The Maple Syrup Farm Model for Proprietary Software Companies
In a proprietary software company the raw material, software, is the same as with an open source project but the process by which it is created is very different so we need a different model. We use the Maple Syrup Farm model.
In this case the raw material is the sap from maple trees. The source of the sap (the trees) are fixed assets with no active involvement in the process. As noted above bees have free-will and they participate because they choose to. The maple trees have no free will and no choice. Moving a tree from one farm to another is a permanent and costly exercise. This is very different than the mobility of the bees in the Wild Hive model.
The Maple Syrup Farm model compares nicely to the proprietary software model:
In the proprietary model:
- Engineering has two roles in this model: first to create software, and secondly to participate in the productization process.
- Product Management ‘owns’ the product roadmap and has the responsibility of creating it by collating the requirements of Sales, Marketing and customers. They also act as a buffer between Engineering and these groups. This is done for two reasons: to keep engineers focused on writing software, and to control the flow of information from engineers to customers. Product Managers also describe how the features are to be turned into whole product.
- Note that the roles of the Sales, Marketing, Support, and Services departments are focused on delivering the whole product to the customers.
- It is the productization process that creates the whole product that mainstream customers require. Engineering does not run the productization process they are (usually reluctant) participants.
- The customer is not very involved in the process of creating the software.
- Engineers (the trees) can only be involved at one company (farm). Engineers are explicitly restricted, through contracts, from working for any other company.
- Intellectual property and license issues are actively monitored by the organization.
The open source and proprietary models have the same raw materials and both involve software engineers but they are clearly very different from each other. The first has a community but produces only raw material (software), the second has no community but produces whole product from the raw software. The Wild Hive and the Maple Syrup Farm models can be compared in a similar way: the raw material is a sugary, sticky substance in both cases but the processes and outputs are very different.