The age of “owning” something is giving way to the “open era”. This era is about sharing knowledge and community participation. The world is sharing everything – from dog care to parking spaces. And this trend of sharing is shaping technology like never before.

In the last few decades, crowd-sourcing has attracted the sharpest minds and major investors, especially when it comes to Open Source Software (OSS). From the emergence of Usenet to the creation of Linux, OSS has come a long way. It is the ease of sharing, refining and being part of a legacy that is driving people to collaborate more. OSS is an inseparable part of most enterprises today and will remain so for years to come.

Explosion of benefits

OSS is powering innovation in many companies. About 40% of the respondents from a 2015 study by Wipro and Oxford Economics of 100 global CXOs and senior executives said that support for new products and services is what they seek from the open source community. Internal and external contributors are fueling bright ideas to create new solutions and platforms.

With such active and diverse projects, open source lends itself to providing flexibility and agility. More than 60% of the respondents say that open source software will be critical to business agility in their companies over the next three years. Nearly half (49%) say open source supports cloud and IoT infrastructure (46%).

How does open source affect total cost of ownership? About 40% of the respondents say that the use of OSS today reduces the total cost of ownership for software assets in their company, and this number will increase to 47% in the next three years.

Is it optimism all the way?

For now, it looks like a sweet spot to invest in, but enterprises need to have a detailed strategy to manage open source projects. One of the main issues that the senior execs in the study point to is the integration with existing systems – 75% believe this will be a challenge, especially since the open source landscape is susceptible to rapid changes. With this transformation and momentum, finding relevant skills is becoming a challenge for 56% of the respondents. The other softer challenges to manage are software quality, security, loss of direct oversight and community management.

While guidelines and policies may help counteract some of the implementation challenges, it is important to have a clear communication plan and a governance structure. Simple tools which measure the quality of external participation and response time to community requests can also be deployed to keep track of projects in the pipeline.

Being future ready

Open source has gone beyond the realms of software and has broken barriers between producers and consumers. Consider Kraft, the global consumer goods enterprise – they look for ideas for new technologies that could improve their products. General Mills openly crowd-sources ideas to enhance and accelerate their innovation.

With millennials being the largest generation in the global workforce, the need to share and not own is becoming a social movement. Governments, too, have started crowd-sourcing ideas to service citizens better. Take the example of StreetBump, a project of the Boston’s Mayor’s Office. Volunteers use the Street Bump mobile app to collect data about road condition like potholes, bumps, cracks, and so on and send this to the mayor’s office. The office aggregates the real-time data provided by citizens to fix road conditions and also plan for infrastructure projects. In the education space, meanwhile, there are several online courses that are available on demand. All of these examples, and others, have bolstered the technology landscape and OSS like never before.

By participating in these open communities and by getting access to tools, platforms, solutions and events, people get the feel of being part of a creative endeavor.

How long this open source era continues is anybody’s guess.

Author: Sukanya Samy, Thought Leadership and Marketing, Wipro Limited. She can be reached via @sukanyasamy and LinkedIn

Image: Amway employees work at a company cafe in Taipei. REUTERS/Nicky Loh