ProjectLibre: October 2012 Project of the Month

Rich: October’s project of the month is ProjectLibre, an Open Source alternative to Microsoft Project. Now, as it happens, I spoke with Marc O’Brien of the ProjectLibre project just a few weeks ago. So, in this conversation we focused more on the community aspects of the project, rather than on the technical and functional aspects. Here’s my conversation with Marc.

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Rich: Hi, Marc. Congratulations for being project of the month. I also see you had a record download day yesterday.

Marc I noticed that. I gotta tell you, that is highly appreciated not just by us, but I got so much feedback from the community. People were really pleased, because we really want to focus this and make sure that we can get the progress with it, and part of that’s the user feedback. And so more people using it and getting us feedback the better. So that was excellent. One of the other interesting things – and you and I talked about it last time – I’ve got a personal interest in the geographic dispersion of it. And I’ve been tracking not just the downloads, but the countries. We were stuck on 136 countries for about a week, and with that change, we bumped up to, I think 140 or 141.

Rich: 142. 142 countries.

Marc I need to refresh my screen. Since this morning, two more countries have … that speaks volumes right there. Because I checked first thing this morning, and it was at 140. You’re right. 142.

Rich: This is cool.

Marc It really is. And you and I talked about Africa last time. I do think that Open Source software in general, but this in particular, can have a disproportionate benefit, not numbers-wise, but impact-wise, all over the world. That’s a really cool thing.

Rich: Last time we talked specifically about your project and its history. And that wasn’t so very long ago. Let’s talk a little bit about why you think that this project is important in those countries.

Marc There’s been a lot of progress made in Open Source software for productivity applications and business applications. And you can look no farther than just OpenOffice and LibreOffice, and see the impact that they have will millions and millions of users, and really a very nice alternative to the Office suite from Microsoft. You can look at Google as far as the cloud. Office includes Microsoft Project. Obviously, they have a dominant market share in the project management category. And part of the Office umbrella includes Project. And it turns out that about 7% of all desktops not only include your normal Office suite, but also Microsoft Project. In the ecosystem of Open Source software, it’s very difficult to make that jump as a business, be it a large business or a small business, over to Open Source software if you don’t have complementary packages across the board. You could look at it at first blush and say, 7% is not a big number, but even in a small/medium business, with downwards of 100 employees, you’re still talking about seven desktops that need an alternative in the Open Source space. ProjectLibre is that alternative, so that you can actually open up Microsoft Project files, be it on Linux, Mac, or Windows, and you’ve got an alternative. So that the impact of ProjectLibre is pretty wide spread, because it will allow companies to really deploy Open Source applications on the desktop such as OpenOffice or LibreOffice.

Rich: So far as the third world goes, there’s an enormous amount of illegal software use. Your project and ones like it also fill a role there. Can you talk a bit about that?

Marc I really feel passionately about this because it is a moral dilemma, around the world, whether you manage your project on a spreadsheet or whether you pay $1000 a copy for Microsoft Project or other proprietary vendors. Sometimes we look in the prism of the North American economy, and we see piracy here. Piracy around the world is a moral dilemma – they’re really figuring out whether they can effectively manage projects on a spreadsheet or whether they need to pirate, because the money’s not there. ProjectLibre gives them a free alternative that not only can manage the projects at the same level of functionality and features but also lets them potentially save it out if they have to interact with someone with the proprietary software so that you can actually exchange schedules. I think that the impact on this world-wide will be very significant, because projects are occurring all over the world – Africa, Asia, India, South America – and we can see that by the usage statistics as well.

Rich: And of course that’s not merely in technology businesses. Everyone has projects they have to manage.

Marc That’s exactly right. Project management itself as a discipline is a very interesting discipline. People get their PhDs now, and their Masters degrees, in the project management discipline. Architecture, engineering, and construction is a big segment. Pharmaceuticals is a big segment. Projects occur across the board and it’s very horizontal as far as the applicability.

Marc The community, as well – we are thrilled with the community. The ProjectLibre community at ProjectLibre.org is approaching 1000 people. And I had high expectations for the community involvement, but obviously people are voluntarily joining, and those numbers for one month are just tremendous for us. And we’re trying to manage the community effectively, and we’ll continue to refine how we do that. It’s really been wonderful to see almost 1000 people join the community in the first month.

Rich: I assume that these are primarily users of the software. Are you also seeing code contributions yet?

Marc No, we’re not. We’re seeing contributions from the community. The contributions are primarily on the documentation side, as well as the translations side. The code contributions right now has really been smaller for the team, and I need to give a shout out to the co-founder, Laurent Chretienneau, who is over in France, and is just doing an amazing job with the group. But the code contributions right now are occurring internally, because it’s very complex, with a lot of the bugs being fixed. But the community has really reached out in regards to translations, be it Chinese, Arabic, Spanish, French, Italian … I could keep going. But it’s really been great to get those kind of contributions. But primarily the community is doing a lot of bug testing for us. WIth 1000 people, and growing rapidly, it’s going to be really beneficial for the entire project.

You and I have been focusing on the fact that it’s in 142 countries. But in the United States, about 22% of the downloads are from the United States, and we’re seeing community members from Fortune 500 companies and they’re readily endorsing us. And so we’re getting great feedback. I unfortunately don’t have permission yet to use names, but suffice it to say it’s actually Fortune 10 level companies that are readily adopting it. It really is cool. In one particular instance, are doing so not just domestically, but also with some of their international operations. For them, they’re able to do this effectively because of the interoperability with existing proprietary tools, a.k.a. Microsoft Project. So that as they’re rolling this out, it can be augmenting what they currently have deployed and send the files back and forth. In short order, I want to get a case study out there so that this can really be much more publicized with specific information. But I think that’s one of the things that’s really been gratifying in addition to the global usage, but also the fact that it’s spanning from small/medium enterprises up to, like I said, a Fortune 10. So that’s really great.

Rich: Marc, thank you very much for talking with me again. And I look forward to seeing your download numbers continue to grow.

Marc Rich, I really appreciate it. Thanks for all the support, and it was a pleasure speaking with you again as well. Thanks.

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