Matt Aslett wrote a short but interesting post about transparency in the software industry.  He writes:

“Transparency has become one of the main buzzwords this year and I believe is critically important for traditional proprietary vendors as they attempt to participate with open source in order to reduce costs and benefit from collaborative development projects.”

I was set to agree with Matt’s assertion that transparency is important in our industry.  But I wouldn’t limit transparency to the open source sandbox, nor would I associate transparency with simply making code available (neither did Matt).

For instance, I believe that established vendors can learn from their open source inspired competitors who make project/product roadmaps publicly available.  I was more than a little surprised when IBM’s team decided to externally host their roadmap, and all development activities, including design discussions and decisions.  Speaking to colleagues on the team, the user feedback has been extremely positive (save for the initial comments that the product was not open source, a conscious decision by IBM).

As a product manager, I would love to get ongoing feedback on new features or product improvement requests.  I know that customers want to provide this information; there simply isn’t a scalable way for customers to do so.  Established vendors get this form of product information from high-touch, non-scalable, interactions with their largest/loudest customers.  Putting a product roadmap in the community, openly asking for feedback and then delivering against the feedback could drive efficiency and happiness in the product planning, delivery and usage cycle.  Open source vendors know this and encourage users to get involved with product planning using low-touch techniques (i.e. a wiki).

Encouraging established vendors to open up aspects of their development process will be a key contribution from OSS to the software industry.