Leveraging the Open Source Program Office: New Research Unpacks the Evolution of the OSPO (and a Whole Lot More)

OSS is a growing phenomenon, and every journey to open source best practices is unique. At the same time, there’s a whole lot of room to grow some more. Many organizations use Open Source Program Offices to align their open source efforts under a management system and policies designed to create a positive experience for internal developers and external participants to the communities they participate in and contribute. 

While the Linux Foundation, under the auspices of The TODO Group, has previously published whitepapers about the benefits of open source and OSPOs, it became apparent that it needed an established model for evolving an OSPO within an organization. Beyond the modeling, it was important to supplement pathways to open source best practices with good old-fashioned storytelling in OSPO leadership and formation to help other leaders and practitioners see themselves in the process. It’s hard not to be inspired by the vision of some of the community’s innovators, so why not share their stories?

The TODO Group, in collaboration with Linux Foundation Research, is pleased to release a new whitepaper, The Evolution of the Open Source Program Office, as a roadmap for others to follow.

Ana Jiménez Santamaría, TODO Group’s OSPO Program Manager, further explains the motivations behind the development of the roadmap and case study: 

“I have seen an increasing need for OSPO guidance in many organizations. I hope this study provides a way to better frame and visualize the OSPO ecosystem complexity and provide a roadmap to ease OSPO planning and adoption. We welcome the open source community to contribute and collaborate to these resources, expanding the initial archetype scope or improving the documentation for each of the stages.”

This whitepaper provides a set of patterns and directions – and even a checklist! – to help implement an OSPO or an open source initiative within corporate environments. This includes an OSPO maturity model, practical implementation from noted OSPO programs across regions and sectors, and a handful of broad OSPO archetypes (or personas), which drive differentiation in OSPO behavior.

Intending to drive differentiation in OSPO behavior, this whitepaper features a set of OSPO Archetypes from a company perspective, including:

Industry CollaborativesCross-Industry CollaborativesProject FacilitatorsOpen Source First OrganizationsTechnology Strategy ExpertsSoftware Companies

The OSPO maturity model has been developed based on a series of interviews from leaders of noted OSPO programs, including some of the most influential technology firms such as Red Hat, Microsoft, SAP, and VMware, as well as some of the most iconic brands. And yes, the research dug into recent OSPO survey data, too.

As the culmination of the research process, the whitepaper features three case studies of the evolution of  OSPOs in end-user organizations in different industry verticals: Bloomberg (financial services), Comcast (media), and Porsche (transportation/automotive). Each case is structured as a journey through the stages of the OSPO model to put it into practice. 

Bloomberg runs a highly mature OSPO with nine years of experience. With over 6,500 developers engaged and as many as 20 dedicated specifically to OSS, it is a major incubator of projects such as Kserve, bqplot, and PowerfulSeal.

Kevin P. Fleming, who served as the former head of technology engagement at Bloomberg, recalls the need for the organization to have trusted advisors when it comes to open source:

 “As more and more people from management down to individual contributors understood that we wanted to build better relationships and broaden engagement and usage of open source, we became advisors in strategic decision-making. Should we use this particular project from this community? Does it look like a real community, or is it being run by a single company or individual? We helped answer those questions.”

Comcast is a five-year veteran of open source adoption, has four full-time engineers in its OSPO, and has been highly active incubating projects such as Apache Traffic Control, Trickster, and Kuberhealthy within the larger OSS community. 

Nithya Ruff, who is a Comcast fellow and also serves on the Linux Foundation Board of Directors as chair, emphasized the need to make working on open source projects easy and to facilitate the process for Comcast employees when they participate:

“A lot of our engineers love being able to contribute to OSS and being able to speak at conferences, publish papers and blogs. Our job is to make it easy to make it work in OSS. We believe OSS is a critical component of innovation as a company and a key advantage in attracting great developers to work with us.” 

Porsche’s OSPO is relatively new, having been in operation for two years, but already has a number of developers and engineers dedicated to open source coding incubating projects such as the Porsche Design System, the OSS Review Toolkit, and the Cookie Consent Banner.

Nik Peters, who runs Porsche’s OSPO, feels that the company’s role in open source is well suited to driving standards adoption in the automotive industry as an OSS end user.

“As an organization, we are in-between being a contributor and being a participant. One of our big goals is to see if we can drive and set open standards—for example, an automotive open source standard … our big goal is to move from 10 to 20 percent in-house embedded software to at least 60 percent over five years. This for us is a game-changer,” 

Not all experiences are equal, but each is unique and valuable in its own right. 

Who should read this report? Anyone who wants to learn about the value of the Open Source Program Office and its significance to organizational compliance, competitiveness, and stewardship of shared technologies in hardware, software, and standards. 

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