In this post I will talk about how libre software helped a company to success in their non software related business. This is a summary of a case study I found at CIO Insight, later I learned that this case study was explained at the 2007 Linux World Open Solutions Summit.
Backcountry.com began in 1996 as a web site selling sporting goods. The business was successful but by 2000 they realized that they needed to improve their e-commerce system and also they thought that technologies could be applied to internal processes and data to make more efficient decisions.
They decide to invest in open source technologies for two main reasons:
- Available proprietary solutions were too expensive for them
- The dot-com world was showing signs of deterioration and they didn’t want to be tied to a particular company, they wanted to control the source code of their solution.
So they signed with RedHat Inc. which installed their open source e-commerce platform, called Interchange.
Lower costs were not the only advantage. Backcountry.com could hire IT staff to develop several improvements of their solution, and in fact they did it:
- Integration between the order management system and Zimbra email system
- Set up a wiki-based intranet to promote sharing ideas and innovation among employees
- Quick launch of side-websites for discounted, old products
- Customization and extensions of their system to take benefit of the own company data (sales data, inventory data), as scripts to remove advertisement keywords of items no longer in inventory (and so, reduce the costs of internet advertisements), or calculation of best discount rate for each product to prepare sale campaigns.
They also changed company’s mentality and processes in order to increase innovation using technologies:
- Taking advantage of customer experience, allowing them to write reviews of their products (and so, overcoming the weakness of not having physical store).
- Creating a laid-back atmosphere at job so employees work happier and better, contributing to company’s innovation.
Backcountry.com relationship with open source is continuing nowadays, a more recent example is Bucardo, an asynchronous PostgreSQL replication system, allowing for both multi-master and multi-slave operations. It was developed at Backcountry.com by Jon Jensen and Greg Sabino Mullane of End Point Corporation, and is now in use at many other organizations, released under the BSD license.
You can learn more about this case in the following links:
- “Own the code” article at Inc.com
- Article about the case study presentation at LinuxWorld OpenSoultions Summit 2001, in BusinessWire
- Backcountry.com gives back to the open source community (Press Release)