An InnerSourcing Approach within an Enterprise14th Feb 2021
InnerSourcing. An approach that could revolutionise software development within enterprises, yet an approach unknown to most. So, what is InnerSourcing? Most people/companies have different interpretations, but overall, InnerSourcing takes the values and principles of "open source" and looks to apply that within an enterprise. Traditionally, software teams are siloed and have their objectives, meaning they are focused on their deliverables and nothing else. Typically, if these teams were to take a step back and look across the enterprise, they would see other teams trying to do the same thing, or even better, other teams have solved/come up with a solution already. What InnerSourcing tries to achieve is collaboration across teams to meet a common goal. Why have multiple teams work on the same thing separately, versus combining everyone's knowledge in these teams to work together to meet the outcome as one.
InnerSourcing has some more values than just cross-team collaboration; some more advantages are:
- Faster development: Having multiple developers from various teams will lead to faster development, versus a single team where only one or two developers may be focused on that deliverable.
- Documentation: If multiple teams are consuming a software product, more focus is put on writing good documentation. This is so developers looking to use the software product can get up and running quickly, rather than figure it out themselves.
- Code Reuse: It is better to build once and reuse multiple times, then build several times and use once. This is because code is more maintainable as if an update needs to be made, it gets made once, versus every team needing to make the same change.
- Encourage innovation: Innersourcing gets more minds on the same outcome. Naturally, this means a more diverse mindset, leading to a broader range of solutions being proposed to a problem; therefore, you encourage innovation.
- Healthy Competition: The more advanced companies create healthy competition by rewarding developers who have "InnerSourced" the most. Doing this gets the most out of your developers and keeps them engaged.
- Security & Quality: This is one of the more unrecognised values. Building something once and reusing it multiple times means if an urgent security vulnerability needs to be patched, the update just needs to be made to a single codebase. The teams using the fixed software need to do nothing. On the next release of their software, it will get automatically pulled down and patched.
These are just a few examples to show why InnerSourcing can be such a success within enterprises.
At this point (traditionally) in my blog, I would usually explain how something works and share my experience/further thoughts on the topic. However, for this article, I would like to link out to a conference I spoke at back in 2018.
Every year, GitHub host a conference in San Francisco called "GitHub Universe". This conference focuses on all aspects of software development, where GitHub and companies present approaches and best practices. I was lucky enough to present on behalf of Lilly, to talk about Lillys's InnerSourcing journey and the value seen internally. I discuss the concepts of InnerSourcing, the approach taken, some statistics of adoption, then ending with some best practices and tips & tricks for other companies looking to adopt the same.
See the video below:
To conclude, similar to DevOps, InnerSourcing can be seen as an approach and methodology to transform IT enterprises' traditional culture and behaviours. It helps to have a central team spearheading the journey, as that team can focus on automating the process which sparks and enables InnerSourcing. Additionally, it also helps to share and use the same suite of DevOps Tools (such as source code and package manager tools), as this removes friction in the developer experience. Asking a developer to go between multiple tools will lead to developer frustration and therefore, a lower appetite to adopt InnerSourcing. Developer experience has to be at the heart and focal point of a companies InnerSourcing journey.
DevOps and InnerSourcing, although different, complement each other more then people realise. If companies lay solid foundations for one, it will naturally help lay the other's foundations, even if unintentional. Finally, I believe InnerSourcing will soon be the "norm" and a core approach for how software development occurs within enterprises. I am excited to see InnerSourcing grow and mature through various companies in the coming years.