How open source can be utilised to boost your enterprise agility

How open source can be utilised to boost your enterprise agility
Bart Copeland is the CEO and President of ActiveState, the open source languages company that provides enterprise-level programming language distributions backed with cross-platform consistency, commercial technical support, security reviews, license reviews, and indemnification. Bart holds a Master’s of Business Administration in technology management from the University of Phoenix and a mechanical engineering degree from the University of British Columbia.

Size and the ability to scale bring great competitive advantages, but the companies best poised for success are those that can adapt quickly and easily. Technology is accelerating faster than ever before. Customer expectations are drastically changing. Employee preferences are evolving.

These converging factors mean that digital transformation is more than just a buzzword that business leaders can bandy about, rather, it’s an imperative. So how do organisations achieve the necessary agility? Open source development could be the key.

Think about the companies most often viewed as “disruptive” or “game changers.” These are the companies that have completely upended the way industries previously worked and have been able to move fast without being hindered by legacy structures and technologies. For instance, Netflix and Hulu have been successful because they could move faster than the cable companies and telecommunications companies it was competing with.

The reality is that if you’re an incumbent and you cannot move with speed, you’ll be killed. But the streaming content example also illustrates the need for continued agility. As other companies have caught up – for example,  Disney, which has access to a mass amount of available content already,  is launching its own streaming service – the likes of Netflix and Hulu cannot rest on their laurels.

This example extends far beyond streaming services, of course. Customers and end users have come to expect that the company they choose to pay will be able to provide them with the things they want in a timely fashion. Next year or even next month will no longer suffice. In today’s economy, agility trumps certainty.

What open source offers enterprises

Large companies and organisations have historically built proprietary solutions in part because they tend to be very protective of their intellectual property. There’s also often a desire to try to do things on their own, whether motivated by cost (or perceived cost), pride or other factors. That’s noble, perhaps, but it also takes time and energy.

With the speed of software development as it is now, trying to do everything on their own isn’t the best approach for most companies. By the time an organisation has reached the end of a project and is ready to roll out, chances are good that their competitors will already be several laps ahead of them.

This is where open source brings huge potential. With open source, a lot of the fundamental building blocks of software development are already in place so projects can get done faster and more focus can be centered on areas that drive the most value for business. That’s been a huge driving force for open source adoption at the enterprise level. Open source is key to creating the type of enhanced agility organisations seek. (As a side note, Netflix relies largely on Python.)

So, why isn’t everyone doing it?

If agility is essential to success and open source can play a pivotal role in achieving agility, why isn’t every organisation on board? That’s a great question and one worth definitely worth contemplating. There are a couple of gating factors at work that are preventing some organisations from truly taking advantage of this technology. One of them is that do-it-yourself mentality I mentioned above. No matter what, there are always some organisations that will struggle with moving past the desire to do things themselves, or if not the desire, they believe that not taking a DIY approach will somehow cost more or conflict with the culture.

The second biggest factor comes down to disparate technology stacks. For companies that have been around longer than say, a few years, it’s likely they’re grappling with a mix of legacy and new systems that don’t all interact or communicate. Being hampered by legacy systems ultimately prevents developers from using the latest and greatest, but at the same time, technology systems often cost a lot to implement and are rendered outdated much sooner than most leaders would like.

It’s a double-edged sword. While replacing outdated technology is expensive in the present, keeping your developers hamstrung and unable to do their best work can ultimately cost far more money in the long run.

Bringing it all together: How to use open source to increase agility

Once you’ve decided to implement open source to help increase organisational agility, there are a few considerations that must be made. Rather than focusing on creating proprietary code, developers can quickly iterate on a solution by assembling open source code. That not only accelerates time to market but it also frees up dev time to innovate and build other things.

This is important but it also requires some structure in the form of setting up best practices, policies and procedures. These will go a long way toward ensuring that open source is properly consumed and managed within your organisation. It also empowers your creative thinkers to build and create great solutions – for your organisation and your customers – because you’re giving them access to use the best tools available. And that can only beget more success.

Looking ahead

Competition is only going to get stiffer as technology proliferates. Companies will be pressed to move faster than ever before in order to not just keep up but to stay ahead. It’s daunting but also exciting. By incorporating the right use of open source, a company is already on the path to be the type of agile enterprise that can flourish in this hypercompetitive environment.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data ExpoCyber Security & Cloud Expo and 5G Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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