The increase in the market for free software will create a substantial number of jobs in the coming years, as long as companies manage to meet the training challenge.

According to PLOSS, the collective of businesses involved in open source software and services in France, the rise of Open Source is making a substantial contribution to job creation. These claims rest on a study published in September looking at SMBs and large companies that are active in the free software market in France. “The increase in this market could lead to the creation of more than 5,000 jobs over the next three years in the Internet and Open Source sectors,” Philippe Montarges, Chairman and CEO of Alter-Way, who is a member of PLOSS, explained to L’Atelier at the Open World Forum currently taking place in Paris He added: “We should also note that this figure only takes newly-created jobs into account, not job-switching or retraining. We’re talking about a real increase here.”

A sector segmented into small and large companies

Another interesting change highlighted by the study is the increase in the average size of companies active in the free software market. The average Open Source company in France now (2011) employs 30 people, with a turnover above €2.8 million. However, we’re not seeing across-the-board expansion. Among the companies studied, the largest 10% account for 50% of the total increase in recruitment in the sector. Philippe Montarges suggests the situation is less clear cut, however: “These two types of firm are not in competition. The SMEs generally offer ‘close to the customer’ services and are very well integrated into their local areas, while the larger companies set out their strategy on a national basis”.  

Diversifying activity and promoting training 

However some aspects inherent to the sector could put a brake on development. For example, there is very little mobility among employees in this sector, which makes it difficult for companies to recruit efficiently. Philippe Montarges thinks that “the solution is to prioritise training and focus on bringing interns and sandwich course students into the firm. This is the only way that sector growth can continue long term”.  He concluded by pointing out one of the keys to success for these companies - vertical integration. A company “must be able to offer simultaneously software, hosting and product evaluation solutions to its customers,” he underlined.