosystem: sharing expertise, providing feed-back, reporting bugs, submitting specifications,and providing success stories and marketing resources to promote the consortium.

 

Conclusion

There is probably no such thing as a pure business ecosystem or a pure value chain, however they are useful analytical tools to understand our business world and make better decisions. Because of its emphasis on non-monetary, or cultural interactions, the business ecosystem concept appears well suited to understand the dynamics of a knowledge-based networked industry such as open source software where the value creation process is set on a background of a complex web of business and social relationships, of shared values and interdependencies between firms.

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