The decision to build the business predominantly on open source was a practical one. First, open source offered a viable solution to nearly every technology requirement BlueStar had. Second, the functionality -- and particularly the stability -- of the open source solution typically beat the commercial options.
"Stability is twofold," Keen notes. "It's recognizing the problem and fixing it, but it's also recognizing the problem and communicating it. I can design around a known problem. But I can't do that with commercial, because they don't tell us."
In addition to open source, the other key investments BlueStar made were in enterprise architecture and an engineering discipline. Realizing they were building not only a business infrastructure but an entire organization, Keen and company committed early on to adopting certain engineering best practices -- a software engineering lifecycle, domain-driven design, model-driven development, continuous integration, CMMI, ITIL, COBIT -- and hiring developers who would buy into them. That entailed opening a development center in Lima, Peru, where the company has hired and trained more than 50 programmers. Between the adoption of open source and offshoring development, the company estimates it has saved $24 million over the past five years.
But the biggest effort, Keen and Tantachuco say, was establishing their enterprise architecture at the very beginning. That involved sitting down with the business executives and understanding their goals, then making sure they understood that -- in BlueStar's case -- an SOA was the way IT could meet them.
"There was a shift in thinking on the business side that enabled this," Keen says. "We think in the area of process, we think in the area of automation, we think in the area of business rules. Without that shift in thinking, you're going to get an IT person's version of what a service-oriented business would look like implemented in technology, and that's just not successful. Without [our CEO's and COO's] leadership it probably would not have succeeded."
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