How Successful CEOs Leverage Open Source Software

I have been fortunate at OpenLogic to talk to and work with some of the most successful C-level executives at a wide range of organizations, including a number of Fortune 500 companies.

In my experience, it seems most of these executives share a few goals:

  • increase shareholder value and grow the business
  • provide world-class products and services
  • mitigate risk

CEOs in particular have additional job responsibilities including creating a vision and inspiring employees.

With all this going on, not once have I heard “use more open source software” as a goal. However, many C-level execs do think about open source software as a means to an end.

Quote from Bill RuhHere is a good example in a recent quote from Bill Ruh, vice president of the GE’s new global software center in the CIO Journal.  He says “Our goal is not to use open source. Our goal is to be able to develop applications in a three-to-five month time frame.”

I think the following wish list is a fair summary of what a lot of CEOs wish for:

  • Wish #1 – Innovate Faster
  • Wish #2 – Get Employees THINKING
  • Wish #3 – Exceed Customer Expectations

Although CEOs don’t think of open source software usage as a goal, more and more see it as a way to accomplish some of the things on their wish lists.

Here’s how:

  • Innovate Faster – True statement from one of our customers.  “You guys just built in 4 months what your competition took 4 years to build”.  How did we do it?  Well, aside from having some of the best industry talent around, we used all the available latest and greatest open source software.  We did not have to invent so many things that already existed.  We did have access to thousands of projects, developed by thousands of coders over hundreds of person years.  And that allowed us to focus on adding exactly what we needed to add to get our products to market QUICKLY!

  • Get Employees THINKING -  Our jobs as knowledge workers is to THINK and to solve problems.  If we know what our customers need and we know what the vision of our company is, then we can go far beyond simple task completion. We can play an active role in helping to come up with the best solutions to the complex problems we all face every day.  Sounds a lot like open source communities.  Get motivated people, assemble them in small teams, focus them on the problem at hand, give them the resource they need and turn them loose.  By working with open source technologies that our people are passionate about, it’s much easier to get them engaged in building new and more powerful products.  As Harry Truman once said, “It’s amazing how much you can get done when you don’t much care who gets the credit” 


  • Exceed Customer Expectations – Much like interaction in open source communities we try to keep our staff as close to the customer as possible.  Together we determine what the most important next tasks or features are.  Together we prioritize competing priorities and together we propose solutions that can work for everyone involved.  Sometimes it does not seem very efficient, but one thing that has never failed us is the passion that people bring to a task when they are part of defining the solution.  And our customers remind us of this every day, every week and every month.   We are proud to surprise our customers with great service, attention to detail and joint problem solving.  Another lesson learned from the world of open source.

As one of our best customers has told me for years… It’s just code. 

And that’s how I view it.  It’s just code.  It just happens to help us build a great business too!

As you grow your organization and push your team to bigger and better, how has open source software played a role in your journey?

Posted: 9/12/2012 11:00:00 AM by Ahmed Dirie | with 0 comments

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