“Groupware and open source are the dream team for innovation”

January 15, 2024

Norbert Lambing is CEO and founder of grommunio. (Source: grommunio)

Groupware increases the efficiency of collaboration, but only open source unleashes the full potential of the tools: then they are open to customisation, grant real data sovereignty and enable innovation. Groupware pioneer grommunio explains why proprietary solutions almost always lose out.

What should groupware be able to do? Of course, to increase the productivity of teams. But if you take a closer look, you will realise that its obvious advantages conceal a completely different asset: it promotes innovation. Under certain circumstances.

The fast-paced digital economy is forcing companies to constantly innovate if they want to remain competitive. Nothing is more fatal than software that is supposed to support collaborative teams in finding ideas but ends up slowing them down. And so inflexible collaboration tools, usually closed proprietary systems, are actually a complete no-go for companies. Only open source can offer them real added value.

The Viennese groupware pioneer grommunio explains why open source is almost always far superior to proprietary solutions in a direct comparison.

1. customisability. Change is the need of the hour for companies and groupware, the basis of corporate communication, must be able to adapt smoothly at the same pace. This adaptability has many aspects: adaptation to growing IT perimeters – everyday life since the enthronement of mobile working, to changing and different tasks in the teams, to increasing demands on the user interface, to constantly new features, workflows and business processes. IT can hardly develop this number of regular requirements itself if APIs are only available to a limited extent and system code remains hidden – as is, by definition, the case with proprietary tools. Waiting for manufacturers to implement new functions at their discretion is also not an option: it can take years, if ever. In other words, proprietary tools do everything they can to actively slow down the dynamics of teams and companies. Unrestricted adaptability, on the other hand, requires the open code of open source solutions.

2. data sovereignty. Groupware is the basis for the confidential exchange of information between teams, whether by chat message or video meeting. In order to communicate without restrictions, teams must be able to rely on their communication remaining watertight, as it often involves new business ideas or intellectual property that must not fall into the hands of third parties under any circumstances. Open source solutions from EU software vendors are the only ones that can provide this guarantee. In fact, US providers are subject to the arbitrariness of their authorities, who can compel the release of customer information, regardless of whether the data is located in the US or in the EU, which is actually a safe haven. US software providers downright mislead their customers when they advertise an EU or German cloud, as the US authorities are not interested in the location. Anyone storing important, competition-relevant business secrets should be on their guard here. On the other hand, proprietary solutions hide their code: Do they have a back door? Do they phone home? What do the cryptic terms of use allow? Is metadata collected, profiles created? Can third parties even access data? It remains unclear. The same applies here: confidential information should never be in the care of proprietary, i.e. non-transparent software. The only solution to really protect data and guarantee data sovereignty is open source groupware from EU providers, which is either stored on-premises or in a GDPR-compliant cloud in the EU. Companies don’t need to worry here – provided they have sufficient IT security.

3. availability. The lifespan of software is a critical factor, especially when companies have invested heavily in it and teams have become familiar with its usability. The availability of proprietary software is unpredictable, because if providers go bankrupt, are taken over or withdraw products from the market, their customers are left out in the cold. They then have to search for new solutions involuntarily and under time pressure. However, the purchase alone does not solve the problem, as this is followed by a whole slew of tasks: Testing, implementation, data transfer, familiarisation, training. Subscription models don’t make things any better, of course. Open source, on the other hand, offers the security that users can continue to develop their groupware themselves, even if products are no longer available; this gives them a comfortable time cushion should they want to switch to new platforms after all.

4. costs. Licence fees or subscription costs for proprietary solutions are often horrendously high. Although open source groupware is generally free of charge, it still incurs expenses, for example for maintenance, servicing or further development. In return, however, it gains flexibility and adapts perfectly to the requirements of companies and users. All in all, open source groupware promises a significantly lower total cost of ownership than proprietary solutions: it often only accounts for a fraction of this.

“Many users have become accustomed to working with inflexible proprietary solutions and no longer realise how much this restricts their freedom and creativity,” emphasises Norbert Lambing, CEO and founder of grommunio. “On the other hand, many companies have entrusted their critical data to vendors who can neither guarantee them digital sovereignty nor sovereignty over their data. How can the managers of these companies sleep peacefully? However, if you want to be successful, you have to innovate together and develop brilliant ideas, and the only basis for this is ultra-flexible open source groupware with a guarantee of data sovereignty.”

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