I joined the Alfresco Product Management team about a year ago with the goal of helping Alfresco clarify our strategy around Alfresco Community Edition. I wanted to make it easier for adopters of Alfresco to benefit from the open source product, and easier for Alfresco to invest in further open source development. I did a lot of research into how customers choose Alfresco, and how they choose between Alfresco Community Edition and Alfresco One. The result of this effort was a lengthy blog post written in cooperation with the leadership team at Alfresco, with feedback from leaders of the Order of the Bee. As a follow-up, I presented on this topic at BeeCon.
I was glad that this sparked some conversation. The most thoughtful feedback so far has come from Peter Lofgren. I don't see any way to comment on his blog post, so I will continue the discussion here.
In general, I agree with the point Peter is making. But there are a few clarification I want to make, and a few misconceptions I want to clear up.
1. The Chair of Alfresco's Board already issues a statement affirming Alfresco's commitment to a healthy open source product. And Alfresco's CEO already shared his opinion about the importance of Open Source. My blog post was reviewed by multiple leaders at Alfresco Software. (<whisper type=embarassed>It would have shown Thomas De Meo, VP of Product as a co-author if I could have figured out the WordPress plugin for multiple authors.</whisper>)
2. I shared the use case information because I am regularly asked about it. Though people are welcome to use Alfresco Community Edition in whatever way they see fit, I think it is very useful for potential adopters of Alfresco Community Edition to understand the use cases it is designed to fulfill, and to understand how their usage of the product aligns with Alfresco Software's goals for the product.
3. Though I can appreciate the funny play-on-words of Peter's post,, the brand name "Alfresco One" was originally meant to refer to the unification of on-premise ECM and cloud based ECM through our hybrid strategy. It has also come to refer to the unification of ECM tools with BPM tools in improving workplace productivity.
4. Though I agree that during the first few years of Alfresco's existence the company differentiated Community Edition and Alfresco One Enterprise Edition by saying that Community Edition was only useful for evaluation use cases, the transition from what Peter calls a vertical strategy to a horizontal strategy has been going on for a long time (I would date it to early 2012). It has been a slow process because it requires a lot of technical, operational, and cultural changes to reach the end goal of having Enterprise Edition as a module for Community Edition with an accompanying business model. But you will see that end goal as a specific item on Thomas De Meo's product roadmap presented at BeeCon (slide 14: "Easy upgrade path from Community to Enterprise"). Our current strategy is rather close to what Peter describes, though I recognize that we need to improve at training a number of the newer members of our sales team. Over the coming year you will see a further integration of the two products into a single strategy.
5. We find that the use cases of smaller teams that compare Alfresco Community Edition and Microsoft SharePoint are very different from the use cases of larger organizations looking to meet complex document management needs on Alfresco One Enterprise Edition. Some people do move from Community Edition to Alfresco One, but the number is not as high as would at first be expected. The difference in use case becomes very clear when interviewing customers who did and did not make the shift, and the differences in features between the products are not as significant a determination for product selection as is the desire for support.
6. That said, the differences in features is hugely important for getting an Alfresco One purchase order through the procurement team at a large organization. As an open source enthusiast, I did not expect that hard reality when I originally joined our team.
7. Once we saw the difference in use case, we were able to use that difference to guide how we determine which features go into which product. We want to preserve the broad adoption that Peter advocates, and ensure that the product is robust and useful for the people that are currently running Community Edition. But we want to identify the large scale deployments that are potential customers of Alfresco One Enterprise Edition and assist them in meeting their organizational goals through one of our paid products.
8. Regardless of how we position Alfresco Community Edition, it is frequently used for evaluation of Alfresco One during the long procurement cycles of large organizations. We are glad it isn't the only use case, but it is certainly an important one for us.
In summary, we have been listening to the feedback of our open source contributors. Not only do we sponsor an open source product that people like Peter Lofgren are excited about, we have tried to define our business model in a way that makes room for professionals building on Community Edition to make a good living introducing other people to our brand and products. We hope this partnership benefits everyone involved for a long time in the future.
Thank you Peter for continuing the discussion, and I hope to hear from others.