Before I discovered Linux, I used to think open source was a lidless container of a culinary flavouring, like Daddies. This brand is ubiquitous in the UK, so commonplace that in the 33 years I spent there, I never realised how much naughtiness was in its name. Maybe living in the land of Benny Hill and Carry On films — the factory floor of double entendres — inured me to the joke.
I didn't get the punchline until a roadtrip through New Zealand landed me in the lovely town of Foxton, where the waitress taking my order for breakfast started laughing after I asked for a bottle of Daddies Sauce.
Making money in open source baffles me in a similar way. (Or is that open sauce? Damn spell-checker).
A cool little Wellington company, Silverstripe, recently won a contract with the DIA to supply open source CMS solutions, as an All-of-Government supplier. Not only that, Silverstripe will be part of the syndicated procurement services panel, which as I’ve said before in this column. is sort of like the AoG inner circle club.
Well done to Silverstripe, or they say in the trendy corridors of Wellington, “Booyaka, big ups to ya!”
This was no small feat. The original RFP for Syndicated Procurement of Common Web Services was 63 pages long. Not so bad. you may think. But that was followed by a Lead Agency Agreement which was 131 pages long and thereafter followed by a subsequent eight documents of similar length and complexity.
So, not only is Silverstripe making money (somehow) from supplying an open source or free solution to the government, but it won the deal by successfully navigating through a waste deep mud pool of bureaucracy as if it were a ballerina hippo wearing a pink tutu.
This deal must have taken Silverstripe months to understand, respond to and then enter negotiations around. I’m sure it is also the reason I have not had any of my four calls returned by Tim Copeland. He obviously can’t get to his Android phone because there are stacks of government contracts blocking the path to it.
The people behind this deal sitting opposite Tim and his merry men, are the procurement department at the DIA. We may think these people are hard to find and identify, especially when my early efforts to discover the true identity of this group of powerful people has fallen on deaf ears from the ministry. But no there are other more public ways to track down this gang.
You see, these people are a mysterious bunch because they’re called in and sequestered from other departments to work on AoG contracts that involve syndicated procurement. My request to discover their names was fobbed off by the DIA ith the excuse the fact that there are no full time employees and thus they don’t exist. “The names of member of the procurement reform group haven’t been made public. They are employees of agencies and have no public role in commenting on the programme.”
But what the government forgets is that we live in a digital age where a mere trawl through the fabulous LinkedIn with certain well placed search words will deliver results of rewarding magnitude.
This is how you can get to know who is on the other side of your tender. Or who will be evaluating the deal that you have spent ages deliberating about. It’s hard for me to name these people here in this column because they change so regularly. If you really need to know who the people are behind the desks of the procurement team, you can try Googling it, but you might as well be asking for Daddies Sauce as the local cafe.