Open innovation using open source tools: a case study at Sony Mobile

Hussan Munir, Johan Linåker, Krzysztof Wnuk, Per Runeson, Björn Regnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite growing interest of Open Innovation (OI) in Software Engineering (SE), little is known about what triggers software organizations to adopt it and how this affects SE practices. OI can be realized in numerous of ways, including Open Source Software (OSS) involvement. Outcomes from OI are not restricted to product innovation but also include process innovation, e.g. improved SE practices and methods. This study explores the involvement of a software organization (Sony Mobile) in OSS communities from an OI perspective and what SE practices (requirements engineering and testing) have been adapted in relation to OI. It also highlights the innovative outcomes resulting from OI. An exploratory embedded case study investigates how Sony Mobile use and contribute to Jenkins and Gerrit; the two central OSS tools in their continuous integration tool chain. Quantitative analysis was performed on change log data from source code repositories in order to identify the top contributors and triangulated with the results from five semi-structured interviews to explore the nature of the commits. The findings of the case study include five major themes: i) The process of opening up towards the tool communities correlates in time with a general adoption of OSS in the organization. ii) Assets not seen as competitive advantage nor a source of revenue are made open to OSS communities, and gradually, the organization turns more open. iii) The requirements engineering process towards the community is informal and based on engagement. iv) The need for systematic and automated testing is still in its infancy, but the needs are identified. v) The innovation outcomes included free features and maintenance, and were believed to increase speed and quality in development. Adopting OI was a result of a paradigm shift of moving from Windows to Linux. This shift enabled Sony Mobile to utilize the Jenkins and Gerrit communities to make their internal development process better for its software developers and testers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-223
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number1
Early online date2017 Apr 22
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Software Engineering

Free keywords

  • Case study
  • Gerrit
  • Jenkins
  • Open innovation
  • Open source
  • OSS communities


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