C can stand for co-operation, collaboration and cost reduction. But most importantly, C stands for change, as in change from an insular bubble approach to IT to one focused outward. The processes of sharing software code, use cases/requirements, best practices and architectural strategy to fill out a broader base of knowledge in order to spare the IT department the costly and continuous reinvention of the wheel, seem like no-brainers. Yet this sort of co-operation and sharing among organizations is not the norm, despite its unequivocal value.

For health care giant Johnson & Johnson, openness to sharing is paying off. The firm has contributed what is called the Total Integration Model to the Integration Consortium (IC), a hub for sharing information, education and best practices for IT integration, from which other organizations might learn. Why would the company do this, given that friend and foe alike could access this intellectual property? To borrow a phrase used in open-source circles: publish early, publish often. This example bucks the trend. Current thinking is blind to the economic value of reciprocity.

Just the mention of intellectual property raises organizations’ guards in opposition to sharing source code.

For some, these concerns may be allayed by efforts from the Avalanche Corporate Technology Cooperative, a company founded on the precept that sharing software source code benefits all parties. Avalanche provides intellectual property protection within which organizations can safely work on projects. Although Avalanche is looking up from the bottom of an adoption curve, there is an upward trend. This momentum is found in a shift in software licensing to a subscription-based model.

Pursuing the practice of sharing code and other IT know-how may appear to be conceding to Harvard Business School professor Nicholas Carr’s thesis that “IT Doesn’t Matter” – that there is no real competitive advantage that can be derived from IT through early adoption. Not true. The point is that delivering value to shareholders or improving profitability shouldn’t be stymied by working alone in a bubble; evolving IT infrastructure faster has a net positive impact on business operations.

More sharing of codewill happen. The vast number of developers working on existing open-source projects are professionals contributing from within IT departments and vendors. Organizations will find tangible value in reducing the latency between requirements gathering through to functioning software and in leveraging a wider collective experience by (cautiously) opening up the IT knowledge kimono.

— Senf is the manager of IDC Canada’s IT business enablement advisory service. He can be reached at dsenf@idccanada.com.

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