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Establishing an Open Source Program Office

Nov 6, 2019 5:34:29 PM By Mark Henke


It feels like we don’t have a strong understanding of open source itself. Some scars have come from working with open source in an environment filled with proprietary software. When the words “open” and “source” were brought together, there was a visceral reaction. People were skeptical of it. Some even despised it.

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to bring open source into your ecosystem. But it does require a strong champion. That’s why Lee Calcote (@lcalcote) advocates for creating a specific office.

The Reason to Create an Open Source Program Office

Why even create an open source program office? The answer to this question depends on what kind of environment you’re in. Are you in a large business? Perhaps you want one in order to increase industry influence. Or perhaps it will help increase talent.

For many organizations, it can be very much about compliance. You may be using open-source software but not sure if you’re following the necessary regulations for using it.


You may have heard of the term “software is eating the world.” This means that software is touching more and more parts of all industries. In a similar way, cloud is eating the software world. Open source is touching almost every software system through cloud tooling.


Open source programs have brought many benefits, such as:

  • Awareness of use
  • Development velocity
  • Compliance
  • Influence

Organizations with an influential open source program can attract better talent, too.

Open Source Program Office BenefitsBenefits of open source programs according to Lee Calcote’s “Establishing an Open Source Program Office” presentation.


To put together a good strategy for starting an open source program, here are Calcote's 5 C’s to follow:

  1. Consumption—Getting your organization to use open source. Using open source can significantly speed up delivery. It can give you more flexibility to modify the code as you need.

  2. Compliance—Ensuring licensing and security is compliant with regulations. Having good compliance tooling lets you deal with legal injunctions, and it can save you from customer service headaches. You can also easily deal with other risks, like intellectual property loss and engineering rework. Ensure you’re tracking licenses for your open source software. Remediate vulnerabilities that pop up. Empower engineering teams to be as self-service as possible in using open source. It may be tempting to stop at compliance.

  3. Community—Engaging with experts using open source outside your organization to help grow skills within your organization. This will gain you momentum. Be purposeful in your engagement.

  4. Contribution—Changing the open source software you’re using to make it better. To do this, you need to delineate what is and isn’t IP. You need to consider all license agreements. You should also define how to govern the project.

  5. Competition—You may actually be competing with open source software. Or perhaps you’re integrating with it.

You’ll want to continually ingest software from multiple sources. When using third party systems, you’re likely touching open source in some way.

Role of an Open Source Program Office

By creating an open source program office, you’ll be streamlining the use of open source across your organization.

Role of Open Source Program OfficeThe role of open source programs according to Lee Calcote’s “Establishing an Open Source Program Office” presentation.

Where you should build an open source program office can depend on your goals. Marketing, engineering, and operations are all potentially good departments in which to form one.

Ensure you align with your business, as well as with legal counsel, when building an open source program office. You also want to collaborate with product management to ensure you’re helping your organization’s products get out the door quickly.

Leveraging an open source program office will let you be in continual compliance in your DevOps pipeline.

To know you’re on the right path, you want to measure your success. Try using a dashboard to look at your compliance ratings and where open source is used.

You need executive support for such an initiative. There are gaps in understanding what open source is about. You’ll need to be patient and teach leadership the value an open source program office will bring.


Open source touches almost every aspect of software these days. Such usage may inspire a need to develop an open source program office to streamline its use and compliance. By aligning your goals with your business and using success metrics, you can make it clear the value such an office brings.

This post was written by Mark Henke. Mark has spent over 10 years architecting systems that talk to other systems, doing DevOps before it was cool, and matching software to its business function. Every developer is a leader of something on their team, and he wants to help them see that.

Photo by Huseyn Kamaladdin