OSGeo Marketing Plan; choices and outline.
"If you want to rule the world, focus and organize accordingly!"
Introduction and challenge
The present vision and mission statements translate into a list of goals with objectives, but bypass a critical intermediate step. It does not explicitly address the (un-)intended added value to stakeholders and their perceptions of OSGeo, the audiences we target, the measurable steps the foundation takes in delivering this value etc. The presently large amount of activities mentioned on the website suggests a vibrant and diverse community. However, looking deeper one notices that some are less alive as might be expected (see wiki’s and webpages for Marketing committee, Geo Data working group, Website, Journal, Sponsoring).
Without explicit and widely understood choices and prioritization the scarcely available human and financial resources are easily less effective or worse; misdirected. Any issue addressed will have a piece-meal and post-hoc nature. Not to mention that it demotivates and burns out those actively involved and mystifies and deters potential members/stakeholders.
OSGeo has gained a membership of individual users and developers, who implicitly represent a wide range of organizations, sectors and geographies. These individuals belong to organizations representing; Business, Education, Public Sector, NGO, Research and Partners. We reach out and interact with these stakeholders on an organizational or individual level or both. Per country, region or continent and even globally.
At an individual level
- Education&Research; Students: These are the developers, policy and decision makers, supporters and advocates of the future; catch them young, catch them early. Academics: Through adoption of open spatial technology in their curriculum and research projects they actively promote and disseminate open spatial IT. Researchers:
- Engineering; These are the developers who are quite often actively involved in one or more of the OSGeo projects. They largely determine the health of the OSGeo projects.
- Non-tech end-usage: This segment is an aggregation of those who are professionally involved in open spatial IT, with little or no engineering background. Think of; professionals involved in sales & marketing, general management, HR and the like, Also, public policy and geospatial related tasks (disaster management, land registry etc.)
At an organizational level
- Open spatial companies; Service providers delivering professional
- (Semi-)Governmental organizations
- NGO’s: OGC, OSI, IKAN, others
- Industry sectors:
- Like-minded organizations; In our strive for attention and funding we could find ourselves competing for the same (scarce) resources and attention. However, we can also complement and support each other.
- Partners: those organizations that can help fulfill our mission and share (part of) our goals.
At a aggregated level
- Geographical; Developing countries vs Developed countries
- (Semi-)Government Sectors
What do we know about them?
At present it has become a rather varied audience, with different and/or overlapping characteristics. Although we can make some broad assumptions, some extra insights are very helpful to be effective in appointing resources to the right groups:
- The total present members, their relative numbers, their location, their sector background, their individual professional background etc
- The level of effort and time it will take to reach them vs. the impact
- The value they expect and derive from OSGeo and its offering
- The decision making process to choose for OSGeo and its offerings
- How and why they use open/closed/hybrid spatial IT
- Specific support requirements OSgeo may fullfil
- How best to reach them; in/directly, on/offline,
Some analysis and strategic options
A number of OSGeo projects have become the backbone of open spatial IT, underpinning the business models of various important commercial players. Not to mention the amount of end-user organizations in government and not-for-profit sectors worldwide. These projects solely provide OSGeo with the credibility for all its other activities, so should be communicated and acted upon accordingly.
The global and regional FOSS4G’s are successful in terms of ‘gathering of the tribe(s)’, geographic and sector outreach and open spatial advocacy and community support. They provide the most visible presence for OSGeo.
The Geo for All initiative is gaining momentum and OSGeo Live still finds its way to new users due to the efforts of many volunteers. These three ‘brands’ are OSGeo’s crown jewels and ‘tangible’ products, which deserve a professional approach in terms of ‘product management’.
OSGeo is organized as an Open Source Project (its the MapServer origins), including the culture, structure and processes. But it is no such project (anymore), actually. It has become an umbrella for various open spatial IT projects and related initiatives. OSGeo has become larger that its projects; a facilitator, champion and marketer for these as well as open spatial tech at large. This type of entity requires an approach, agenda, organization, tasks, resources and roles, which supersede and are different from those of a single project.
