Innovation lives on diversity; of ideas, of cultures, of minds. Innovation processes restricted to only a close internal group leads to limited results. You can’t think out of the box if the only people doing the thinking are inside ‘your own box’. That is why, a lot of organizations decide to go the open source route. But when it comes to innovating on strongly protected intellectual property, you don’t want to share that process with the whole world and lose the surprise effect. So, if you can’t do it open source, there is a great alternative which is to leverage all the benefits of open source best practices, but inside the corporate cocoon. This is inner source.
By putting in place an inner source model and corresponding tools and processes, you will enable your developers across all your locations to contribute code to the software that you are developing, whether for internal use, or for products that will be shipped to customers in the future. Each of your developers will bring their own ideas to parts of the code that they specifically relate to. Maybe because they are an expert in the corresponding function. Or because they use or would use this specific feature. So, they have a vested interest in contributing very high-quality code because it makes sense to them.
Inner source processes also have an added benefit that they enable globally distributed teams to work locally, contributing in a local agile model to their specific portion of code, creating, in effect, a distributed agile model. So, in addition to bringing in ideas from a diverse population, you also benefit from more modern development methodologies like agile or DevOps in a distributed mode.
Just like normal software development methodologies, make sure you have a dedicated code review and, just like normal open source, make sure you have separation between contributors (people who write code and submit /contribute it to the project) and committers (people who approve code that has been contributed, and have gained that privilege over time through the regularity and quality of their own contributions). Inner source, like open source, leverages a meritocratic model that favors quality.
To do this, an organization must follow globally established best practices. There is a lot of literature on inner source. One of my favorite sources is this site:https://innersourcecommons.org/getting-started/ which will provide insights on best practices, communities where you can share knowledge and information, and even events where like-minded people get together to share best practices.
Remember that in the corporate world, innovation usually serves to bring your organization and/or your products faster to a unique differentiating set of features before your competition does; so, new ideas and speed of execution are crucial. Inner source brings both to you, without sacrificing on quality.
Director, Open Source Consulting Practice, Wipro Ltd.
Gilles Gravier is Director in the Open Source Consulting Practice at Wipro. Based in Switzerland, he provides open source and blockchain strategy consulting and advisory services to Wipro's key customers worldwide. Gilles has always been involved in both security and open source. In particular, in roles such as Chief Technology Strategist for Security and Open Source at Sun Microsystems, he has advised the largest accounts globally on their IT security strategy and their open source activities.