Community Spotlight: André Bauer

As an Open Source project, OTRS would not exist were it not for the efforts of hundreds of dedicated community contributors. Think of a feature you can’t do without in OTRS and chances are, one or more of our community members had a hand in designing, coding or testing it.

In this post, which I hope will be the first of a continuing series, I’d like to highlight a community member who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in supporting the OTRS project. André Bauer (aka “monotek”) is a name that will be familiar to anyone who’s asked a question or posted a discussion in the OTRS forums. He is a long-time OTRS user, the administrator of the OTRS international user forums, and a frequent contributor to both the OTRS mailing lists and the OTRS wiki.

André first got involved with OTRS in 2004, when the company he worked with decided to do some research into ticketing systems. OTRS was one of the candidates selected for evaluation, and it was eventually  chosen to manage support and sales within the organization.

André was one of the first members of the OTRS forum and by virtue of his expertise and contributions, he soon became a forum moderator. When the original founders of the forum decided to concentrate on other activities, André took on the task of hosting and managing them – a task he continues to do today whilst also working as a system administrator at his day job.

Under Andre’s stewardship, OTRS’ international user forums have grown by leaps and bounds. Today, they support more than 3,900 users who have contributed over 25,000 posts in 8 languages: German, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, French, Chinese and Russian. These are impressive statistics for any Open Source project, and we’re indeed fortunate to have André and other volunteers bringing their many years of OTRS expertise to bear on questions related to OTRS configuration, deployment and module development.

If you’re not already a member of the OTRS forums, why not sign up now? Whether you’re developing a custom module, deploying OTRS in an unusual environment, or simply looking for help on managing your first ticket, you’ll find expert support and a community spirit that embodies the very best of Open Source. It’s a great way to make friends with other users, developers and contributors … and if you happen to run into André, don’t forget to stop and say hello!

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Open Source for the Enterprise – Lessons Learned at OTRS

Looking through our customer list the other day, I was struck by how OTRS in particular, and open source software in general, has made significant inroads into the enterprise segment over the last few years. Today, there’s scarcely a single multi-national corporation that can afford to ignore the benefits of open-source software, or the cost and efficiency savings that it produces.

Based on my own experiences and conversations, I find that there is a greater sense of trust and comfort among senior executives when discussing open-source applications. This is due to a number of different factors:

Whole Product Offering

The wide variety of commercial support, consultancy and training offerings, coupled with the robust, secure codebase and the access to expert communities, have resulted in a gradual fading of resistance. Today, more often than not, open source offerings are being compared on an equal footing with their commercial counterparts, with none of the stigma that was earlier attached to them for being “free” or “unsupported”.

The fact that most open source software is today available as part of a whole product offering, makes it highly attractive for economic buyers such as CEOs or CIOs.

Maximum Control and Flexibility

Many managers appreciate the greater control and flexibility offered by an open source application. The open code base and typically easy integration with other products allows for easier customization, and reduces the time spent (re)-negotiating support contracts with vendors; after all, they can just hire a developer and make the changes themselves!

I repeatedly observed that the customers who use our open-source Help Desk or IT Service Management software, do so because they are in need for service innovation to add value and increase margins. Maximum control and flexibility over as many IT components as possible is an important prerequisite for a competitive business that needs to innovate constantly.

Cost Savings

The cost savings don’t hurt either. Using an open-source application can save many thousands of euros, pounds and dollars in license fees. As companies slowly work their way out of the economic slowdown, these savings are appreciated even more than they were before.

Of course, every penny you saved, can be invested in developing IT solutions based on open source software, that allow companies to provide innovative products and services to their customers.

As Uwe Feil, Toshiba Europe’s General Manager of Technical Services & Support, says:

“The new OTRS solution has greatly improved our quality of customer service, proving that open source systems pose a formidable challenge to closed, proprietary systems.”

As a long-time advocate of both open source and OTRS, this is music to my ears!

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OTRS Going Global Through Partners and Subsidiaries

As you may know, we opened a new OTRS Group office in Mexico a few months ago, followed by another OTRS office in the Netherlands. We did this to better serve our customers and partners in those locations, and to spur innovation through our new development lab in Mexico.

