OSPO Alliance aims to promote world class materials on good governance for Open Source Program Offices. They've recently published an updated version 1.1 of their Good Governance Handbook (PDF direct link).
The two main additions with version 1.1 are French and German translations, and a quick-and-easy deployment feature. We spoke with one of the authors, Christian Paterson of OpenUp Consulting. The full list of contributors is on page 5 of the handbook.
Q: What was the feedback from version 1.0?
Christian Paterson: My understanding is that the feedback received has been overwhelming positive. A “unique” resource that provides structured wealth of resources, and an actionable and workable program to help program offices (and companies) become more mature in how they approach open source.
Q: How has this document helped companies who want to set up an OSPO?
CP: As a City of Paris representative remarked during OSXP 2022, the breadth of the handbook is such that people need to select from what is appropriate to their needs, context and priorities. This public feedback confirms the original intention of the handbook which was to be a reference of good practices and pragmatic actions rather than a prescriptive “apply this” set of instructions. Consequently, companies & organisations leveraging the handbook can create their own prioritised and context-adapted roadmap for traveling the OSPO “journey”.
Q: What motivations or requirements lead public sector entities to use Free / Open Source Software?
CP: Besides any “legal” obligation, there's an interest in creation of community, access to markets, reduction in licence expenditure, potentially greater choice between suppliers, cyber security considerations, easier technical roadmap mastery, easy collaboration, position within industry consortia, up-skilling staff, among others.
The “need” or desire to use open source can have several motivations and these can differ from organisation to organisation, from project to project, from current position in the delivery chain (experimentation, prototype, go to market, etc.), and even to considerations around things such as standards and IP (which maybe can be simplified down to “innovation approach”).
Q: Is this quite different to the private sector?
CP: Private companies generally don’t have an imposed “public money, public code” type of obligation (unless they’re replying to a RFQ that states this), but they do have certain obligations towards provision of access. These might be “A11y” obligations or more “simple” commercial considerations about audience and market access.
On the flip side, using open source within an organisation entails certain checks and balances regardless of whether the organisation is public or private. And the same is true for publishing open source, or contributing to external projects. The checks may be different, but the need to “master” the process remains.
Aside from certain edge cases, the various motivations to consume, contribute or produce open source are more determined by each project and organisational context/objective than the simple public/private distinction. Equally, the benefit of managing that open source participation is significantly raised through a considered use of best practices, which should always include appropriate risk reduction and mitigation.
Q: What do local governments need to help them be able to set up an OSPO?
CP: As above, my answer applies to public and private sector. I would suggest 3 key elements:
1. Ensure that there is top management buy-in. This means doing some homework about why/how an OPSO will benefit the organisation.
2. Use the GGI handbook to help formulate a coherent best practices approach (roadmap, if you like) that takes you from a “now” state to a future goal state. But remember that the notion of OSPO is not a binary—we do or do not have one—it is more a journey that the organisation embarks on (hence the reason for management buy-in).
3. Leverage the open source community. There’s a wealth of experience, valuable lessons, and helpful people out there. Pretty much by definition, people who work for, or who have had exposure to OSPO creation/running, are happy to share. After all, that’s what open source is all about. A good place to start is the OSPO Alliance for example.
And, I would be amiss if I didn’t self promote the services of consultants such as myself ;-)
As an aside, I have written a short blog post about the question of “how do you make money with open source”. (If it’s free how do you make money?) The blog post is not about business models but about motivations.
Christian Paterson, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today!