Steps to an Open Source strategy – Baselining

The first step an organization needs to take in establishing an Open Source strategy is to baseline the current landscape. Now to be perfectly clear: many people will jump on this step and “pooh pooh” about how unnecessary it is because they

  • Already know where Open Source is being used (they may think they do)
  • Already know which areas within the organization are suitable for Open Source adoption
  • Already understand IP issues and licensing implications of Open Source software in use

However, regardless of what they think they may know – they probably don’t. And if the corporation has carried out a prior assessment – that was probably in 2003 or 2004 when they were benchmarking Linux usage. At least I’ve had enough of those reports waved at me, together with a remark as to the fact that “and we have a few Apaches and MySQLs running”.

So what are the typical goals of this first step? Well it’s to pull together enough information about the internal adoption of Open Source that you can present the complete picture to the various people and departments you need to engage on the next step.

  • What is the organizations understanding of what exactly Open Source is and does that understanding differ within the organization. Make sure that includes asking around in departments responsible for software procurement, legal or license management
  • Where is Open Source being used, why is it being used there and which components or products are in use
  • Where is Open Source not being used and why not
  • Does the organization maintain a repository of Open Source components and/or information
  • Who are the Open Source evangelists already active within the organization (and where are the opponents)
  • Where Open Source is being used – how are those projects/installations fielding support issues
  • Gauge internal and external “pressure” on using Open Source (joint ventures are a good example of when Open Source pressure can come in from the outside)
  • Are there any “sweet spots” already identifiable for potential Open Source usage
  • and many more

The result of asking these questions is that people within the organization will begin to understand that there is more to it than just knowing about the odd Apache installation.

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