How Open Source Is Changing Software Innovation

Al Gillen

Open-source software has come a long way. After a period of maturation, most visibly to the wider public during the late 1990s and early 2000s – during the early days of Linux – the approach to developing technology under an open-use license, also known as open-source software, has now become mainstream.

In recent years, we have seen many commercially focused companies put both existing intellectual property and new projects that are being incubated into open source. This trend has been particularly strong with software used by developers as platforms or tools. Today, the vast majority of developer tools and platforms are open source or derived from open-source technology.

As enterprises across industries rush headlong into digital transformation, many have begun to emulate tech industry practices in how they use and produce software innovation and have thus increased adoption of, and even contribution to, open source. So what are the benefits of open-source engagement for the enterprise? Here are six broad benefits of using and contributing to open source.

  1. Not re-inventing the wheel. The most obvious reason to use open-source software is to build software faster without having to re-implement solutions to already solved problems. Companies must move fast to stay at the top of their game – and that means grabbing the best solutions contributed by a well-honed ecosystem and building their own added innovation on top of it. Doing anything else is suboptimal and will ultimately lead to a more burdensome maintenance and update responsibility, and ultimately falling behind competitors. Contributing software customization and adding value back to the larger open-source community can bring the benefit of better vetting and quality improvement of the code by the community.
  1. Ensuring strategic safety. It used to be that IT organizations bought important software only from large, established software vendors. Open source innovation now allows smaller players to provide viable solutions while assuring the buyers that they can have control over the technical direction of the software, thus avoiding unreasonable price increases or unnecessary product changes, and minimizing the potential for lock-in. The broadening of software supplies also expands the range of software solutions available to enterprises and keeps the larger software vendors on their toes. Using software that builds on an open source code-base also allows enterprises to participate in the technology’s evolution and maintain more control over the destiny of the products based on this software.
  1. Efficient experimentation and business acceleration. In the age of digital transformation, experimentation is the new mantra. Digital disruptors like Netflix, Uber, and Airbnb have revolutionized their industries and put the accelerated startup culture on the map with the famous “fail fast and often in the past” mantra. Modern enterprises have finally come to realize that to survive the disruption and keep up, they must adopt as much of that experimental culture as possible and overcome their fears of failure. Experimentation of this kind implies a speed in product and service development that building software in-house simply cannot deliver. By taking existing code developed by others, and leveraging this code in new offerings, enterprises can truly speed up their product cycles. Open source provides the digital shoulders that enterprises can stand on to compete. By further contributing new value back to open source, enterprises have a chance of generating mindshare for their offerings, also known as free marketing.
  1. The efficiency of standardized practices. Using open-source solutions means using somewhat standardized (in a de facto sense) solutions to problems. Such standardization of software patterns related to certain industries and verticals enforces a normalized and more optimized set of organizational practices that tend to be portable across that industry. This practice can simplify business process and allow companies to focus on competitive differentiation, rather than wasting resources on things that are not core to their business success.
  1. Cleaner and safer software. Creating software in open source means that engineers operate in daylight, enabling them to avoid the traps of plagiarized software and more easily stay clear of patents and copyrights. Additionally, the visibility open source provides can lead to more secure software and fewer vulnerability surprises, especially if a significant community evolves around the project and performs regular critical reviews. Many companies that create proprietary software have difficulties turning their large code-bases into open source because of the time-consuming intellectual property and security scrubbing processes needed to open the code. Open source IP-based businesses avoid this problem from the get-go. Starting new software initiatives in open source avoids these IP issues.
  1. Attracting, retaining, and motivating top developer talent. Beyond a good pay scale and a supportive work environment, there is little that can push developers to do high-quality work more than peer approval and the opportunity for recognition or even fame. Contributing software back to the community and allowing developers to enjoy the public recognition of their peers can be a powerful motivator and an important tool for employee retention. A similar dynamic is in play in the hiring process as tech companies compete with each other to build their software engineering teams. Offering the opportunity to be visible in a broader developer community, or attain a level of peer recognition, is potentially more important than paying top wages for star developers.
  1. Community-led innovation. With a diverse group of vendors and customers participating in open source efforts, open-source solutions tend to rapidly add functionality relevant to the audience faster than proprietary solutions can typically achieve. As a result, open source adopters are able to influence prioritization of capabilities added to open-source initiatives and quickly accomplish goals specific to their environment.

