Changing your company's culture can be difficult, especially if you are persuading your boss, company, or leadership team to open source a project. The hard truth is that businesses care about finances, specifically how to acquire and retain money. Their concerns are valid. Without financial stability and growth, the company is at risk of coming to a halt, which affects its employees and customers. The goal of a business is to stay in business. Perhaps, you understand that, and you see that open sourcing a project will help the company thrive more, but you're unsure how to help your employer recognize the value in open sourcing a project.
Here are four concerns your boss may have and responses you can use to alleviate their worries:
Your response: Licensing is confusing, but we don't have to try to understand it alone. We can work with an Open Source Program Office (OSPO). The goal of an Open Source Office Program Office consists of individuals with expertise in open source strategy. Their goal is to oversee open source software management and strategy. OSPOs handle:
- Security vulnerabilities
- Open source business partnerships
- Tracking metrics
- Supporting communication between external and internal contributors
Many companies, including Spotify, BMW, and Netflix, lean on an OSPO to manage their open source strategy. See the exhaustive list of companies with OSPOs here.
You can learn more in detail about the responsibilities and benefits of an OSPO at the resources below:
- 21 Reasons Why Open Source is Good for Your Business by Wassim Chegham
- A Tale of Two Cities: Merging Yahoo and AOL's Open Source Programs by Ashley Wolf
Your response: Our code quality will increase! In this article, Why the Best Companies and Developers Give Away Almost Everything They Do, Yevgeniy Brikman states, “When is your home cleanest? My guess is that you do the most cleaning just before guests arrive. The same is true of anything that you share with others. One of the unexpected benefits of open sourcing your code is that the mere act of preparing the code for open source often leads to higher-quality code because you know that "guests" will be looking at it. You'll probably take the time to clean up the code, add tests, write documentation, and generally make the project more presentable to the rest of the world." Additionally, more contributors can mean you'll have more users reporting bugs and more developers fixing them quickly.
3. Will open sourcing our projects hurt our reputation and our relevance in the industry? Enterprise organizations aren’t going open source.
Your response: As we've seen, on the list of companies that have OSPOs, enterprise companies such as Google, Facebook, and Goldman Sachs are heavily involved in open source. Many of these companies recognize that open sourcing a project improves the organization's reputation. Open sourcing a project can help us with:
- Marketing - Users who love our product will feel more compelled and excited to help us make our product better. Contributing will fuel their passion even more, and they will start encouraging those in their network to use and/or contribute to our project. Some contributors may even talk about our project at conferences, on Twitch livestreams, in blog posts, and in YouTube tutorials. That's free marketing to help the organization acquire customers and developers!
- Hiring - Developers admire companies that are transparent about their technological growth and processes. As contributors increase awareness of our product and our own company documents its journey, we will attract highly-skilled, community-driven, empathetic developers.
- Longevity - With increased collaboration, our organization will gain access to developers with varied technological experiences. They can help keep our project up to date with the latest technological tools, and contributors can help to add integrations at a faster pace. For example, before the rise of container orchestration, both Spotify and Google developed their own systems called Helios and Kubernetes. Google chose to open source Kubernetes, while Spotify kept Helios as an internal project. Unfortunately, Spotify didn't have enough capacity to continue the project internally. Over the past seven years, Kubernetes has been a top choice for container orchestration; even Spotify migrated their containerization to Kubernetes.
Your response: Open source software doesn't always mean free. Some open source companies such as MongoDB, Elastic, and HashiCorp have multi-billion dollar valuations. This is another opportunity for the experts of an OSPO to advise us. We can choose to embrace an open source model that works for us.
If your employer is still hesitant about open sourcing a project, the methods below can help your company gradually embrace the open source community:
- Suggest open source products that can help improve your team's workflow
- Create awareness of the open source tools your company currently uses
- Contribute to existing open source projects
- Motivate your teammates to contribute to open source
- Sponsor an open source project
- Encourage your company to sponsor a project that's beneficial to the company
If you found this helpful or you've convinced your company to adopt an open source model, share your experience below!