InnerSource Commons Spring Summit 2019, Galway, Ireland

The InnerSource Commons Spring Summit 2019 was held on 9-11 April 2019 in Galway, Ireland, to encourage InnerSource practitioners to share their experiences and to collaborate together.

An InnerSource approach to development of internal and proprietary software aims to apply open source principals of working between different teams within an organisation, rather than publicly in the open.

Below are some highlights and common themes from the sessions, which are covered by the Chatham House Rule:

  • The aim of InnerSource is to develop a product globally within an organisation, getting teams to collaborate across different business units, locations and timezones, reuse code and build higher quality products.
  • Lack of user adoption: there was discussion about how some organisations were building more internal services via Innersource, however there was a lack of users. Often, InnerSource Champions play a key role in driving the InnerSource initivatives, as they love open source, being innovative and helping others. However, the majority of the individuals in the organisation did not have the same enthusiasm and see the same value. Suggestions to increase adoption included better marketing of InnerSource benefits and management encouragement of their teams to participate.
  • Culture: one of the key benefits of InnerSourcing is to improve communication and collaboration between teams. There’s lots of talk about it, and some successes between a few groups, but in reality most organisations are not there yet. It was agreed this is a common issue that is not easy to improve. It takes time.
  • InnerSource lacks openness: Someone was telling the group about what their organisation had done and achieved and then said “The best things I can’t tell you, because it’s internal”. Several people showed some really useful and cool looking internal dashboards they had built. Each time when asked if the dashboards could be shared, the answer was no, however some teams would look to see if they could be open sourced. This is a real shame and hinders external sharing and collaboration.
  • What’s the ROI / value of InnerSourcing: One of the key value propositions is to get business units collaborating, however it is very hard to measure. Other benefits include reduced development costs, accelerated learning and becoming a more attractive employer.
  • Legal/Tax issues: there are issues creating InnerSource licenses within an organsation in different regions and with partners as part of addressing transfer pricing. Transfer pricing is the pricing of goods, services and intellectual property (including software code) as it is sold / moves between or among legal entities within the same holding company. It is a taxable event, where there is currently insufficient international guidance. Transfer pricing is a common issue for organisations doing InnerSource, which involves a lot of time and effort to address.
  • Short term vs long term thinking: some organisations regret doing what was easy and saved costs at the time as now there are limitations to scale and take things forward, like when one organisation chose a platform and now can’t easily switch to Github due to dependencies. So be careful of how you make decisions and what choices you make.
  • Employee burnout: InnerSource can be very demanding and time consuming. Many people are passionate, in it for the community and find it difficult to say no when people want their expertise. More attention needs to be placed on employee wellbeing.
  • The end goal of InnerSource should be to Open Source.

I spoke at the event about an Open Source Maturity Assessment (OSMA), that looks at an organisation’s Open Source usage. It helps an organisation to understand their current maturity regarding their knowledge, adoption and ability to effectively utilize Open Source technologies within their organisation. The assessment itself is Open Source and the code can be found at https://github.com/boogiespook/osma. It is a simple LAMP stack, allowing questions and responses to be customised for an organisation. If you would like to contribute, please submit pull requests and/or create some issues.

Attending the event was very worthwhile. It was great to have discussions with a friendly smart community and finding out about the successes and the challenges. The attendees were a mixture of universities, organisations implementing or considering implementing InnerSource, vendors and other.

As always, the Irish hospitality didn’t disappoint. Thanks a million!

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