Lessons learned when tracking OSS projects (and what Inner Source projects can learn)

[Extra material available at the Open Source Leadership Summit talk and its slides in the Bitergia’s Speakerdeck account]

We are all used to open source projects. Concepts such as community, code review process, continuous integration, geographically distributed contributions, community managers, and a whole myriad of terms and collaborative way of working are usual for all of us. And enterprises are learning from this open process. Those are changing the direction of their development models to a more open one within the organization. Initiatives such as the Inner Source Commons where companies such as PayPal or Bloomberg are publicly exposing their case, help others to deal with the usual problems they face.

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Inner Sourcing vs commoditification of software

“The idea is beginning to take root in even the most secretive corporate cultures… Its power lies in the inherent social nature of the creative process. When developers are able to access, use and build upon what their colleagues are creating, innovation can really take hold.”

Phil Granof in Wired

As we detailed in the previous post, adopting Inner Source practices creates great benefits for  companies such as saving cost, faster time to market and enabling innovation.
Commodification of Software
There’s no doubt that Inner source needs a different approach  to project management  but “hands on!” What’s the best project to start Inner Sourcing?

Software is becoming the core of most business, even the traditional ones. However it doesn’t mean that companies should build all the software they need, most of it can be easily bought or outsourced with low cost, in order to focus their efforts on their core business. Thus, Inner Source should help to add value to organizations running away from commodity.

This was the case for Philips Healthcare. Klaas-Jan Stol and Brian Fitzgerald in their article Inner Source—Adopting Open Source Development Practices in Organizations recommended to start with a seed project. That means, not starting from scratch but choosing an existing initial implementation of a software product or component.
Frank Van Der Linden, CTO at Phillips was responsible for and pioneered the setting up Inner Source within the company. He decided to start with a component suite of DICOM (Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine) standard, used in many medical imaging tools such as x-ray and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanners. Philips Healthcare has a product line for diagnostic techniques in Hospitals, so they chose a core business software product for Inner Sourcing.

Van Der Linden reports enormous business benefits using Inner Sourcing as a process for developing:

  • Three times more product groups served.
  • Substantially improved product quality (Improved feedback from product groups)
  • Product groups find defects earlier.
  • Significant time to market gains.
  • Growing an active Inner Source community – Over 60% of the PH software community involved.

Philips and other companies running Inner Sourcing learned from Open Source projects, they understood how to align and coordinate efforts. In the next post, we will talk about essential tools to enable Inner Sourcing.