An Introduction to the Open Source Program Office, a Collaboration Between Engineers and Intellectual Property Team Members

Hi everyone! I’m @tweeeety from the Mercari JP Engineering Office. I usually work on organization development for the engineering organization here at Mercari.

But today, I’m here to introduce the Open Source Program Office! I think this is something that will interest not only engineers, but those involved in the intellectual property field as well.

<Table of Contents>
1: What is the Open Source Program Office (OSPO)?
2: What does OSPO at Mercari do?
・ What do we do and what are our goals?
・ Who’s in the OSPO team?
3: How was Mercari’s OSPO founded?
・ The background of OSPO at Mercari
・ Our first goal: define our goals

1: What is the Open Source Program Office?

Many of you are probably hearing the name “Open Source Program Office” (OSPO) for the first time, but actually, there are a good number of companies around the world, like Google and Microsoft, that have established OSPOs.

To put it simply, OSPO is an organization in charge of promoting the use of, creation of, and contributions to open source at a company, as well as related compliance matters.

2: What does OSPO at Mercari do?

What do we do and what are our goals?

Mercari’s systems are based on a variety of software developed with open source. Without the community, culture, and achievements of open source, Mercari would not have been able to build up its systems as they are today and provide value to so many users. There are also many engineers within Mercari who publish and contribute to open source projects.

At its core, Mercari’s OSPO’s concept is about encouraging two things: 1) supporting open source development and contributing to the community and 2) improving employee engagement.

But that’s rather broad, isn’t it? To be more specific, we set a mission and three visions to define our goal of promoting the creation/use of open source and handling compliance.

OSPO’s work spans the entire Mercari Group, and even extends to open source communities outside the company. Here’s an image showing some of our main activities:

The numbers, 1–3, correspond to our visions. Let me explain how these activities tie into our visions.

In the first category, “publishing open source software,” we work to create an environment where engineers can easily publish and contribute to open source. In the second category, “using open source software,” we work to provide an appropriate compliance foundation to encourage serious use of software published as open source. Finally, in the third category, “creating open source PR,” we aim to build trust both inside and outside of the Mercari Group by actively sharing information about our activities in the first two categories.

Who’s in the OSPO team?

Now, to actually carry out these activities, we need not only engineering knowledge, but security and licensing knowledge as well. Mercari’s OSPO is composed of members from engineering, IP, and security. Our nationalities and backgrounds are diverse, too!

Some members in this list have left the company, but we’re still close!

3: How was Mercari’s OSPO founded?

The background of OSPO at Mercari

As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, there are many engineers within Mercari who publish and contribute to open source projects. OSPO at Mercari was created from the bottom up.

Here’s a quick outline of how it happened:

・ Engineers suggested that Mercari should establish a system for using/contributing to open source
・ The Engineering Division (Engineering Office) heard these suggestions, decided to promote/form governance for open source, and consulted the IP Team
・ Engineering Office and IP talked to the CTO and technology directors and suggested forming a team for a combined project between engineers and IP
・ The Open Source Software Promotion Office (the previous form of the OSPO) was formed
・ We collected information and discussed what our goals were, what we should do, and where we should start
・ We officially named ourselves OSPO (Open Source Program Office)
・ We gradually invited (lured?) more members in to form the team we have now

As a bottom-up project, we went through a lot of trial and error at the beginning. In the middle of all of this, we realized that what we were doing was commonly called OSPO, and decided to use that name ourselves.

I went through it pretty quickly here, but it actually took more than a year… We were motivated to do something, but we didn’t know where to start, and we almost lost hope a number of times along the way.

Our first goal: define our goals

So that’s how the team in its current shape was formed, but what’s really important is the work we do, right? There weren’t many past examples to look to within Japan, so it took quite a lot of time to figure out what to do and what our goals were.

・ Wouldn’t it be best to start by just trying to fix the issues we currently face?
・ Even if we were to go all out with this, what would our goal be?
・ Looking at the big picture, what’s the scope of this, anyway?
・ What about consistency between companies in the Mercari Group? What should we do about tools and administration?
・ Are we really going in the right direction?
(Go back to step 1 and repeat.)

We discussed these points one by one and made sure we were all on the same page. We decided to start by identifying the big picture of what we wanted to do. Once the big picture began to take shape, it was easier to see the outline of how tasks related to each other and what they would accomplish.

In the end, there has to be some meaning to working as a team. We asked ourselves again and again what we could do as a company that would really benefit open source, engineers, and communities. Once we had a clear outline, we came up with the idea that our work should help improve employee engagement. That led to our current mission and visions.

A closing message for anyone interested in OSPO!

In this article, I introduced who’s in Mercari’s OSPO, what we do, and how the team was formed. But we still have a while to go before we reach our goals, and there’s plenty of things to do, so we’re looking for new members to join us!

The IP Team at Mercari is currently hiring new members. OSPO is a challenging project that gives members the opportunity to experience cutting-edge engineering across the entire Mercari Group. As part of that, IP members work with others to check for/fix any license violations with the open source software we use at Mercari and handle intellectual property clearance for the open source software Mercari publishes. If you’re interested in working with a diverse team to create a compliance structure for Mercari to promote open source activities, we’d love to hear from you!

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