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5 Lessons for Organizations Starting Their Open Source Contribution Journeys

October 24, 2023

While Discover® Financial Services has a long history of using open source, in 2021, I joined Discover to formally drive the open source strategy. I have spent the past year listening to our business units, collaborating with our legal team, and working within our developer community to develop a framework for open source contribution.

The blog post shares some of the fundamental principles I’ve learned that can help organizations that are charting their open source contribution path for the first time.

2023-10-24 - 5 lessons for Organizations Starting Their Open Source Contribution Journeys [Discover OSFF]-2

  1.  Think incrementally. You don’t have to have all the answers to get started. An incremental approach to developing your open source contribution strategy lets you build the right processes and controls required to scale for a broader program.
  2.  Identify your stakeholders. Knowing who you need to work with in various parts of your organization to get legal clearance and developer buy-in is critical to the success of your open source contribution strategy. At Discover, that meant finding key partners in legal, compliance, architecture, and application development who could work with us to build the controls and processes required to implement our approach.

  3.  Communicate clearly and often. When paving your company’s path towards open source contribution, it’s imperative that you are clearly communicating with your stakeholders and your development community regularly. For us, that meant regular learning events about our open source program as well as a dedicated website where we post our activities, our open source guardrails, training, and more.

  4.  Establish guardrails around software contributions. Organizations use software that fits different classifications—from mission-critical software to smaller tools. Establishing clear guidelines for evaluation criteria helps shape the required structure to implement the right processes. At Discover, we focused our contribution efforts with technology-focused efforts around toolkits and frameworks that empower developers in their day-to-day development.

  5.  Identify target ecosystems. Knowing which ecosystems could best support your strategy and your organization’s goals is important for knowing where to contribute and engage. At Discover, we believe that openly governed ecosystems are critical for developing healthy communities, so we built relationships with the Linux Foundation and FINOS as the hub for fintech-focused efforts in the industry. 

Testing our approach 

As we worked through these five steps, we tested our approach by building our first open source project. The tool is called ThemeBuilder and focuses on building accessibility into the design and development toolchain.  

In the spirit of starting small and improving incrementally, we first built the tool in the open in our new external GitHub presence. We then identified opportunities to promote the project and garner feedback from the ecosystems through presentations and a Hackathon.  

Through the Hackathon, we fostered community interest in the project and drove upstream contributions. Eight months after the project’s creation, we’ve now donated the project to FINOS to continue encouraging development and community involvement in the project. Come join us in the open to drive accessibility development forward. 

Check out our most recent contribution to FINOS

We joined FINOS in February of 2023, but have already contributed an incubating project to the organization by following these principles. For companies charting their first course into open  source contribution, my advice is to start small, iterate, and scale. 

Author: Andy Smith, Discover


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