InnerSource at Bloomberg: The SAUC Tool and the Art of Internal Innovation

Teamwork at Bloomberg has been taken to new heights in the past 18 months as engineers embrace InnerSource, a development practice derived from open source that brings large-scale systems methodology to small internal projects.

Panna Pavangadkar, Global Head of Engineering Developer Experience at Bloomberg, has been evangelizing the use of open source practices within Bloomberg. She recently sat down with The New Stack to discuss InnerSource practices at Bloomberg.

“The real value of InnerSource is the cultural change and the collaborative nature of the developers developing transparency around their projects and contributing to other projects they may be interested in,” says Pavangadkar. “We have always had a culture of collaboration, but what has evolved has been some of the newer tools and the success of open source.”

One of the tools enabling rapid InnerSource adoption was produced within the walls of Bloomberg. Created by Peter Murfitt of the Monitors team, SAUC (a play on “source” pronounced like “sauce”) serves as a task board for internal projects that invite collaboration. Started as an hackathon project in response to a call for better collaboration tools, SAUC now hosts nearly 700 collaborative projects at any time.

The SAUC tool combines the functionality of a task board with GitHub search, listing projects open to collaboration at Bloomberg. SAUC organizes hundreds of projects by their associated teams and tracks the number of contributions made to each project. For example, the 'bbgithub' project (tools used by engineers interacting with GitHub Enterprise) boasts over 100 contributors.

The SAUC tool came at an opportune time, as teams were adopting Git and the organization was pushing to open up more internal projects to collaboration. SAUC launched in the spring of 2015, and now receives up to 80 queries per day from developers searching for projects that they can contribute to.

It’s a simple, but effective, access point for Bloomberg programmers. A tagging system identifies the projects and provides a guide for contributors – for example, a project might be marked as “contributing welcome” or have a “help wanted” flag – and engineers continue to improve the tool. From improving search to incorporating more categories, the SAUC tool itself has benefited from 11 InnerSource-driven updates since its creation.

SAUC’s effects were immediate, creating a significant shift in workflow, according to Becky Plummer, Global Head of the CHAMP program, a group of about 300 committers to collaborative projects at Bloomberg.

Consider the common case when engineers find an issue with a program or have an idea for new functionality. “Ten years ago, someone would say, ‘Hey guys, who owns this program? Please fix it,’” says Plummer. “Two years ago, someone would ask a CHAMP to fix it, or track down the project manager. Today, Bloomberg engineers say, ‘Hey, can I fix this?’” The answer is usually yes. Today, SAUC and CHAMP enable collaboration across the Bloomberg engineering team.

According to Pavangadkar, the SAUC tool has also gamified internal open source collaboration. Because SAUC organizes projects by teams, it is easy for leaders of those teams to see how open their projects are compared to others within the organization, incentivizing them to fight for the number one position.

At a company like Bloomberg, where transparency and collaboration are highly valued, being at the top of the leaderboard on SAUC means bragging rights.