When your best developer wants to contribute to open source

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I read in the CIO online magazine the article “The Enterprise Committer: When Your Employee Develops Open-Source Code on the Company PayrollThe article opens with the following scenario:

“One of your best developers comes to you with a unique proposal. Instead of writing software from scratch, or begging for the budget to purchase an off-the-shelf solution that would need customization anyway—well, there’s an open-source application called Foobar that does nearly everything on the wish list. The developer suggests that she could extend Foobar’s feature set, and then contribute the enhancements back to the open-source community. This way, when the next Foobar version is released, it won’t need the custom changes made all over again. And the only cost is her salary.”

The rest of the article goes around the topic what a CIO has to take care for in that case. The point isn’t to do it or not, the point is do it the right way. For my opinion that scenario makes a very clear point to something I’ve learned the last months: Developing with Open Source is meanwhile far behind the question do or don’t. It is a huge potential for saving money, for getting a high quality software (because pretested from the community), based on open standards (read: without the MS ball & chain) and for giving your emploees a chance to get worldwide acknowledgement as a project contributor, a fact you will get paid back in lots of overtime work on their own.

It’s the best deal a CIO can make those days.

One Response to When your best developer wants to contribute to open source

  1. ReneMT says:

    Interesting point of view. I fully agree that Open Source may be a lot time and money saving if used in the own development process. But to say “OK – so let’s contribute on the company’s account” must be a hard step for some decision makers. I think many of them would let pass up the oppurtunity for the company’s reputation without even recognizing it (I almost think I know one of them 😉 ).

    However: At my development division it’s understood that we support and even sometimes contribute to the development of the Open Source software we use (at the moment especially ASP.NET AJAX, the AJAX Control Toolkit and Subversion).

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