Internal expertise is one of the most important reasons for organisations to adopt open source software, says Kris Ven, postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Management Information Systems of the University of Antwerp. "It is often an employee that recognises the potential of open source and suggests it to the organisation."
These employees commonly have developed their open source skills outside the organisation. Using this expertise offers organisations an efficient way to come into contact with open source software, Ven says. The researcher presented a summary of his Ph.D research during a workshop organised by the University of Antwerp, Belgium, on 3 December.
Organisations that want to use open source, should consider seeking advice from these experienced employees in deciding which applications are most suitable. Recommendations from IT service providers and consultancies are other important sources of information.
The adoption of open source frequently seems to be a bottum-up process, explains Ven. Organisations put trust in their IT workers, who usually remain pragmatic and are not so much motivated by the open source ideology, he finds. "They will not plead at all cost to go for open source. If proprietary software offers a better solution, they will say so."
Organisations should not base their open source policies on those of other institutions, Ven warns. Each has its own contexts, that will greatly influence whether or not open source will fulfil it's potential benefits.
Ven earlier this year received his Ph.D. in Applied Economics. He studies the adoption of open source software. As part of his dissertation he researched the uptake by organisations of seven well-known open source servers applications such as GNU/Linux, Sendmail and Apache. He also surveyed the use of open source in 332 organisations in Flanders, Belgium. The majority of the organizations that were questioned indicated not to have a policy towards the use of open source software. However, in a limited number of organisations, the use of open source software was either compulsory or recommended.
To Ven's surprise, the availability of the code or the potential cost savings are no reason for organisations to switch to this type of software. "It's reliability however, is considered a more important argument."