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Research Shows Open Source Program Offices Improve Software Practices

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Using open source software is commonplace, with only a minority of companies preferring a proprietary-first software policy. Proponents of free and open source software (FOSS) have moved to the next phases of open source adoption, widening FOSS usage within the enterprise as well as gaining the “digital transformation” benefits associated with open source and cloud native best practices.

Companies, as well as FOSS advocates, are determining the best ways to promote these business goals, while at the same time keeping alive the spirit and ethos of the non-commercial communities that have embodied the open source movement for years.

As we learned last year in our first survey on this topic, purpose-built program offices and less formal initiatives play an important role in helping companies create policies that will increase adoption of open source components into commercial software products, promote open source culture, and guide corporate citizenship within open source communities.

In partnership with The Linux Foundation’s TODO Group and co-sponsored by VMware, The New Stack conducted its second annual “Open Source Programs in the Enterprise” survey to investigate how and if these open source programs are succeeding. We found an emerging consensus about how best to manage and promote open source initiatives.

Over 2,700 people participated in the survey. Company size was broadly represented, with 21% of respondents working at large companies with more than 10,000 employees, and 39% from small and mid-size companies with 250 or fewer employees. Developers and software engineers represented 43% of respondents, with at least another 36% holding an IT-related role.

This article starts with the study’s key findings, proceeds to charts and analysis and concludes with a discussion of the study’s methodology.

Key Findings

– Adoption of open source programs and initiatives is widespread and goes beyond early adopters. More than half (52%) of the 2,700 study participants either have a formal or informal program or their company is planning to create one, which is one percentage point less than last year. Despite tripling the study’s sample size, many of the study’s findings as well its demographic profile remained remarkably similar compared to last year. We see this as a validation of last year’s report.
– Expectations for open source program management have begun to crystalize. Fostering an open source culture continues to be the top responsibility of these programs. However, the results show culture is less likely to be seen as a benefit when defined as interactions between departments as opposed to general digital transformation and agility. Compared to last year, facilitating the effective use of open source in commercial products and services rose from the fifth to the second most cited responsibility.
– Hiring of open source developers is a more prominent concern. Mentions of developer recruitment and retention as a primary benefit of open source programs rose from 31% in 2018 to 36% in the latest study. Forty-two percent of companies planning a program say they are at least sometimes hiring developers to work on an open source project, up from 33% in 2018.
– Code quality is associated with open source software practices. Forty-one percent of participants with OSS management initiatives say these programs are responsible for ensuring high quality and frequent releases to open source communities. In open-ended questions, many respondents discussed how code review processes instituted by OSS programs had a positive impact on code quality.
– There is no consensus about the impact of open source citizenship on buying decisions. Twenty-nine percent say their perception of a company’s open source participation is very influential on their organization’s buying decisions but 32% say it is slightly or not at all influential.

Open Source Remains Commonplace in the Enterprise

More than three times as many people participated in the 2019 survey as compared to last year, but many of the findings remain consistent year-over-year. This indicates that the 2018 results were not skewed by a significant over-representation of early adopters involved with The Linux Foundation’s TODO Group. In other words, the survey represented a wide cross-section of enterprises and not just those that were already part of what might be considered a tight-knit group of like-minded open source fans. Overall, the data’s consistency provides confidence that the findings are not the result of self-selection bias.