Enforcing Open Source Policy Practices for Dev Teams

Indie developers and tech corporates consisting of several dev teams alike widely use open source components.

What is different in both cases is the development culture/process. What works best for a sole developer might not be good practice for a dev team. Dev teams benefit from using strategies like making an open-source policy whereas indie developers benefit from rigorous research into the available options.

An independent developer can set their own timeline and progress at their own pace. They wouldn’t have to deal with code conflicts with another individual. They would also take up things sequentially and not dive into building the whole system at once. Moreover, it is likely that an individual would work on smaller projects that are not viable commercially on a large scale unless they happen to have a lot of experience or hit a jackpot idea. Larger teams are also largely working under a software bill of materials which helps in managing and tracking the different versions of open-source components used by the organization.

The environment changes when we look into the working aspects of a team of developers. Gone are the times when teams would follow the waterfall method while building software. Most teams have shifted to adopting Agile methods. This includes dividing the team into smaller teams and each team being assigned a certain task. The development of the software progresses simultaneously under each team (development, testing, staging, etc.), and coordination between the teammates becomes the priority.

There should be a sense of flexibility, extensibility, and adaptability when making use of open source components. At the same time, it is also important for the team members to conform to some best practices to make the most out of it.

So, what strategies or policies lead to the best results?

 

Below, we will discuss a few open source policy practices to help dev teams keep in sync.

Eliminate Manual Work

More often than not, members of technical staff find it tough to keep the development fraternity at pace and in sync. A common cause is the inability to track vulnerabilities in outdated open source components. The open source world is continuously evolving as the community strives to improve what they’ve built over time, and it takes every bit of effort to make it better. Tracking such components manually over a spreadsheet or something time-consuming is unsustainable and an age-old method. Such practices don’t work in the agile approach. Making use of automation tools eliminates such tedious tasks.

Provide Clear Words

The policy should clearly state what it intends to do. Enforcing a wrongly interpreted policy is a nightmare that can come back to haunt you. The gap between what is stated and what it says should be near zero. A well-written policy is always beneficial to all parties.

Execution is Key

A well-crafted policy is nothing unless its guidelines are brought to fruition. It’s a nuisance to have to explain to numerous teams why we require a specific open source software program or tool. The people in charge of enforcing the policy (usually IT teams) should be educated on open source fundamentals. A developing and self-learning infrastructure, such as an institutional open source repository that automatically populates, tracks, and distributes software internally, can automate routine policy workflows.

Analyze

The game is not over once the policies are enforced. The next crucial task includes assessing how the policies benefit the team as a whole and when they need to be updated. The policy updates should be analogous to the timeframe of open source component updates. This ensures that all the latest policies are brought into action to favor the team’s productivity.

Improve Development Etiquette

Incorporating open source policies, in general, tends to improve the work culture and the development process within a team, mainly because it inculcates similar habits about building and maintaining open source software/projects. As it is popularly said, “sometimes the best copy is no copy.”

Conclusion

Lastly, people must be empowered and educated! There is no way to cover all bases with the policy wording. So, it’s critical that the technical staff understands what they’re doing. Managers, supervisors, and tech leads must be given the authority to lead, make choices, and take action.