For more on future-focused digital innovation, see Business Networks: The Platforms For Future Innovation.

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Al Gillen

About Al Gillen

Al Gillen is As Group Vice President of Software Development and Open Source at IDC. He oversees IDC's software development research portfolio. Research disciplines in this group include developer research covering census, demographics and developer activities; platform and cloud application services for developers, and developer lifecycle and quality assurance products. In addition, Al jointly oversees IDC's DevOps research program, and runs a program focused on the ecosystem of open source software pan-industry. In his 18th year at IDC, Al has participated in numerous IDC research areas, including infrastructure software (operating environments and virtualization software), enterprise servers, and developer software and services. He has long tracked open source software in infrastructure software markets, and now has expanded open source coverage to cover other market segments.

CIO Strategy: To Improve Employee Engagement, Buy Cupcakes

Manik Narayan Saha

Research clearly shows that highly engaged employees are good for business. People who feel connected to their employer are more productive, generate more revenues, and help the company thrive.

But did you know that IT can contribute to this success? According to new research from IDC [1], companies that develop a strong relationship between IT and the lines of business can measurably increase corporate performance.

IDC compared two types of enterprises: those where IT proactively worked with the business and those that did not cultivate a close relationship. Over three years, the companies with the strong IT-business connection achieved:

  • 90% greater growth in revenue from new product lines [1]
  • 80% greater growth in revenue from established product lines [1]
  • 50% greater improvement in compliance-related activities [1]

Introducing IT Day

These are compelling results that any CIO would be pleased to deliver. Yet creating active engagement between IT and the business can be challenging. Many employees view IT as a mere service provider—one to be consulted only when there is a problem.

How can an innovative, forward-thinking CIO demonstrate to employees that IT is more than just a support function? And how can IT help the company grow, modernize, and create market advantage?

At the SAP office in Singapore, the IT services team recently organized an IT Day to showcase our capabilities. Our goals: to educate employees on how IT delivers value to SAP and to demo the IT services that help employees work more effectively and efficiently.

Around 200 employees from multiple lines of business attended IT Day, following three tracks:

  • Expert talks that focused on the areas where IT is driving user productivity, cybersecurity, and innovation
  • Expert booths, modeled after the Apple Genius Bar, where employees received immediate service and experienced cool new products
  • Vendor booths, which provided special product offers to employees

To sweeten the deal and attract even more on-site employees, we also offered an afternoon snack of cupcakes, tea, and coffee. All 200 cupcakes were devoured in less than an hour. Employees were also eligible to participate in prize drawings.

Enabling productivity through IT

On the IT team, our goal is to enable SAP to transform into a digital enterprise using the best-in-class solutions, products, and services available in the market. Especially in the current era, IT can have a tremendous positive impact across the entire company by enabling the right technology for the organization.

From a strategic perspective, this meant focusing on two key aspects of the enterprise:

  1. Digitalization of enterprise business processes for efficiency – simplifying, automating, and massively scaling out existing business processes to meet the new demands of the digital economy. This meant upgrading our existing processes to support new business models such as volume business and subscription- and consumption-based billing. At the same time, the IT team is constantly thinking about how new technology can make a difference – for instance, using machine learning to significantly increase automation levels at our shared services organization.
  1. Digitalization of personal workspaces for higher productivity: Another key goal of the IT organization is rapidly enabling the SAP workforce to be agile, efficient, and productive so that the value each employee brings to the company multiplies exponentially.

