According to GitHub data, the most innovative tech companies, such as Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, or Google, have thousands of public contributions on GitHub. Is it a factor that promotes innovation within the organisation?
Most of today’s apps wouldn’t exist without open source
Every software project uses open-source contributions. It would be impossible to build an application without any battle-tested solutions from the community. Open source is a trend that has a significant impact on the growth of technology – it enables collaborative problem solving among millions of people. Most disruptive solutions wouldn’t have been created but for the collaboration of many entities. As Simon Mainwaring from We First Branding once said:
“Effectively, change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation, and consensus.”
What exactly is open-source software? It is computer code written by developers and shared publicly to be reused by other people. Most open-source contributions are free to use based on a GNU or Apache licence. That said, it is a common practice among big companies to protect their work with more sophisticated licenses. React by Facebook is a good example – it’s free to use as long as you don’t sue Facebook.
Github can help measure innovation in organisations
Github is the leading software-as-a-service for version-control management. It helps developers control the changes in code and, in effect, makes it easier to maintain and understand code, even in massive projects. It also plays an important role in generating innovation. Github is the world’s unofficial centre of open-source software. There are over 19 million active projects with over 5 million active developers contributing to them. People from all over the world invent, discover, build, and ship state of the art solutions on GitHub.
Employees share their knowledge extensively, contribute to the community, and support open-source projects effectively driving the innovation and collaboration culture. Github is the leading platform for this, but what it doesn’t do is provide a way to see cumulative data about an organisation’s member’s contributions to the open-source community. The data is only available through GitHub’s API.
That’s why we’ve built GitItBack. It makes use of the Github API and tracks, cumulates and visualises aggregated data of an organisation’s members and their open-source contributions. GitItBack allows you to compare and see how different organisations stack up against each other, indicate trends and evaluate the potential for innovation in different companies.
Open source contributions prompt innovation
Based on our analysis of GitItBack data, we can conclude that open-source contributions in an organisation are positively correlated with innovation. The biggest tech companies also happen to be the most active GitHub contributors – Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have thousands of contributions each every week.
Naturally, each of the above organisations employs a lot of people, so their average number of contributions per employee is not spectacular, but it still stands for a company’s culture and its push for collaboration.
A lot of great companies (such as Docker, Fedora or Elastic) base their business on a freemium model. They offer free use of their tools with only basic features and without customer support. More advanced users can buy a paid access that includes support and consulting.
Apache, one of the leading dev-ops infrastructure providers, is a good example here. Their solutions are robust, opinionated, and used in millions of businesses for free. Yet, you won’t be able to solve some problems by yourself, especially on an enterprise scale. That’s when Apache’s experts and engineers will come to help you, guide through some solutions, and eventually solve your problems. Of course, as long as you have paid for the support.
The strategy of all the companies mentioned above is based on releasing innovative solutions that will get lots of software engineers excited about, try, and play around in smaller-scale problems. When those engineers join one of the companies, they will already have come across their solutions beforehand and will be able to quickly contribute to making enterprise-scale decisions. It shows that you can build a growing business on public collaboration and innovative approach.
We believe that creating and contributing to the open-source community can indicate active innovation and responsible growth. It shows that an organisation promotes the culture of sharing and encourages employees to be active in the community. And thanks to data from GitItBack we have got evidence for that correlation.