Traditionally the large majority of members in open source communities consists of engineers. With the superseding remit and growth of OSGeo a plethora of additional activities, tasks and roles have emerged. More time and effort is needed for administration (finance, membership) and support (of lists, repositories, funds etc), governance (of finances, voting, planning), volunteer/people management, outreach, advocacy and promotion. Necessary activities for which many engineers have not signed on, nor have the time, interest or specialized expertise for. Volunteers are donating discretionary time: mostly spend on something they care about, in the way they ‘believe’ in the remit, when available and until other priorities take over. It simply is ‘the nature of the beast’: non-tech tasks are not popular.
Last but not least, we often reinvent the wheel and ‘acquire experience, the moment after we need it’. OSGeo has few established standardized, broadly understood daily processes apart from ‘voting’. And if there is another process needed (sponsoring), one has the time consuming and demotivating task to dig deep in the wiki or other people’s memory to find a de-facto process. Especially if this involves a task/role/activity that somebody is not an expert on the efforts and the results run the risk of being suboptimal. Not to mention the interrelatedness of various activities (e.g. sponsoring-marketing-partnering-finance). Concluding; the self-management principles of the OSGeo-community have reached their limits.
Present public legislation and policies are increasingly favoring open source in general. In the public sector too end-users are looking for cost effective, more flexible and reliable open source alternatives to closed-source legacies. Furthermore, increased public interest in closely related areas such as open data, open standards, open access, open government etc. provide further fertile soil, interest and allies for OSGeo. This could enable OSGeo to syndicate/partner with a wide range of initiatives and organizations to fulfill its mission without doing all its outreach and advocacy work alone.
The growing impact of geo-referenced information in our lives provides the spatial IT sector with an increasing user base. Due to its particular conduciveness for open innovation methods and low entry barriers open spatial tech is well positioned to cater to a growing number of new users, businesses and services. Quite a few stakeholders profit commercially from our work and should benefit from co-branding with OSGeo. This should make OSGeo very appealing to commercial sponsorships, donations and other financial support to professionalize various organizational activities and fulfill our remit independently.
Open source software communities thrive when complemented by commercial ecosystems with a mix of freelancers and small/medium/large sized enterprises. Secondly, DIY-IT is becoming obsolete when organizations focus on their core business and processes. Through professional support services in the marketplace commercial entities provide continuity and quality to the non-tech end-users. The larger the service provider, the larger the end-user organization and the bigger the impact/adoption is of open spatial in the market place. However, the vast majority of service providers that are (in-)directly active in OSGeo’s commercial eco-system are <10 FTE’s. They are not able to invest much in market development, which inhibits the adoption of OSGeo projects and sponsor-capacity for OSGeo.
The fact that GPL, the OSGeo license of choice, is loosing the limelight to more commercially friendly licenses (https://osswatch.jiscinvolve.org/wp/) adds to the situation mentioned above. Which is for example a large ingredient of the present traction of the LocationTech/Eclipse Foundation. Its GPL-focus could make OSGeo make less appealing to new incubation projects and associated eco-systems of large(r) supporting organizations. [This paragraph seems incorrect to me, user:EliL. OSGeo has no position on licenses other than OSI approved  and then leaving it entirely up to the projects. In the FAQ, there is slight position against the GPL and against new licenses. The only way that OSGeo 'favors' the GPL is that it doesn't prohibit it.]
What can we derive from the above?
If our strengths and weakness are compared to the opportunities and challenges, some insights can be derived about our future direction and activities:
- OSGeo’s projects and products (and thereby OSGeo as a whole) can complement and add value to the objectives of many potential partner organizations. It enables OSGeo to position itself more at the heart of the ‘open movement’. Choosing the right partners can leverage our remit and objectives.
- OSGeo’s projects and products have traction and brand recognition from which numerous commercial and non-profits indirectly derive income. Co-branding these offerings with general and GIS-specific open source initiatives raises our profile and reach. This should attract either appropriate partners and/or potential sponsors to alleviate our weaknesses.
- Present organizational set up, lack of general resources and non-tech expertise could be improved upon by a mix of improvement of internal organization, sharing tasks with the right partners and commercializing the brand ‘OSGeo’/sponsoring etc. for additional resources.
- OSGeo’s organization and member participation cannot keep up with present plethora of demands and ambitions. Its present commercial eco-system is not able to provide the additional financial/human support needed, so OSGeo will have to limit its ambitions and/or extend its eco-system.
