Adapting and innovating are essential for any company to remain competitive. A business’s digital transformation strategy is a key part of enabling it to be nimble in responding to changes in its industry and building compelling products and services.
Open source software (OSS) now lies at the heart of many companies’ technology infrastructure. Its transition to a pervasive foundation for software development over the last 30 years has been remarkable. The time has long passed when only proprietary software solutions would factor into a business’ thinking about what software should comprise their tech stack. A report by Red Hat, a provider of OSS to large companies, surveying over 1,000 businesses across the world, revealed that 95% of companies agree that OSS is important to their infrastructure.
Business leaders are showing confidence that utilising OSS in their business operations isn’t just a viable option but in fact, the preferred way to drive their business forward, with the same report finding that open source will make up more of the software solutions these businesses use in two years’ time than proprietary software.
As OSS becomes increasingly critical to the operations of businesses of all sizes we take a look at a few of the essential ways it can enable and drive forward digital transformation.
Speed of innovation
OSS enables businesses to innovate quickly by giving them a starting point for their software solutions that they can build on. This could be particularly beneficial to start-ups and small businesses who could start with community-developed OSS to see whether a solution is right for them without the long-time lock-ins and potentially prohibitive costs often seen with proprietary solutions.
Businesses can also develop prototypes more rapidly, as OSS often provides generic solutions that a team can easily customise for their needs. With access to the source code, businesses are able to build, test and modify different versions of a software product, to understand whether one provides the benefits and efficiencies they’re looking for and more swiftly iterate a new version if it doesn’t.
An inherent property of OSS is that it can be freely modified. Businesses, therefore, can have more precise control over the features and capabilities of their end product. As a business’s needs change they’re free to develop a solution that best serves their end goal rather than relying on proprietary vendors to develop features they’re looking for (if they ever will) first. This puts the power and timing to deploy features and fixes further into the hands of businesses.
Additionally, a business may find an open source solution which provides 80% of the capabilities they require meaning they simply need to modify the remaining 20% to suit their particular needs. In this way, businesses will find that many open source solutions have already done much of the heavy lifting in terms of development and helpfully provide a suitable foundation to build on top of.
Deploying OSS enables businesses to be flexible and react more quickly to changes within their industry. Its customisability enables unique solutions to be developed that could give businesses a competitive edge in the marketplace and allow them to more easily modify the software infrastructure that supports their business model and processes.
Further, businesses don’t need to make long-term commitments to proprietary solutions and can therefore change up their approach and pivot towards new priorities with greater ease when implementing new or adapting existing digital technologies.
The security and stability of a piece of software is, of course, a paramount concern when designing a digital transformation strategy. As OSS is publicly accessible, it’s open to anyone to view the source code, increasing the chances of identifying security and reliability issues and consequently, the speed with which fixes can be deployed. This can help to better ensure the integrity and security of the software solutions that are powering a business’ transformation.
Community development and engagement
The open source community is hugely engaged with the projects it develops. Its community’s a big driver of the tremendous value OSS provides and one which champions transparency and collaboration. Businesses can draw on not only the expertise offered by their own employees, but the expertise of the large open source community. Some businesses make a point of “giving back” to the communities that build the software they use, either by making code contributions or helping with writing documentation, answering questions or related activities.
Can open source alone bring successful digital transformation?
Whilst open source’s already driving the digital transformation goals of businesses effectively, simply making the choice to use OSS alone may not allow businesses to immediately reap the potential benefits it can bring. Red Hat advocates for what it calls an open transformation approach. They suggest that, in addition to open technologies, open processes and open culture are key to ensuring successful digital transformation. Open processes concern identifying and removing barriers and developing better ways of working within the business and an open culture seeks to ensure teams effectively communicate and work together as they navigate changing circumstances.
As development in each of these areas progresses together, they can maximise the impact that implementing new or adapted technologies can have on business goals.
Open source - a digital driver for progress and success
The choice to use open source-based solutions in digital transformation strategies is becoming ever more attractive to businesses. The adoption of open source continues to be a strongly positive one. Business leaders are indicating that the decision to deploy open source as part of their infrastructure isn’t just one of the cost savings but rather because they see that it offers legitimate advantages over proprietary solutions and can enable a faster time to market for products and services.
Open source can allow businesses to scale up, adapt to changing market needs and create innovative, unique solutions, without having to sacrifice the high levels of security and stability necessary to underpin digital operations.
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