Without a doubt, open source software has seen tremendous popularity growth in the past few years. Not all that long ago, these solutions were relatively rare, especially in the corporate world. Now, countless organizations have embraced open source completely, and many others are gradually moving more of their operations in this direction.
However, despite all this progress, the fact remains that a number of obstacles prevent many companies from adopting open source solutions. These range from policy impediments to antiquated attitudes among executives.
Fortunately, as CIO contributor Paul Rubens recently highlighted, there are ways to overcome these corporate barriers.
Open source impediments
As the writer pointed out, many companies have software procurement policies that are explicitly and exclusively designed for proprietary solutions. For example, a firm may have a policy that requires any prospective software vendor to have been in operation for a minimum of three years and have scrutable financials. Without such standards in place, there's no way for an open source software solution to gain approval from a by-the-book executive.
Speaking to the news source, Mark Johnson, a development manager with OSS Watch, noted even procurement policies that don't strictly forbid the use of open source can and often do have a bias against these solutions.
"It may be that the way solutions are investigated by organizations actually favors companies that get license fees and are therefore able to offer presales support," Johnson explained, the source reported.
Beyond these in-house issues is the fact that proprietary software providers tend to have a market advantage, as Alain Williams, head of a Linux consultancy firm, told the source. He noted that a given proprietary software solution provider will likely have been in business for many years, developing into a relatively large vendor. Many business decision-makers, eager to minimize risk, will turn to these bigger companies for their software needs, as they are perceived to be a smaller risk.
Greg Soper, managing director of a SugarCRM consultancy, agreed.
"We certainly see companies worried that they don't see a mega corporation standing behind open source software, and wonder if they can buy into it," he said, the source reported.
Additionally, Williams pointed to proprietary software vendors' significant marketing budgets as a further source of the bias against open source among many executives and other high-level decision-makers.
All of these barriers can make it difficult for mid-level IT professionals to convince their companies to pursue open source solutions. However, as Reubens explained, virtually all of these challenges can be overcome with the right approach.
In the event that there are policies on the books that disqualify open source, advocates of the strategy need to approach their corporate decision-makers and convince them to update their policies. While this may be a difficult process, it is certainly possible, especially once advocates highlight the undeniable benefits that open source solutions can deliver.
For example, Soper emphasized the financial advantages that open source software can deliver.
"Why not get the open source software that you plan to use for free, and then use the money that you would otherwise have spent on proprietary license fees to modify the open source software to meet your needs more closely? Why pay for software that's the same for all users when you can pay to have something that's unique?" he said. By posing these questions, advocates can present corporate decision-makers with a clear case in favor of open source technology.
Open source supporters can further help their cause and convince decision-makers to pursue these solutions by exploring open source security solutions in advance. One of the key reasons why so many company heads are reluctant to deviate from their traditional reliance on proprietary software is that these resources seem to be more reliable and protected.
Of course, this is hardly the case, as open source software can just as secure as proprietary offerings, if not more so. However, in order to ensure that this is the case, the right supplemental tools are necessary. These include scanning and governance tools to guarantee that all open source code is fully vetted and trustworthy. By presenting these resources along with a broader open source adoption plan, IT personnel are much more likely to convince their companies to pursue open source options.