Case Study: Linux Foundation

Mike Woster
Open source is all about community and trust. Pingboard helps us save time and be efficient while supporting the community. Mike Woster | Chief Revenue Officer

The Linux Foundation is the not-for-profit that enables mass innovation through open source. It has a virtual workforce that mirrors the open source community at large—geographically dispersed, but generously collaborative.

Over 175 international employees work interdependently to accelerate the adoption of the Foundation’s hosted projects and support their developer, sysadmin and corporate communities. The flexibility of having a virtual workforce has reaped enormous benefits for the Foundation, including higher productivity and retention, and given them the ability to recruit from a deeper international talent pool.

But this arrangement also comes with a challenge: How do you maintain a true sense of community in a rapidly growing organization when employees rarely meet in the flesh?

We needed a tool to help employees discover and know each other, and to continue having a sense of community.

The Challenge of Staying Lean & Connected as a Virtual Team

Before Pingboard, the Foundation’s teams had to manually enter their information into Google Docs Spreadsheets and file their paid time off notices on a shared Google Calendar. Putting a colleague’s face to their name meant visiting their LinkedIn profile, and keeping track of who was working on any of the Foundation’s several projects at any given time was complicated.

Mike, the Foundation’s Chief Revenue Officer and one of its founding members, saw an opportunity to find a more efficient solution.

“As a non-profit, it’s extremely important that we be very lean,” he explains. We have very little overhead, no admins and no assistants, so the tools we choose have to be designed to maximize the productivity of each of our employees.”

Mike began looking for a way to improve the new employee onboarding process and employee directory.

“With 175 people, Pingboard pays for itself. We save at least one hour per employee every month, plus several hours per new onboarded employee so they can learn the org and make connections to colleagues faster.”

Because the Foundation’s work is so collaborative, it was critically important to help foster connections so that every employee can tap the supportive colleagues around them.

“We needed a tool to help employees discover and know each other; to facilitate a sense of community in a virtual environment,” Mike explains. “With so many open source projects and communities that we support, being able to learn who’s working on what is important for sharing best practices.”

As a non-profit, it’s extremely important that we be very lean—we have very little overhead, no admins, no assistants.

Integrations Improve Efficiency

After discovering Pingboard, one of the first things Mike noted was the level of integration available with the tools their teams were already using.

“The Google Apps integration was critical—especially being able to turn individual syncing on or off selectively.” Mike explains. “Not everyone who is a Google app account holder is an employee, and Pingboard allows for this use case.”

Another helpful element of the Google Apps integration was a far more streamlined system for sharing Out of Office and paid time off notices.

“We’ve always had one shared calendar, but now people can just use the Pingboard app to say they’re out or travelling instead of manually updating the Google Calendar,” Mike shares. “Pingboard auto-updates the calendar and we get weekly notices when travel statuses are updated, which is a nice feature out of the box.”

The Google Apps integration was critical.

Helping Co-Workers Feel Connected

As a virtual team, the Foundation’s employees connect using IRC, Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, mobile phones and more.

Pingboard integrates directly with Slack—and using custom fields, Mike was able to choose which contact information (like Skype) was mandatory. This ensured employees would have everything they needed to connect with those around them.

Add in profile pictures and a built-in company org chart, and Pingboard has become a critical community-building tool, helping employees get to know their colleagues.

“It’s a way better directory,” Mike says. “Now, employees have an up-to-date org chart; they can see the picture of the person they want to connect with and they have instant access to contact them.”

As an organization built on trust, another attraction to Pingboard was the ability to give employees ownership of their own information.

“We want our team to be able to own the information that matters and help them communicate with their colleagues,” Mike explains. “With Pingboard, we’re able to make the updating of their demographic, contact, and status information convenient.”

Now, employees have an up-to-date org chart; they can see the picture of the person they want to connect with and they have instant access to contact them.

When employees do meet face-to-face, it’s often at one of the 50+ events the Foundation puts on for the technology community every year.

For this, Pingboard’s “Who's Who Game” where employees must guess the names belonging to the pictures of their colleagues, has been surprisingly useful.

“It sounds cheesy, but the face game is valuable,” smiles Mike. “When you’re going to an event and you have a bunch of new staff, it’s great to be able to plan ahead and put a face to the name of someone you’re meeting for the first time.”

Growing Together in the Future

As someone who’s always looking for ways to stay lean and efficient, Mike appreciates that Pingboard’s team doesn’t just pay lip service to client feedback, but actively use it to shape the product’s future.

“Pingboard’s team is nimble… they solicit customer input and map it into how they’re going to expand their offering, and we find that very valuable.”

For example, Mike’s team wanted to have “Click to Skype” built into the tool and presented it to Pingboard, who added it to their development pipeline.

This kind of open, honest collaboration aligns with the values the Foundation was built on.

“Open source projects are all about community and trust, and the meritocratic development process. Pingboard helps us get things done, save time and stay efficient while helping us facilitate that community.”

Pingboard solicits customer input and maps it into how they’re going to expand their offering, and we find that very valuable.