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Selecting component sourcing options: A survey of software engineering’s broader make-or-buy decisions


Markus Borg , Panagiota Chatzipetrou , Krzysztof Wnuk , Emil Alégroth , Tony Gorschek , Efi Papatheocharous , Syed Muhammad Ali Shah , Jakob Axelsson

Publication Type:

Journal article


Information and Software Technology


Context Component-based software engineering (CBSE) is a common approach to develop and evolve contemporary software systems. When evolving a system based on components, make-or-buy decisions are frequent, i.e., whether to develop components internally or to acquire them from external sources. In CBSE, several different sourcing options are available: (1) developing software in-house, (2) outsourcing development, (3) buying commercial-off-the-shelf software, and (4) integrating open source software components.Objective Unfortunately, there is little available research on how organizations select component sourcing options (CSO) in industry practice. In this work, we seek to contribute empirical evidence to CSO selection.Method We conduct a cross-domain survey on CSO selection in industry, implemented as an online questionnaire.Results Based on 188 responses, we find that most organizations consider multiple CSOs during software evolution, and that the CSO decisions in industry are dominated by expert judgment. When choosing between candidate components, functional suitability acts as an initial filter, then reliability is the most important quality.Conclusion We stress that future solution-oriented work on decision support has to account for the dominance of expert judgment in industry. Moreover, we identify considerable variation in CSO decision processes in industry. Finally, we encourage software development organizations to reflect on their decision processes when choosing whether to make or buy components, and we recommend using our survey for a first benchmarking.


author = {Markus Borg and Panagiota Chatzipetrou and Krzysztof Wnuk and Emil Al{\'e}groth and Tony Gorschek and Efi Papatheocharous and Syed Muhammad Ali Shah and Jakob Axelsson},
title = {Selecting component sourcing options: A survey of software engineering’s broader make-or-buy decisions},
volume = {51},
number = {6},
pages = {18--34},
month = {March},
year = {2019},
journal = {Information and Software Technology},
url = {}