At the IT Day, attendance was higher than anticipated, and the feedback was very positive. We offered sessions where employees learned how collaboration tools can help them be more productive working in virtual teams, and demonstrated in action the machine learning technology I mentioned above.

By actively engaging with our customers proactively, I think the IT services organization took steps toward increasing employee understanding of how we support their efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction. As the research shows, a strong IT-business partnership with engaged employees is a competitive advantage—so those cupcakes were definitely a worthwhile investment.

A great resource for CIOs is available at the SAP Technology is Live hub where there is a rich library of research and insights into the most relevant topics in the world of IT and digital transformation.

[1] IDC Perspective, “Six Priorities and Behaviors of Successful IT Organizations,” doc #US42251116, January 2017.

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Manik Narayan Saha

About Manik Narayan Saha

Manik Narayan Saha is the regional CIO for SAP Asia Pacific and Japan. Based in Singapore, Saha leads a global multinational and multicultural IT organization. As part of the SAP Senior Leadership team in APJ, he represents IT Services to more than 25,000+ employees in the region. As companies rapidly move to a digital agenda, Saha works closely with SAP’s leadership team in APJ to execute on enabling SAP as the digital enterprise. Saha is a member of the Insead Alumni Network and a Regional Ambassador of the Insead International Directors Network for Singapore. Saha received his degree in Computer Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (Singapore) and has a Masters in Applied Finance from the Singapore Management University.

Open Source Is Inspiring Digital Transformation

Thomas Di Giacomo

Today, many companies face the challenge of preparing their IT infrastructure and processes for digital transformation. IT environments that have grown over many years cannot adapt to digitization requirements in one swoop. This is often evident when companies outsource certain applications to new IT infrastructures – such as (hybrid) cloud scenarios – while other workloads continue to run on the existing IT infrastructure.

To ensure everything functions smoothly, any new solutions deployed must support integration or at least be compatible with legacy systems while enabling migration over time. Open source software is becoming an increasingly common way for businesses to make their digital transition successful.

Bridge between old and new

Open source software is considered the engine of digital transformation. This is because:

  • Open source software is not bound to proprietary license costs.
  • It is always up to date, and often more innovative and forward-looking than proprietary solutions.
  • Open source software is carried and further developed by a global community of developers and numerous manufacturers.
  • Having multiple expert eyes on the open source code also ensures that security gaps are discovered and closed quickly.

Digital transformation with open source: a team effort

In order to have a successful digital transformation, companies can’t just dive into the realm of open source software without knowing how to use it effectively for their business and in tandem with their existing IT environment. That’s why it’s important to have a dedicated development and operations (DevOps) team in place for effective communication and collaboration between product management, software development, and business operations.

With DevOps principles, companies can implement agile working methods and continuously improve their products. At the same time, effective collaboration in DevOps teams reduces and possibly eliminates traditional silo mentality and simplifies communication between development, operations, and quality assurance (QA). This makes employees more flexible and promotes innovation.

On the technical side, companies need transparent, measurable tools that enable maximum automation and change – like the software-defined data center/infrastructure or OpenStack cloud – both of which originate from the open source environment. This enables automated testing and incremental development, which is why containers and software-defined infrastructure (SDI) also deliver the foundation for DevOps. This example also illustrates that DevOps would not be conceivable without the open source environment.

Rely on the right partner

Many companies have IT environments that have been operating for decades. So during any digital transition, it’s crucial to have an effective DevOps team partnered with the right open source and enterprise Linux provider to help create a suitable infrastructure environment and serve as a bridge builder into the digital age.

Enterprise open source and Linux providers can help create the necessary preconditions for digital transformation of an enterprise IT environment for the following reasons:

  1. They have expert knowledge of open source software.
  1. They have been instrumental in closing the gaps between open source solutions and established systems since 2000.
  1. They have been working with the underlying innovative development methods of open source approaches for years, which gives them a deep understanding of DevOps principles like continuous delivery.

