Cost isn’t the only potential value it may provide
IBM’s recent $34 billion acquisition of open-source enterprise software provider Red Hat — reportedly one of the biggest deals in U.S. tech history, according to CNBC — highlighted the business world’s growing interest in open-source options.
Numerous companies use open-source software — which contains source code that’s made publicly available — in various operational aspects, ranging from running web servers to project management.
Seventy-two percent, in fact, said they use open-source software for non-commercial or internal reasons in a 2018 survey conducted by The Linux Foundation and The New Stack.
Although a number of companies still haven’t considered using open-source technology as a training and development resource, some may find they’d benefit from implementing it — for a few reasons, including:
Companies are spending more on external training assistance; the average learning-related outsourcing expenditure increased by more than $200,000 from 2017 to 2018, according to a Training magazine report. Bringing education and development entirely in-house could provide some savings; but employers need to have the manpower to provide in-person instruction — or be able to invest in an eLearning training and development system.
While some open-source items are available at no cost, they aren’t always free; the developer who owns a particular offering may charge something for support or additional features and services. Provided your organization has the in-house capabilities to implement and maintain the software, though, the expense may be less than purchasing a commercial, proprietary eLearning training product, which can involve an upfront cost and user licensing fees.
The sizable amount of people who use open-source tools essentially serve as a test group — which, at least in theory, should help identify any security or other issues fairly quickly to help make the software dependable. Users may also contribute ideas to refine and enhance certain product features.
The considerable input involved in open-source usage can be a major selling point for its adopters. Seventy-six percent of the respondents in an Accenture survey of U.K. and U.S. private and public sector organizations cited quality as a key benefit of open-source software. Seventy-one percent mentioned reliability, and 70 percent said better security and bug fixing was a significant open-source software advantage.
Unlike off-the-shelf platforms that contain set code, open-source options can often be modified significantly. Developers can alter the code in an open-source content management or other system to add features or otherwise tailor the solution to fit the company’s specific training needs, including focusing on the skills the employer hopes to build and the learning methods employees prefer.
More than a decade ago, a Computer Economics survey found technology buyers actually valued open-source software’s ability to reduce an organization’s dependence on software vendors more than low cost.
Buying a product from a proprietary software vendor can mean a company will be reliant on the vendor for ongoing maintenance and support — and will have to accept mandatory upgrades, even if the company is happy with the current version, as older ones are phased out. However, as Computer Economics noted, older versions of open-source offerings typically continue to be supported through the user community, and possibly third-party providers, if demand exists.
Open-source eLearning isn’t, of course, the only way employers can offer employee training and development opportunities; many provide instruction through other formats. To find out about other educational options, view our blog posts on what type of employee training program you should offer and skills training companies can afford on any budget.
For more information on innovative technology that’s being used in the workplace — or will be in the future — download our free HR Tech of Tomorrow white paper.