3 ways every business can get started with an open source software strategy


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Technology is the engine of human progress, and it’s unlikely there will ever be another significant breakthrough that isn’t supported by software.

Everything from the automotive industry to healthcare to climate technology relies on software as the invisible backbone that makes future innovations possible. And behind all this development are millions of individuals who make up the global open source community.

The future of software development does not exist without open source; however, to maintain today’s software and build tomorrow’s software, larger organizations and open source recipients must expand their collaboration with the community and help it grow. According to a recent Tidelift study, only 15% of organizations are extremely confident in their open source management practices, but a recent RedHat survey showed 80% expect a raise their use of open source enterprise software for emerging technologies.

To close this gap and maintain the number of developers, maintainers, and contributors, companies need to increase their participation and engagement with the open source community. Although a seemingly daunting task, there are plenty of ways companies can organize open source programs. Here are three ways to get started:


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1. Understand your organization’s engagement and processes with open source software.

Do you have a clear idea of ​​your organization’s current work with open source developers? Are there dedicated internal resources where your teams can understand your collaboration and processes for partnering on open source projects?

The lack of an open source contribution process can prevent developers from making upstream contributions to open source projects. For example, according to the previously mentioned Tidelift study, 61% of organizations have a formal approval process for introducing new open source components, but obtaining permission to use new open source components in large organizations can be slow and tedious, often time consuming. week or more.

Companies can make it easier for developers to release open source code by striving to open up as much as possible and releasing code to invite developers to use their software. Companies will also benefit from having lightweight guidelines in place for creating open source projects. Indeed, it will speed up the approval process and help determine what good housekeeping and good governance mean to them.

2. Manage your company’s participation in open source and provide structure through an open source program office.

If understanding the work in progress and getting processes in place is the first step, creating an open source program office (OSPO) can help drive growth around your open source processes. An official OSPO works cross-functionally in your business to reduce potential roadblocks with departments such as legal, human resources, engineering, and security.

An OSPO can also help increase organizational confidence in open source and reduce developer friction. Startups and large organizations in technology, financial services, and academia can create the Program Offices to help manage open source at scale. This group is the first line for open source support when developers have questions.

All kinds of professionals create OSPOs; developers, engineers, and program managers have all led programs and taken the initiative to launch them. The TO DO Group is an example of a network that is a great public resource to get started as it provides case studies, guides, how-to’s and surveys to help organizations establish an OSPO.

3. Support developers and the open source community through sponsorships and investments.

As the world becomes increasingly dependent on open source, everyone has a responsibility to give back to the community. This support helps elevate all efforts in the wider community. For example, in recent software supply chain vulnerabilities such as last year Log4j, many open source developers spent their time and resources fixing fixes for the library of codes that many companies relied on. These developers deserve recognition and support for this work.

No first step is too small – providing sponsorships for the projects and developers your business relies on is a great place to start as it will open up a conversation with the community. With many options available, such as Outreachy, Open Collective, GitHub Sponsors, and multiple foundations such as Linux Foundation, OpenJS, and many more, supporting open source is easier than ever.

Open source projects power our core software systems and the global economy, but it’s a two-way street. Companies that rely on the community should encourage and collaborate more with developers, maintainers and contributors to co-create innovative software.

By implementing an open source strategy in their businesses, organizations can deliver great experiences at an accelerated pace, engage the developer community, support the projects that matter most to them, and together contribute to the future of software.

Ashley Wolf is Director of Open Source Programs at GitHub.


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