According to the Bylaws of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation: “The purposes of the corporation are to establish and support a diverse open source community to foster the development, advancement and promotion of open geospatial software technology and data”. As such we are a platform/commons for initiatives from and by its members regarding outreach, advocacy and support. We need a coherent strategy to be effective. A strategy, which is not only about what we envision, but what our intended audiences want/require as well.
Any (ours too) strategy is about a triangle of items, which need to be aligned to be effective:
- Which value do we want to provide for which stakeholders/audiences?
- What benefits do stakeholders/audiences expect from OSGeo?
- What is OSGeo presently realistically capable of doing?
Presently there is no statement of the intended value we want to deliver (apart from OSGeo Live), nor do we have detailed insights in what our world expects from us. We have to guestimate and assume that what we want to provide is sufficient…. The culture/attitude of ‘scratching one’s individual itch’ on a voluntary basis has left parts of the organization (e.g. product management, marketing promotion, sponsoring, community management) vulnerable. Sadly we cannot boast huge financial reserves or abundance of volunteers/experts, especially for the non-tech tasks. Thus, we obviously need to prioritize our ambitions and focus our efforts accordingly.
What is OSGeo capable of; cut our cloth to our means
Con: This could entail that we don’t meet all the demands from our Bylaws, our strategic goals, our intended audience and even our members. Any unforeseen valuable activity ‘falling off the wagon’ may alienate present members and stakeholders.
Pro: we avoid burning out volunteers, we utilize scarce resources more effectively realistically by having the appropriate resources for our ambitions.
To-do: to ‘…develop advance and promote open geospatial software technology..’ (see Bylaws), through Outreach, Advocacy and Support, through: A) Outreach: community-based outreach efforts are critical to help potentially interested engineers and non-techs learn about, benefit from open geospatial IT and in turn spread awareness. Outreach activities include: Board Objectives ‘It is time to showcase how great our communities are’, The focus can be on regions, industry sectors, governmental bodies, related communities or combinations. How:
- Drop Open Data from OSGeo priorities, because it has been and will be too ambitious to execute directly, unless volunteers rise to the occasion.
- Enlist, empower/support and facilitate individual community members and local chapters in outreach matters regarding regions, industry sectors, governmental bodies, related communities or combinations, see also ‘Support’ below. (Board objective: ‘Engage with our teams’)
- Introduce professional product management principles to OSGeo services and products.
- Promote specific OSGeo services/products for specific target stakeholders.
- Communicate who we are for whom and our achievements and products and added values, effectively become a household name) See, Board Objective: ‘Communicate our vision’ plus everything else that follows from Vision.
B) Advocacy: activities to create or change policies, laws, regulations, distribution of resources or other decisions that affect acceptance and usage and to ensure that such decisions lead to adoption. It is directed at policy makers including politicians, government officials and public servants, But also at private sector leaders who commercially benefit from adoption, as well as those whose opinions and actions influence policy makers, such as the media, development agencies and large NGOs. How:
- Create, assemble, publish and manage an online body of work (own and third party) like case studies, business cases etc. for partners, associated companies and others to engage
- Individual members who want to act as advocates will be supported with the (online) information as those listed above
- Lacking resources, OSGeo has to partner with advocacy organizations active in the field of open spatial IT and general ‘open’ advocacy matters. Presently OGC, in the future with additional open data organizations, etc.
C) Support; (see, Board Strategic Objective: empower our communities) as in providing everything from organization, technical infrastructure to financing, that enables individual members, working groups/committees, local chapters and partners to work on individual projects and general outreach activities.
- Manage OSGeo not as a foundation project but as its own unique entity: hire/arrange professional resources for non-individual-project work and infrastructure: just ‘scratching tech itches’ leaves holes in the organization
- Assign funding to get things done and do not solely rely on volunteers.
- Empower volunteers/Local Chapters/Committees through funding, contacts, exposure and guidelines
- (Re-)design and centralize formal processes in conjunction with suppliers and partners (reg. sponsoring, funding, marketing, outsourcing technical-financial-other admin tasks etc.)
- The provision of a central platform to host and manage the general and projects related infrastructure
- The provision of a variety of additional services to facilitate outreach and advocacy by members and partner organizations.
- Support Outreach and Advocacy by howcasing excellence in OSGeo communities (Board goal) and OSGeo as the central place for open spatial IT information and initiatives.
