Decision-making processes in community-based free/libre open source software development teams: The impact of shared work products

Publication Type:



Syracuse University School of Information Studies (2017)


Prior research on decision-making in Free/Libre Open Source Software development (FLOSS) teams has examined the distribution of decision-making power but the specific process by which decisions are made is still largely unexplored. Understanding these processes is practically and theoretically interesting. The lack formal organizational structures to guide practices and reliance on asynchronous communication might be expected to make decision making problematic but despite these challenges many FLOSS teams are quite effective.

This study adopted a process-based perspective to analyze decision-making in five community-based FLOSS teams developing two kinds of software (IM clients and ERP systems). Five different decision-making processes were identified, indicating FLOSS teams use multiple processes when making decisions. We explored the impact of three contextual factors on the complexity of different processes: decision type, trigger type and project type. The results suggested that strategic decisions adopt more complex processes than tactical decisions do. An unexpected finding was that teams developing more or less complex software seem to adopt similar practices. This research provides theoretical insights into decision-making in community-based FLOSS teams and has practical implications for FLOSS practitioners.

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