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Business Analysts and Open Source — The Next Frontier

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not reflect the perspectives of IIBA.
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The role of a business analyst is to understand business problems and recommend solutions to achieve organizational goals. Open source has emerged as an innovative and exciting way for communities to collaborate and reach these goals. Within these communities, business analysts are a valuable resource.

With source code that is publicly accessible and visible, open source software is a powerful tool that is free, flexible, secure, and innovative.

And, more importantly, it can be used to improve the lives of people around the world.

The Rise of Open Source

Open source emerged in the late 1990s but has grown significantly in recent years. As reported in the 2023 State of Open Source Survey prepared by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), open source software is expected to continue to rise in popularity in the coming years:

"[In 2023] the use of open source went up, with 80.04% affirming that they have increased their open source (compared to 77% last year), and 41.28% noting a significant increase (versus 36% last year)."

Furthermore, a very small percentage (1.49%) of respondents indicated they reduced the use of open source in their organization. The suggests the use of open source software will likely continue to increase.

The business analyst role will evolve as open source software continues to grow and as participation in upstream development increases. It will be imperative for business analysis professionals to understand the open source principles of upstream first, community, and freedom.

Upstream First

Upstream first refers to a development philosophy and approach commonly associated with open source software projects. In the context of open source, upstream refers to a software project's original or primary source, which a broader community often maintains.

By contributing upstream, organizations and developers align themselves with the broader open source community that maintains the original project. This fosters collaboration and quicker identification and resolution of issues and improvements.

Business analysts can assist with upstream first by actively participating in upstream open source communities. These communities often need assistance with project management tasks such as creating project plans, defining milestones, and tracking progress. 

In addition, open source projects often rely heavily on documentation to onboard contributors and users. Business analysts can contribute to creating user manuals, developer guides, and training materials, making it easier for others to get started.


The Open Source Way defines community as “a group of people united by a common identity and collective purpose who engage in activities together over time.”

Communities share values, principles, and norms that distinguish them from others and give members a sense of belonging. This belonging encourages sharing and open communication, fostering innovation and improved standards and procedures.

Engaging with the open source community is crucial. Business analysts can facilitate communication between developers, users, and stakeholders. They can participate in online forums, mailing lists, and community events to gather feedback and ensure the project aligns with the community's goals.


Freedom in the context of open source refers to the fundamental principles and rights associated with open source software. These principles revolve around the freedom to use, study, modify, and distribute open-source software.

  • Freedom to Use: Users have the freedom to run the software for any purpose without restrictions. They can use open source software for personal, business, educational, or other purposes.
  • Freedom to Study: Users have the freedom to access and examine the source code of the software. This enables transparency and allows individuals to understand how the software works, ensuring no hidden functionalities or vulnerabilities exist.
  • Freedom to Modify: Users have the freedom to modify the source code to suit their specific needs or preferences. This includes making enhancements, fixing bugs, and adapting the software to unique use cases.
  • Freedom to Distribute: Users have the freedom to redistribute the software, both in its original form and in modified versions. This means they can share open source software with others.
These freedoms are often associated with open source software licences, such as the GNU General Public License (GPL), the Apache License, or the MIT License. These licences provide the legal framework for ensuring that the freedoms are protected and that the software remains open source.

Business analysts can become familiar with these licences and help communities with legal and licensing compliance to ensure the community has bylaws, contributor guidelines, and a code of conduct helping them to comply with the licences.

Now What?

Open source provides more collaboration and innovation than ever. Business analysts have a unique opportunity to participate in upstream communities to help them grow and succeed.

The first step is to find an open source community that interests you. Attend a few meetings, get to know the contributors, and figure out what the project needs. Then, review documentation, ask about planning projects, and offer to help build communication bridges.

Be open to new ideas and ways of working as you learn more about the power of open source. The future is yours…and it’s open.

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About the Author:
Fernando Valera

Tracy Buckner is a Senior Community Architect focusing on open source enablement in the Open Source Program Office at Red Hat. Tracy’s career as a business analyst helped fuel her passion for opening silos and building strong, effective communities through collaboration, communication, and innovation.


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