But, while “opening an office on every continent” is on every CEO’s wish list, actually doing so is a lot harder than it looks. Incorporating, staffing and managing offices in multiple locations is a difficult (and expensive) operation, and should be undertaken only if it makes strategic sense.

In many cases, it’s a better idea to develop local partnerships, by bringing local vendors on board and offering them the training and certification they need to go out and sell a product to their customers. The company brings the product and the expertise; the partner brings the local market knowledge and contacts. Done right, this is win-win for both parties: the partner creates new revenue streams and business opportunities for itself, and the company grows its customer base and brand outside its local market.

This is very close to the strategy that OTRS is following at the moment. Currently, we have offices in our key markets of Germany, the United States and South America. These hubs allow us to focus our efforts on delivering our core support and consultancy services in these markets, while also providing a base for us to aggressively pursue local partnerships to expand our reach in the surrounding regions. We also have a partner program, which allows partners to reach out to customers through the OTRS network and build business for themselves.

We have recently summarized the global activities of our business ecosystem in a world map that nicely overlays the number of downloads with OTRS Group and our partners’ locations. See for yourself:

OTRS downloads, offices, partners

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Software and Data Freedom in the Cloud

At OTRS, we’ve always had a strong commitment to freedom. Our products are built using open source tools and the OTRS source code is freely available to everyone. For us, as a business that believes in the principles of Free Software, it’s important that our users be free to obtain, use, modify or share our products without restriction.

Today, we’re backing this belief with action: OTRS OnDemand, our new SaaS offering, lets our customers access the OTRS suite through the cloud, and also own both the data and the application with our Pack&Go export feature.

Your Data, Your Software

The Pack&Go feature of OTRS OnDemand lets customers export all their data, together with a full, open-source copy of the OTRS application. Yes, you read that right! You can download the full application that we run in the cloud, along with your data, and you can also export that data into other easily-understood formats, like CSV.

In short, Pack&Go gives you the freedom to exit our SaaS offering at any time free of charge, without ever needing to worry about data being locked away or lost for good in the cloud because, with OTRS OnDemand, you own the application and you own the data.

This is revolutionary for us, and for the industry as a whole. I don’t know of any other major open source project offering this kind of freedom to its users, and we are proud to be the ones leading the way.

Open Software, Open Service, Open Business

Why are we doing this? Very simply, we believe that open source is all about freedom:

  • freedom from proprietary technologies,
  • freedom from inflexible business models,
  • freedom from the gilded cage of vendor lock-in.

Part of that freedom is the ability to take a valuable business asset – your data – and then mine it, manipulate it and extract information from it without any restrictions from your software vendor. After all, as Tim O’Reilly pointed out in his keynote address at Open Source Business Conference (OSBC) 2010, it’s your data and you should be free to use it any way you want.

Users Owning the Cloud

But why stop there? Why not take the software with you as well? With Pack&Go, you can download the OTRS application and start using it on site, in your hosting environment or data center. Your data comes with it, so you can continue right where you left off in the cloud.

Now, you’re not just using the cloud … you’re owning it as well!

There’s a reason for this, and it’s an important one. We want our customers to not only have full control of their data at all times, but also the ability to use their data out of the box, wherever they are. We want our software and our licensing model to promote (not prohibit) use of our product, because we firmly believe this adds flexibility, creates richer and more meaningful conversations between users, and produces higher quality software overall. We want to build an open ecosystem – open software, open services, open data –  that encompasses both “cloud” and “not-cloud” and offers our customers maximum flexibility and choice.

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Welcome to my Weblog

It’s about time for me to start blogging and to share my thoughts on Open Source and of course all things OTRS. Given that I’ve been in this industry for several years now, I believe that I have something to add from my personal perspective as the CEO of a pure Open Source company that offers both customer support and service and IT service management solutions.

If you’re a member of the OTRS community, a user or customer of OTRS, or just a hobbyist interested in learning more about the people behind the best open-source service innovation suite out there, I invite you to add this blog to your list, and to send me your feedback and comments.

Stay tuned and watch out for my next post, which has some very exciting news.

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