An Overview of the Open Source Maturity Model

The following is a brief summary of the Open Source Maturity Model as defined by Open Health News (OHNews). It provides a high level description of the six major phases open source systems go through during their systems lifecycle – from the birth of an idea to a mature global solution.

Phase 1: From Concept to Rapid Development of an Initial Prototype

The conceptual stage begins with some ideas being kicked around by an individual or a small handful of people, who in this case are convinced that developing an open source solution may offer the best approach to collaborate and rapidly produce a high quality, low cost shareable solution of benefit to many others.  The developers generally have a somewhat limited view of functional requirements at this stage.  The developers try to rapidly define and construct a crude working initial prototype for demonstration and discussion purposes. 

Over 80% of these conceptual ideas or proposed open source solutions never progress any further and die off at this stage of the life cycle.

Phase 2: From Preliminary Analysis of Functional Requirement to Enhanced Prototype

Based on the experience and results of the previous phase of the maturity life cycle, a small group of committed developers generally decide it is worthwhile to move forward and further develop their concept and initial prototype.  The development team begins to  analyze and define additional functional and technical requirements for the proposed system and rapid development of an enhanced prototype proceeds.  During this phase the developers begin to further explore the various open source licensing options that are available. 

About 80% of these remaining projects also tend to fail and never move beyond this prototype phase of the open source maturity model or systems development life cycle.

Phase 3: From Enhanced Prototype to Pilot Testing

The enhanced prototype successfully produced during the previous phase of the open source maturity life cycle will tend to attract the attention of additional developers and users interested in producing a pilot system that can be tested in various field settings. This growing 'open community' will further define the functional and technical requirements for the software and commence work on the development and testing of the proposed pilot system.

Again, more than 50% of the projects do not proceed to the next phase of the open source maturity model or systems lifecycle.. 

Phase 4: Production Version 1.0 and Early Adoption

If the field tests of the pilot system prove its worth, it tends to attract growing numbers of developers and potential users.  Based on feedback from users of the pilot system, additional functional and technical requirements are identified  needed to develop the first version of the production system. As the production version of the software is readied during this phase of the lifecycle,  decisions are finalized concerning open source business model, licensing, community governance, documentation, and marketing strategies. 

There is a high probability that over 50% of the systems development projects that reach this stage will continue on to the next phase of the open source maturity model.

Phase 5: Widespread Adoption & Commercialization of the Open Source System

As the production version of the software solution catches on, a tight community of devoted software developers and the growing community of users will tend to redouble their efforts and will start working together to develop a roadmap for the release of subsequent versions of the system. These will include many additional features based upon the experience of the first wave of users who have deployed the system. 

More effective software development processes and tools needed to ensure the continued growth and success of the project are identified and put in place. During this phase, groups of developers will start to coalesce and form small companies within the 'open' community and begin to execute various strategies or business  models to supply implementation, training, and software maintenance services.   Large corporations may also start to explore how to build a business case and strategy to sell software development and support services and related software products. 

If the projects or systems have progressed to this stage of the maturity model, there is a high probability that over 50% of them will start to thrive in the marketplace, take on a life of their own, and succeed over the long term.

Phase 6: Mature, Mainstreamed Global Solution

In this final phase of the open source  maturity model, thousands of developers and users associated with the project will have emerged around the globe. At this stage a neutral organization or non-profit foundation is usually established to guide and formally manage the ongoing software development process and the official code repository for the system. Global considerations may even drive the need for multiple such organizations so that features unique to different geographic regions or nations can be prioritized and developed. 

In addition to establishing the IT architecture & standards for the system, a fairly complex array of high quality software development tools and professional business processes will have been put in place to support the global community. Forked versions of the software will emerge as organizations start to take the product in different directions given differing corporate business strategies and deployments in different countries or settings. Many large public and private sector organizations, seeing that they can lower their development costs and rapidly enter a profitable new market, will have started to adopt, use, and integrate the open source product into their corporate portfolios and/or offerings. 

In this final phase of the maturity model, there is no doubt this project is here to stay and is providing real value to many thousands of individuals and organizations around the world.

These open source systems will continue to exist and thrive with different degrees of success over the long term. Witness Linux, Apache, Open Office, Java, Drupal, Firefox, Hadoop, Android, mySQL, OpenERP and so many more open source solutions that have taken the world by storm.

* A much more detailed description of the Open Source Maturity Model will be published in the Features Section on the Open Health News web site by the co-authors – Peter Groen & Virginia ("Ginger") Price.