The popularity of open source has been soaring to tremendous heights with the vast majority of organizations today leveraging it some way or another. Yet very often organizations that are using or contributing to open source still perceive it as a means to address a specific enterprise IT need at a lower cost than with a proprietary software. This approach can be detrimental to reaping the rewards from open source technologies. Open source usually requires significant amount of integration, training, and support to run corporate mission critical systems. So, an organization must ensure that its open source strategy involves leveraging existing best practices, processes and strategic planning to ensure best allocation of organizational budget. An organization’s adoption of an open innovation approach needs to be backed by a strategic intent in order to ensure that the efforts don’t lose steam in the long run.
On a brighter note, many organizations are now waking up to the immense potential of open source to drive business benefits and support corporate strategies in ways that go far beyond pure cost savings. These benefits can be realized through contributing to existing open source communities or even publishing open source software directly. Recent announcements from well-known organizations across the world give an indication of the strategic business benefits being driven from open source technologies. Let’s look at some key ones:
One of the most immediately apparent benefits of open source is that it brings a fantastic platform for open innovation. To simplify the complex legal agreements between organizations going through an open innovation process, businesses are taking their own source code and publishing as open source to drive ecosystem participation and generate added-value for everybody. Allianz, the German insurance company, in the announcement of the open-sourcing of their core insurance platform says, “We firmly believe that by working together on an open platform, we can create a sustainable insurance ecosystem for the entire industry” and “through partnerships and working together with other insurers, we’ll all be able to generate a lot of added value for our clients.” Orange, the telecom operator, holds a similar position about open source and innovation, “When innovation takes place in an open framework it generates efficiencies, and open source is a reference framework that allows people from different firms and “technical” cultures to cooperate.”
Another strategic use of open source is for communication purposes. Thought and market leadership can be efficiently driven and enhanced through proper communication around open source community participation. One great example is that of Deutsche Bank, which, in early 2018 announced open-sourcing of its Waltz platform. The company’s official press release states, “The move underpins the bank’s goal to become a leader in the open source community following the successful release of Plexus Interop late last year.”
The Linux Foundation’s 2018 Open Source Jobs Report shows that companies also leverage open source from a human resources perspective for driving talent acquisition and retention. Excellent open source developers are much more motivated to join an organization and stay there if, as part of their job, they are encouraged to contribute to their favorite open source projects. It can even compensate for working in a sector that might, otherwise, not seem very attractive to certain people. Open source contributors like to know they are contributing to something that makes sense, for them, and for the society.
One of the things I like to do when starting a conversation with my customers on their open source strategy is to discuss their corporate vision and mission. From these elements, it is often quite easy to find elements that can be supported by a proper open source strategy. Try it. Look at your corporate vision and mission statements. If there are words like innovation, customer focus, standards… there’s a good chance that open source would have a perfect place as part of your corporate strategy. Let’s start a discussion on this theme!