Contracted Contributor


Contracted Contributor


Associates wanting to contribute to InnerSource are discouraged from doing so by their line management. Relief is provided by formal contracts and agreements.


Without support by middle management, the total number of contributors and, as a result, the amount of contributions made and value generated by the InnerSource initiative will likely fall below expectation of top-level management. This will likely be amplified if there is no adequate funding for and empowerment of Dedicated Community Leaders. This runs the risk of top-level management abandoning the InnerSource idea.


A large corporation has started an InnerSource initiative. Major goals for the initiative are to increase the efficiency of distributed software development and to foster innovation by allowing every associate to voluntarily contribute to InnerSource projects, regardless of topic and business unit.

Top level management is on board and supporting the InnerSource initiative. For them, the InnerSource initiative is just one of many initiatives to foster innovation and efficiency, though. They are funding InnerSource with money and capacity for community leaders and are largely giving autonomy as for how the budget is spent. They are also limiting the breadth and duration of the initiative and partake in periodic reviews until there is proof it yields the expected results (see Review Committee). Top level management has announced their support for InnerSource on various company-internal meetings.

However, top-level management has not yet empowered or incentivized mid-level managers to allow or even motivate their employees to participate in cross-divisional InnerSource activities. In addition to that, the capacity of every associate is usually allocated to non InnerSource projects for 100 % of their working time. Cross organizational collaboration is not yet the norm and line managers usually do not have targets outside of their own organization. Contributions to InnerSource projects are expected to be made during working hours, not during free time.


  • Managers are held responsible for the results of their business units. Letting their staff participate in InnerSource activities which might spend time making contributions outside of their business unit effectively reduces the capacity of his or her unit. This will likely make it harder for the managers to reach or exceed their goals.

  • Line managers and HR will, by default, judge the performance of their subordinates against their business units goals, which might not be aligned with the goals of the InnerSource community.

  • The less executive air cover a line manager perceives he has, the less likely is he or she to have his or her staff participate in InnerSource activities which contribute to another business unit.

  • The less transparency and control a line manager has of work done by one of her subordinates, the less likely is she to allow her to contribute.

  • The less formally work in InnerSource is managed and organized, the less likely a line manager who is accustomed to formal processes is to sign off on one of her employees contributing to InnerSource.

  • The more time an associate spends on contributions to an InnerSource project which does not benefit his day-to-day work, the more will the workload for his teammates in his business unit increase.

  • Individual contributors will likely consider participating in InnerSource as an opportunity to enhance their professional network within the company and to gain knowledge and experience in the technical area of her contributions.


Set up a formal contracting between the contributor, their line manager and a centrally funded and steered InnerSource governance office (ISGO). Have the ISGO reimburse business units who contracted contributors for the contracted time.

  • The contracting specifies a maximum percentage of the associates work time in InnerSource.

  • The contracting clearly states that work in the contributor's business unit takes precedence over work in InnerSource.

  • The contracting states that it is not required to work in InnerSource for the maximum percentage specified in the contract.

  • The contracting is signed by the contributor, the contributor's line manager, the governance office and the Dedicated Community Leader of the community the contributor will be contributing to.

  • The governance office offers to mediate between the contributor and her line manager in case of conflict regarding the time for contributions.

  • The Dedicated Community Leader participates in or provides input for performance reviews of contributors contracted for more than 20 %.

Resulting Context

A formal contracting and centrally funded reimbursements convincingly communicating the organizations support for the InnerSource initiative, thus empowering middle management to sign off on it:

  • Allocation of corporate funds to business units for reimbursement of development capacity signals to line managers that InnerSource is deemed valuable by the organization, that it has executive air cover and that they are expected to support it, too.

  • A formal contracting signals that work in InnerSource is managed professionally and inspires trust.

  • A formal contracting increases transparency and provides a better overview about the associate's available capacity for his business unit and InnerSource projects, thus reducing the risk of "over-booked/planned capacity".

A formal contracting is also beneficial for contributors and communities:

  • With a stable group of contributors, it is more likely that some of them will eventually achieve Trusted Committer status.

  • A formal contracting provides a basis for resolving conflict related to participation in InnerSource activities. Note that mediation will likely be successful only for a few companies with a culture conducive to that.

Known Instances

  • BIOS at Robert Bosch GmbH


  • Structured


  • Georg Grütter (Robert Bosch GmbH)


  • Diogo Fregonese (Robert Bosch GmbH)

  • Robert Hansel (Robert Bosch GmbH)

  • Jim Jagielski

  • Tim Yao

  • Cedric Williams

  • Klaas-Jan Stol

  • Padma Sudarsan

  • Nick Stahl

  • Ofer Hermoni

  • Robert C. Hanmer


  • 2016-10-25 - first review

  • 2017-05-09 - rework

  • 2017-09-08 - second review, final rework and merged

  • 2021-02-27 - fixing issues with display of the pattern in the book

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