Open-source software: A CIO’s competitive advantage

Open-source software: A CIO’s competitive advantage

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Thought byTassos Koutlas
November 16, 2020
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Open source software can provide many benefits to Chief Information Officers or other technical roles. Here's why.

Earlier this year, I was writing that enterprise level open source software, such as Drupal CMS, is a competitive advantage for a CMO. In this piece I argue that open source software is a competitive advantage to CIOs too, as it enables them to assume a role of value creation within the company.

A company’s technology does not work in silos anymore. Technology needs are coming from different areas of the organization, and as value creation transcends company departments, it is only natural for technology stacks to overlap.

Economy’s rapid digitization during, and soon after, the COVID-19 era requires CIOs to move from a functional role into a transformational role. In order to contribute to business strategy and value creation through technology. That’s in contrast to traditional IT operational models, where IT is focused on managing infrastructure and operating applications. Today, IT departments are asked to adopt new technologies quickly and allow other departments to run their own highly specialized, often SaaS-based, tools. 

Organizations preparing for the future are looking to engage technology, digitization and data at a faster pace to create new or diversify existing revenue streams. As businesses need technology to drive business, CIOs move away from their traditional roles. 

What’s required in today’s landscape is a value creating CIO who consults the organization and drives business through technology, whilst managing operational costs and organizational compliance.

Technology and the CIO’s agenda

Based on a recent McKinsey report, the CIOs agenda is being increasingly influenced by overall business objectives:

  • Enable business digital transformation
  • Operate as a privacy and security custodian
  • Drive business innovation with adoption of new technologies
  • Developing new go-to-market strategies and technologies

In an ecosystem where multiple systems work together, there are several factors to consider when choosing technologies and tools: Is a system easy to integrate and does it play well with other enterprise systems already in operation? Does it offer consistent APIs which allows it to be extended to organizational needs in a standardized way? Is it able to operate in an enterprise environment and respect security, privacy and local compliance regulations? Can it scale as the organization grows?

Image of person coding at computer

Introducing new tools doesn’t need to be a point of friction between CIOs and their counterparts in other areas of the organization. As long as there are guidelines and a technical strategy in place, a CIO is able to reduce fragmentation, provide better security and privacy controls, and eliminate vendor lock-in, so that an organization’s teams can work better, together.

Technology as long-term value creator

So how can a CIO ensure that technology will enable value creation for the long term? I believe there are three main premises technology should have to enable long term growth:

  1. Maximizing security and compliance - Organizations need to move quickly and be flexible, but not at the expense of security and regulations, which often are accompanied by hefty fines. This means technology needs to have a secure development model, be compliant within multiple regulations, and adapt quickly when regulations change. Open-source technologies are built openly and with multiple contributors, which means that changes are incorporated sooner so there is a wide range of features available when needed.
  2. Minimizing the cost of change - Organizations that update business models through digital clearly depend on reaching more people and maximizing economies of scale. Unless the process is managed properly, however, costs will add up. To manage the process properly, organizations need to build platforms that minimize operational and go-to-market costs. Open-source technologies are built as frameworks which make it possible to create platforms specifically optimized for individual business models.
  3. Enabling long term innovation - Organizations future-proof their growth by engaging technology, digitization and data to enable innovation for new value creation. This means technology needs to allow for modifications whilst maintaining an excellent operating level. Open-source software is following the open/closed principle, whereby it’s open for extension but closed for modification. Which makes customization easy, without having to worry affecting the core framework.

When those three factors are in place, technology should help facilitate long term growth.

Getting the right mix

All those different factors can influence CIO’s decisions, and based on the availability of software choices and vendors, choosing the right mix may be overwhelming. While it may feel exhausting, choosing open source software actually makes much simpler to fulfill these goals.

To give a concrete example, for many organizations digital value starts with managing digital experiences on the web. In a setting where multiple departments want to use digital to create value for the business, the Digital Experience Platform is central. This is where Drupal thrives, by being flexible enough to enable economies of scale and feature rich to reduce operational and go-to-market costs. It provides a strong technical foundation to respect security and compliance regulations, and at the same time it is extremely customizable to enable teams to drive results.

As such, CIOs who are choosing Drupal are set on enabling long term growth and move from a functional role into a transformational one.

Though we’ve used Drupal as an example, there are plenty of other open source software systems (many of which with commercial backing) that offer the similar capabilities. Ultimately, open source offers a number of competitive advantages to CIOs. To learn more about how open source can meet your team’s specific needs, contact us. We’re here to help you figure out how to configure your digital toolkit so that your organization (and all of its teams) can truly shine.