Open Source Program Benefits Survey Results

Image of LA County Registrar Office

There are many organizations out there, from companies like Red Hat to internet scale giants like Google and Facebook that have established an open source programs office (OSPO). The TODO Group, a network of open source program managers, recently performed the first ever annual survey of corporate open source programs and revealed some interesting findings on the actual benefits of open source programs.

According to the survey, the top three benefits of managing an open source program are:

  • awareness of open source usage/dependencies
  • increased developer agility/speed
  • better and faster license compliance

Corporate Open Source Programs on the Rise

According to the survey, 53% of companies have an open source program or plan to establish one in the near future:

An interesting factoid to see is that large companies are about twice as likely to run an open source program than smaller companies (63 percent vs. 37 percent). Also, technology industry organizations were more likely to have an open source program than traditional industry verticals such as the financial services industry. Another interesting trend was that most open source programs tend to start informally as a working group, committee or a few key open source developers and then evolve into formal programs over time, typically within a company’s engineering department.

Research Shows Giving Back Is A Competitive Advantage

It’s important to note that companies aren’t forming open source programs and giving back to open source for purely altruistic means. Recent research from Harvard Business School shows that open source contributing companies capture up to 100% more productive value from open source than companies who do not contribute back. In particular, the example of Linux was used showcased in the research:

"It’s not necessarily that the firms that contribute are more productive on the whole. It’s that they get more in terms of productivity output from their usage of the Linux operating system than do companies that use Linux without contributing."

In the survey, it was notable that 44 percent of companies with open source programs contribute code upstream compared to only 6 percent for companies without an open source program. If you want to sustain open source and give your business a competitive advantage, an open source program can help.

Finally, you’ll be happy to learn that the survey results and questions are open sourced under the CC-BY-SA. The TODO Group plans to run this survey on an annual basis moving forward and in true open source fashion, we’d love your feedback on any new questions to ask, please leave your thoughts in the comments or on GitHub.


Chris Aniszczyk About the Author: Chris Aniszczyk is currently a Vice President at OSI Affiliate Member Linux Foundation, focused on developer relations and running the Open Container Initiative (OCI) / Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Image credit: OSPO.png (CC BY-SA 4.0) by The Open Source Initiative is a derivitive of "Trollback + Company office.JPG" by Trollbackco from Wikimedia Commons, and used/edited with permission via CC BY-SA 4.0