What does OSGeo stand to gain?
Awareness & adoption of open spatial tech, visibility & credibility of OSGeo are hard to measure. However we can measure tangible success to know if the choices we make and resulting actions are the right ones. Some structured monitoring is due; otherwise we loose valuable volunteer time and money. On a more positive note, measurable success motivates and breeds more.
The success of outreach-activities can be measured by :
- # new and #long-term members (baseline!?)
- mix of members reflecting the target audiences
- # new incubation projects
- Liveliness of existing projects, #bug fixes, #contributions, #dev’s etc.
- # new and #loyal sponsors
- Growth eco-system of complementing partners (institutes, foundations etc.)
- Awareness & adoption of open spatial tech through sector/geographical background of new members
- Adoption measured by implemented projects of OSGeo-friendly service providers
- Visibility & credibility OSGeo as the go-to place for open spatial tech through its # and type of partners, sponsors and other contacts.
Beforehand we have to establish/guestimate how much result we expect from a given number of dollars and/or hours.
Our proposition for our stakeholders
Considering our vision and mission, the underlying question is: what are we to others? What is our proposition to individuals and organizations? What communicates in one single sentence (elevator pitch) what we are to this world?
A working definition of our proposition could be: ‘OSGeo as the go-to place for information on and participation in Open Spatial IT’.
……if someone has a better one, I am all for it!
What OSGeo offers and who is responsible
Activities (Our Outreach)
- Code sprints: project leads
- FOSS4G global; Board + LOC
- FOSS4G’s regional: Board + LOC + Local Chapter
- OSGeo Live: Committee
- Third party conferences e.g.. ISPRS, EGU, GWF: Board + Local Chapter
- Sol Katz Award: Committee
- OSGeo Student Awards: Committee
- Collaboration with likeminded organizations & official partners: Board
- Educational activities: Board + Committee
Promotional products (Our outreach)
- OSGeo Journal/Blog: Marketing Committee
- (Co-)Branding/logo: Marketing Committee
- Media kit/collateral: Marketing Committee
- Exhibition pack: Marketing Committee
- OSGeo store: (Anything bought lately?)
- Whitepapers/Case studies/Business cases: powerful but which resources?
- Webinars: Project Leads + Marketing Committee
- Press releases: Board + Marketing Committee
- Ambassador package: Marketing Committee
Services (our Support)
- Community infrastructure (website, mailinglists, IRC, Wiki, SVN/Git, Forum (?), Video chat (?): outsourced
- General OSGeo community management: Board
- Sponsoring/funding/pre-financing: Board + others?
- Organization (officers, committees, local chapters, defined partners): Board
- Legal-Aid: Partner(s)
- Education/training (online, offline): Committee
- Support: education, training, events,
- Mentoring (Google Summer of Code): ?
- FOSS4G Handbook (Board + LOC-per-year)
Organization (the ones doing the work)
- Board: general management of OSGeo
- Officers: to be appointed?
- Committees: see above
- Local chapters: local outreach, advocacy
- Interest groups (women chapter, archaeology, other?): outreach
- Members: outreach (and advocacy)
- Partners: outreach and advocacy
- Subcontractors/suppliers: infrastructure, admin
- Sponsors: open spatial IT, legal/organizational (LocationTech/Eclipse)…and on Open Data (CKAN, Open Data Foundation, OECD a.o.)
Outreach-related Revamp and update website focused on various chosen stakeholders/audiences/eco-system Set up a repository of information on all things related to open spatial IT Survey among internal and external stakeholders: their expectations from OSGeo Develop program to support new/existing Local Chapters
Advocacy related Revamp and update website with general open source and spatial IT info and corss-links Discern, develop, manage appropriate partnerships; open spatial IT, legal/organizational (like LocationTech/Eclipse, but also eg. Black Duck), on Open Data (CKAN, Open Data Foundation, OECD a.o.) on Open Gov. etc. etc.
Support related Map outcome of the questionnaire to the above; overlaps, gaps, additions etc. Outsource everything, which cannot be done by volunteers or for which no one volunteers (but deemed necessary for fulfillment of the Foundation’s mission). Entice/invite (specific) volunteers for tasks Develop support services for Local Chapters Allocate budgets for outsourcing Support/empower volunteers with the right tools and resources for the ‘job’ Design missing internal processes