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Help Your Organization Navigate the Risk And Reward of Open Source Activities

Brian Hsieh, Head of Open Source, Uber [NYSE: UBER]
Brian Hsieh, Head of Open Source, Uber [NYSE: UBER]

Brian Hsieh, Head of Open Source, Uber [NYSE: UBER]

Nowadays, open source activities happen frequently at all levels of an organization regardless of the industry. Below are some recommendations of how the organization leaders can consider helping the organization understand and navigate through the risk and reward associated with the open source activities for making informed decisions collectively.

As there could be conflicting and, at times, uncertain factors when assessing open source decisions, having clear goals, and how the goals align with the organization's mission and priorities is critical. The objectives of open source activities vary between organizations, from improving code quality, increasing collaboration with the community, supporting the project sustainability, recruiting talents, enhancing the organization’s brand awareness, expanding new business opportunities, and more. Even within an organization, the goals could vary between subsidiaries and even teams. Regardless, open source activities, in general, should achieve at least one of your organization’s goals.

While it’s exciting to expect the rewards of how open source may help achieve some of your organization’s goals, it’s easy to overlook the cost and investment involved to achieve your goals. For example, increasing collaboration with the open source community may require your organization to commit some workforce in understanding how the community-work, contributing the projects, and actively engaging with the community. Ensure there is a good understanding of how much cost and investment are anticipated before making the decision.

Open source enables collaboration across organizational boundaries; licensing and governance provide the foundation and guardrail for all participants. The nature of it also comes with risk implications on intellectual properties and reputations. The boundary-less nature of open source also comes with different levels of risk on business, legal, and reputation. To effectively mitigate the risk without overarching to it, identify the risk that’s concerning your organization, develop a set of policy and risk assessment criteria that fit your organization’s risk tolerance level.

Navigating through all the risk and reward factors can get complicated and often involve legal, marketing, engineering, and various domain experts across your organization. Having the domain experts to contribute to the decision-making process will help you make informed decisions. However, knowing what factor to consider itself is also complicated; it reflects the collaborative nature of the open source. As your organization evolves, consider hiring a skilled open source expert to build a collaborative environment and guide for all experts to work together, furthermore develop a long-term open source strategy for your organization.

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