Recently, Forbes contributing writer and enterprise software, application development, and data management expert Adrian Bridgwater discussed how important it is to understand what freedom really means in the open source world. In open source, the word “free” refers to the liberty that users have in running, distributing, changing and improving the software, rather than its price.

Open Source Adoption

In fact, while “free” is an appealing word to many C-suite executives, it’s of prime importance that those who are just now considering implementing open source software in their organization understand that it’s the liberty that open source allows that benefits the enterprise, not necessarily the price tag. Open source allows for great freedom for how software is modified, used and shared within an organization, which can lead to greater creativity, innovation, and productivity free from licensing or functionality concerns.

The Bridgwater stressed that open source must be kept “open” in order for it to provide the most benefits to an enterprise. Developers both inside and outside of the organization should all be able to participate contribute to design and development of open source projects. What this means for an enterprise is keeping the technical aspects of the open source product, the improvements and changes being made, and other contributions in the public eye, rather than hiding them or thinking of them as “proprietary.” This is one way that open source remains a thriving and vital community, but it can also go against the way C-suite executives usually think about their business and their assets.

A few more points to consider when using open source software on the corporate level:

Find ways to give back: The way enterprises “pay” for open source software isn’t necessarily in dollars. Providing user feedback on the product, contributing new code, and providing documentation updates all help support the community and keep the open source application thriving.

Keep it open: Understand that the strength of open source is the community of people who collaborate on and contribute to it. Think of your organization’s contributions to open source as part of your “payment,” as well as a way to keep it truly free.

Find the freedom in the functionality: Since open source can be manipulated, changed and modified to fit a variety of unique needs and applications, it can represent a great benefit to the enterprise. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the true freedom in open source is about liberty and inclusiveness, rather than the bottom line.

Open source is changing the way that software is developed and used at every level of the organization. Embracing the meaning behind open source opens up new avenues of possibility for software use and development within the enterprise, as well as a chance to become part of a thriving and vital community. The more you give back to open source, the more you get. Open source is all about sharing, and although the price tag might be attractive, it’s not where the true freedom lies.