Companies with legacy IT environments cannot realize the benefits of digital transformation immediately – and they don’t need to – because step-by-step migration to DevOps, cloud native applications, and cloud infrastructure is possible. Companies should rely on the right partner to ensure that the migration – which can take years – runs smoothly.

Learn more about partnering with an enterprise open source and Linux provider.

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Thomas Di Giacomo

About Thomas Di Giacomo

Dr. Thomas Di Giacomo is Chief Technology Officer at SUSE. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from the University of Geneva, and has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry serving in various global leadership roles in engineering and product innovation. He has expertise in open source platforms, development, and support of global information systems and technologies applied to various industries such as telecommunication, hospitality, and healthcare.

Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences

Kai Goerlich

 

Google Cardboard VR goggles cost US$8
By 2019, immersive solutions
will be adopted in 20% of enterprise businesses
By 2025, the market for immersive hardware and software technology could be $182 billion
In 2017, Lowe’s launched
Holoroom How To VR DIY clinics

From Dipping a Toe to Fully Immersed

The first wave of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is here,

using smartphones, glasses, and goggles to place us in the middle of 360-degree digital environments or overlay digital artifacts on the physical world. Prototypes, pilot projects, and first movers have already emerged:

  • Guiding warehouse pickers, cargo loaders, and truck drivers with AR
  • Overlaying constantly updated blueprints, measurements, and other construction data on building sites in real time with AR
  • Building 3D machine prototypes in VR for virtual testing and maintenance planning
  • Exhibiting new appliances and fixtures in a VR mockup of the customer’s home
  • Teaching medicine with AR tools that overlay diagnostics and instructions on patients’ bodies

A Vast Sea of Possibilities

Immersive technologies leapt forward in spring 2017 with the introduction of three new products:

  • Nvidia’s Project Holodeck, which generates shared photorealistic VR environments
  • A cloud-based platform for industrial AR from Lenovo New Vision AR and Wikitude
  • A workspace and headset from Meta that lets users use their hands to interact with AR artifacts

The Truly Digital Workplace

New immersive experiences won’t simply be new tools for existing tasks. They promise to create entirely new ways of working.

VR avatars that look and sound like their owners will soon be able to meet in realistic virtual meeting spaces without requiring users to leave their desks or even their homes. With enough computing power and a smart-enough AI, we could soon let VR avatars act as our proxies while we’re doing other things—and (theoretically) do it well enough that no one can tell the difference.

We’ll need a way to signal when an avatar is being human driven in real time, when it’s on autopilot, and when it’s owned by a bot.


What Is Immersion?

A completely immersive experience that’s indistinguishable from real life is impossible given the current constraints on power, throughput, and battery life.

To make current digital experiences more convincing, we’ll need interactive sensors in objects and materials, more powerful infrastructure to create realistic images, and smarter interfaces to interpret and interact with data.

When everything around us is intelligent and interactive, every environment could have an AR overlay or VR presence, with use cases ranging from gaming to firefighting.

We could see a backlash touting the superiority of the unmediated physical world—but multisensory immersive experiences that we can navigate in 360-degree space will change what we consider “real.”


Download the executive brief Diving Deep Into Digital Experiences.


Read the full article Swimming in the Immersive Digital Experience.

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Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation. Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

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Jenny Dearborn: Soft Skills Will Be Essential for Future Careers

Jenny Dearborn

The Japanese culture has always shown a special reverence for its elderly. That’s why, in 1963, the government began a tradition of giving a silver dish, called a sakazuki, to each citizen who reached the age of 100 by Keiro no Hi (Respect for the Elders Day), which is celebrated on the third Monday of each September.

That first year, there were 153 recipients, according to The Japan Times. By 2016, the number had swelled to more than 65,000, and the dishes cost the already cash-strapped government more than US$2 million, Business Insider reports. Despite the country’s continued devotion to its seniors, the article continues, the government felt obliged to downgrade the finish of the dishes to silver plating to save money.

