Inner Source / Benefits / Platform Development

Short explanation of the benefits of Inner Source for a platform development scenario

Prof. Dr. Dirk Riehle, M.B.A.

“Inner source”, also “firm-internal open source”, is the short hand for using best practices of open source software development for a firm’s internal software development efforts. No open source software is being developed, but the firm’s development process is enhanced through the addition of open source practices [1].

The primary goal of such an enhanced software development process is to improve code reuse and knowledge sharing between organisational units. Under the scenario of platform + application development (one platform, many dependent applications), these goals are reached by (a) organising the development process in such a way that all relevant information is transparent to all parties and by (b) empowering software developers to actively engage in a direct and unmediated way with the other parties. Such engagement relates to all artefacts of software development, be it requirements, source code, configurations, or documentation. In particular, application developers are given the opportunity to access platform components and adapt them as needed for their application. They can then feed them back into the platform using a defined cross-organisational process that involves both parties, application and platform developers. This aids the rapid development of a platform of reusable components.

For this to work, several preparatory and accompanying measures need to be taken. Projects and components need to be opened up. Developers need to be prepared to engage with colleagues in new ways. Management needs to show support of such engagement. The specifics of these measures depend on the particular platform scenario, business needs, and company culture.

Prof. Riehle [2] of the Open Source Research group at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg is actively guiding such projects.

[1] Dirk Riehle. Open Collaboration within Corporations. IEEE, 2009.

[2] Dirk Riehle. One Paragraph Bio, 2011.

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