What is an Open Source Program Office (OSPO)?

An open source program office (OSPO) is designed to be the center of competency for an organization's open source operations and structure. This can include setting code use, distribution, selection, auditing and other policies, as well as training developers, ensuring legal compliance and promoting and building community engagement that benefits the organization strategically.

Each open source program office is custom-configured for its particular business, products, and goals. It is possible, though, to categorize the functions of a typical OSPO into three categories:

Legal Risk Mitigation

Often, the first concern companies have is related to legal compliance. OSPOs often oversee aspects of a company’s open source license compliance process. Companies that distribute software are typically most concerned with this and initiate their OSPO around the abatement of legal risk. The responsibilities of a program office in this area includes:

  • Maintaining open source license compliance reviews and oversight
  • Running a review process for inbound code use
  • Ensuring that the company contributes back to open source projects effectively

Improving Engineering Practices

OSPOs also improve engineering capabilities by providing guidance and policies about code management in an open source (and blended source) environment. Companies with many software engineers focus their OSPO on engineering policies and practices. The responsibilities of a program office in this area includes:

  • Clearly communicating the open source strategy within and outside the company
  • Fostering an open source culture within an organization
  • Ensuring high-quality and frequent releases of code to open source communities

Enabling Financial Benefits

Some companies focus on the financial implications of open source and leverage their OSPO to help drive a strategy around the use of commercial vs. open source vendors. Whereas some tech companies use their OSPO (and open source projects) to drive customers to commercial products. The responsibilities of a program office in this area includes:

  • Owning and overseeing the execution of the strategy
  • Facilitating the effective use of open source in commercial products and services
  • Engaging with developer communities to encourage adoption of strategic open source projects.

From the TODOGroup OSPO Definition. Used with permission.