To maintain today’s software and build tomorrow’s software, organizations and recipients of open source must expand their collaboration with the community.
Software is the invisible backbone enabling future innovations in all areas, including the automotive industry, healthcare and climate technology. The global open source community of millions is driving this development. It is unlikely that there will ever be another significant discovery that is not supported by software, as technology is the engine of human progress.
Without open source, the future of software development would not be possible.
To maintain current software and develop future software, the most prominent organizations and biggest supporters of open source must increase their cooperation with the community and encourage its expansion.
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Companies need to engage more actively in the open source community to close this gap and maintain the number of developers, maintainers, and contributors. Although it may seem like a difficult task, organizing open source programs can be done in different ways by companies. Here are three ways for them to get started:
Understand organizational engagement and processes with open source software
Developers can be prevented from contributing upstream to open source projects if there is no defined process for doing so. Although large organizations often take a week or more to approve the use of new open source components, there is a formal approval process for the introduction of new open source features.
By trying to make everything open and publishing code online to invite developers to use their software, companies can make it easier for developers to publish open source code. Establishing simple rules for developing open source projects will also benefit businesses. In practice, this will speed up the approval process and help define what good governance and maintenance means to them.
Manage the company’s participation in open source and provide structure through an open source program office
An open source program office (OSPO) can help accelerate the growth of open source processes if understanding the work in progress and putting procedures in place are the first steps. An official OSPO works cross-functionally with divisions of the organization to minimize potential roadblocks such as engineering, security, human resources, and legal.
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An OSPO can also reduce developer friction and build organizational confidence in open source. Program offices can be created by start-ups and large companies in the technology, financial services, and academic sectors to help manage open source at scale. When developers have questions about open source, this group is the first point of contact.
Various professionals create OSPOs; program managers, engineers and developers have taken the initiative to launch their respective industries.
Support developers and the open source community through sponsorships and investments
Everyone should give back to the community as open source is increasingly used globally. This help reinforces the efforts of the whole community. For example, many open source developers have dedicated their time and resources to patching the code library fixes that many companies have relied on during recent software supply chain vulnerabilities, such as Log4j. For their efforts, these developers deserve praise and encouragement.
Open source projects power major software systems and the global economy, but this relationship is reciprocal. Companies that rely on the community must promote and work more closely with developers, maintainers and contributors to jointly produce innovative software.
Organizations can deliver great experiences faster, engage the developer community, support the projects they care about, and shape the future of software together by implementing an open source strategy.