What tends to get lost in discussions about automation taking over jobs and Millennials taking over the workplace is the impact of increased longevity. In the future, people will need to be in the workforce much longer than they are today. Half of the people born in Japan today, for example, are predicted to live to 107, making their ancestors seem fragile, according to Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, professors at the London Business School and authors of The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity.

The End of the Three-Stage Career

Assuming that advances in healthcare continue, future generations in wealthier societies could be looking at careers lasting 65 or more years, rather than at the roughly 40 years for today’s 70-year-olds, write Gratton and Scott. The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

It will be replaced by a new model in which people continually learn new skills and shed old ones. Consider that today’s most in-demand occupations and specialties did not exist 10 years ago, according to The Future of Jobs, a report from the World Economic Forum.

And the pace of change is only going to accelerate. Sixty-five percent of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist, the report notes.

Our current educational systems are not equipped to cope with this degree of change. For example, roughly half of the subject knowledge acquired during the first year of a four-year technical degree, such as computer science, is outdated by the time students graduate, the report continues.

Skills That Transcend the Job Market

Instead of treating post-secondary education as a jumping-off point for a specific career path, we may see a switch to a shorter school career that focuses more on skills that transcend a constantly shifting job market. Today, some of these skills, such as complex problem solving and critical thinking, are taught mostly in the context of broader disciplines, such as math or the humanities.

Other competencies that will become critically important in the future are currently treated as if they come naturally or over time with maturity or experience. We receive little, if any, formal training, for example, in creativity and innovation, empathy, emotional intelligence, cross-cultural awareness, persuasion, active listening, and acceptance of change. (No wonder the self-help marketplace continues to thrive!)

The three-stage model of employment that dominates the global economy today—education, work, and retirement—will be blown out of the water.

These skills, which today are heaped together under the dismissive “soft” rubric, are going to harden up to become indispensable. They will become more important, thanks to artificial intelligence and machine learning, which will usher in an era of infinite information, rendering the concept of an expert in most of today’s job disciplines a quaint relic. As our ability to know more than those around us decreases, our need to be able to collaborate well (with both humans and machines) will help define our success in the future.

Individuals and organizations alike will have to learn how to become more flexible and ready to give up set-in-stone ideas about how businesses and careers are supposed to operate. Given the rapid advances in knowledge and attendant skills that the future will bring, we must be willing to say, repeatedly, that whatever we’ve learned to that point doesn’t apply anymore.

Careers will become more like life itself: a series of unpredictable, fluid experiences rather than a tightly scripted narrative. We need to think about the way forward and be more willing to accept change at the individual and organizational levels.

Rethink Employee Training

One way that organizations can help employees manage this shift is by rethinking training. Today, overworked and overwhelmed employees devote just 1% of their workweek to learning, according to a study by consultancy Bersin by Deloitte. Meanwhile, top business leaders such as Bill Gates and Nike founder Phil Knight spend about five hours a week reading, thinking, and experimenting, according to an article in Inc. magazine.

If organizations are to avoid high turnover costs in a world where the need for new skills is shifting constantly, they must give employees more time for learning and make training courses more relevant to the future needs of organizations and individuals, not just to their current needs.

The amount of learning required will vary by role. That’s why at SAP we’re creating learning personas for specific roles in the company and determining how many hours will be required for each. We’re also dividing up training hours into distinct topics:

  • Law: 10%. This is training required by law, such as training to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Company: 20%. Company training includes internal policies and systems.

  • Business: 30%. Employees learn skills required for their current roles in their business units.

  • Future: 40%. This is internal, external, and employee-driven training to close critical skill gaps for jobs of the future.

In the future, we will always need to learn, grow, read, seek out knowledge and truth, and better ourselves with new skills. With the support of employers and educators, we will transform our hardwired fear of change into excitement for change.

We must be able to say to ourselves, “I’m excited to learn something new that I never thought I could do or that never seemed possible before.” D!

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