Government agencies have shown a firm commitment to implement new, improved, and cost-effective IT solutions. As an example, we have seen an increased acceptance of open-source case management software in government agencies for IT modernization efforts.
Recognizing the merits of open-source software, many agencies take the position that where there is no significant feature difference between open-source and proprietary software (or if there is an open-source solution that meets the requirements), open-source should always be the first choice. Why? Because of its additional inherent flexibility, no vendor lock-in, open architecture, transparency, etc.
Very often, when choosing between proprietary and open-source software, organizations get scared by all the myths in the industry. Open-source is seen as inherently insecure because everybody has access to the code. On the other hand, proponents of proprietary software usually make a security claim: if very few people have access to the code, this makes the code inherently more secure. “You can’t hack a black box” is the mode of thinking.
It is no wonder that a lot of decision-makers are still struggling with this dilemma of proprietary vs. open-source. The main points of debate are whether to stick to a proven system that works or accept a paradigm-shift and go for open-source software.
To answer this question, we will look at both proprietary and open-source software on a general level and then draw conclusions. The point of the text won’t be to analyze specific solutions. Rather, it is to shed light on the mindset, on the underlining reasoning behind proprietary software vs. the value proposition that open-source software offers.
Let’s first see what proprietary software offers to the users.
The Benefits Of Using Proprietary Software
Proprietary software or closed-code software is made by a company where the main focus is based on the creation, maintenance and improvement of the features needed for the best use of the platform.
The greatest potential benefits of using proprietary software are the service and support provided by the company that created the software. The ongoing technical support is the key selling point of proprietary software and one of the main reasons people choose this software over an open-source software alternative.
This support usually includes well-documented manuals and support contact information experienced support teams provided by the software vendor.
When it comes to price, proprietary software usually comes with a hefty price. For that price, you get a fully customized product from a trusted company, great functionality, reliable security, scalability, continuous innovation, and ongoing training and support from a team of experts.
Usually, these proprietary software packs will have a dedicated online community where people share strategies and ideas. These useful online communities are encouraging innovation and spurring the software company to follow and answer the needs of users.
Another selling point of proprietary software is a tried and tested user interface. This is due to the continuous usability testing and improvements for a more targeted audience. Changes in the user interface will usually come with updated manuals, and as mentioned before, you can always call someone and get immediate guidance with new versions.
Last but not least in this short list of benefits, proprietary software is generally perceived as a more secure software solution compared to open-source software. This is because it’s developed in a controlled environment by a team of experts with a common end-goal in mind. The people that can view or edit the source code are part of that closed group so the risk of cyber threats or bugs is reduced (though no security is flawless).
Open-Source Software: a Better Alternative?
The misfortune of open-source software is that it is often the subject of myths. If you look deeper, you will see that most of those issues are in fact strengths, not weaknesses.
Open-source software may have a number of different teams working on the code at once, and anyone can pick up a discontinued project and expand on it since the source code is public. This makes open-source software more suitable for use and maintenance than proprietary software.
Open-source software is generally known to be a cheaper solution for specific needs. While there will be premium add-ons and versions built for specific use-cases, the core software is free. The cost of training and support may partially offset this advantage, but, considering the bigger picture, the total cost of ownership of an open-source solution is likely cheaper than its proprietary counterpart.
With open-source software solutions, you may be able to find different customized versions of the same software. If you can’t find a version tailored to your needs, you can create one using the program’s source code. Established open-source solutions will usually have a support community of developers and companies that can help out with free guidance, or even offer dedicated development solutions for you.
Open-source software frequently offers more than one way to solve a problem. When a certain capability is not available from a vendor, instead of waiting for the vendor to deliver that capability, you can create it yourself, or hire the team that submitted the best offer.
The most important thing is that thanks to the source code’s availability to the public, open-source software can be patched to address security threats faster than proprietary software. With many eyes searching for loopholes, potential threats become obvious faster. This applies not only to security but also bug fixes and any other problems in the code.
Open-source software has unmatched flexibility thanks to a community that can develop solutions, offer improvements, and catch security issues a lot faster.
What about Case Management? Proprietary or Open-Source Software?
To bring the discussion down from conceptual thinking about proprietary vs. open-source, I guess there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Both proprietary and open-source case management software have their pros and cons. However, I encourage you to boldly question the myths and buzz in the industry. Always do your research and choose whatever suits your needs the best.
I personally see the benefits and advantages in open-source case management software that proprietary case management solutions could never offer.
Hopefully, many other service providers will follow our example and offer their contributions to ArkCase and other open-source enterprise-level software packages.
ArkCase was released as open-source to contribute back to the public sector and commercial clients that help develop the platform with their ideas and contract awards.
To Sum Up
More and more organizations are turning to open-source technologies for mission-critical solutions to include case management. Open-source solutions can offer benefits in the area of security, cost of ownership, community development, speed, agility, ease of use, and maintenance.
For government agencies and large enterprises, ArkCase provides full-featured open-source case management and IT modernization platform.
Whatever your use-case, you could easily find a development team that can build a customized case management solution using the open-source ArkCase software. Whether it is complaint management, FOIA, legal case management, or any other repeatable human-based workflow, there is probably an open-source scenario out there that you can take and adapt to your specific needs.
This would be a far faster, cheaper and better option, that can be designed around the user, resulting in higher client satisfaction and user adoption.
Now, back to you. What do you think of the proprietary vs. open-source debate? Do you think that democratized, community-based solutions like ArkCase could be the way forward for government organizations? Or is there still more value in going with the proprietary option?
Please share your thoughts using the Comments section below, and don’t forget to share this blog post with your colleagues on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.