Software developers, you're better when you work together

Collaboration among developers helps them stay innovative while also advancing the company's business objectives

Partnering with other companies on critical software development processes might seem anathema to a company's bottom line, given competitive concerns. But collaboration is happening anyway to advance business objectives, and the practice is expected to increase.

The Linux Foundation this week released its "Collaborative Development Trends Report." Based on recent responses from 519 software developers and 167 business managers and executives at companies like IBM, Google, and Intel, the business model in which companies share development resources and build common open source code bases appears to be on the rise. These companies then can expand these code bases to differentiate their own products and services.

Of course, Linux itself is a collaborative, open source effort, although founder Linus Torvalds still has the final say on what goes into the Linux kernel. "This is the new way the industry works together," Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said at the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit conference this week in Napa, Calif. "We don't go to standards-setting bodies. Interoperability comes from working code built under the auspices of large- scale development projects."

The survey found that companies get involved in collaborative software development to advance business objectives and be part of industry innovation. Nearly 80 percent said collaborative development practices have been seen as more strategic to their organization during the past three years. "Nearly half of businesses managers surveyed said they got involved in collaborative development because it allows them to innovate and/or help transform their industry," according to the survey. Business managers now are taking the lead in initiating open source participation as well.

The survey also found that investments in collaborative software development are rising. Forty-four percent of business managers and executives said they would increase investments in collaborative development in the next six months, while 42 percent will sustain current investment. Sixty-three percent of developers said they spend more time now on collaborative software development than they did five years ago, and 59 percent reported more participation in the past year.

The rewards of collaboration are found at both the individual and project level. Eighty-three percent of software developers said they benefit personally from collaborative development by getting exposure to new tools and development practices. Meanwhile, 77 percent of business managers said collaborative development practices have benefitted their organizations through a shorter development cycle and faster time to market.

Collaborative development will be a disruptive force over the next 12 months, according to the survey. The top five technologies affected will be cloud computing, mobile devices, Internet of things, software-defined networking, and operating systems.

Most business managers and executives said they have experts or legal counsel on staff to manage governance and compliance on collaborative projects. "This is not surprising given that 'politics' was the No. 1 challenge for collaborative development cited by managers (56 percent), followed by legal issues (55 percent)," said the survey. "As the use of collaborative development practices rises, so does the need for experts who specialize in mitigating concerns to build an efficient model for leveraging open source software."

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