Adoption Barriers of Open-Source Software: A Systematic Review

21 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2018 Last revised: 14 Mar 2018

See all articles by Dmitrij Petrov

Dmitrij Petrov

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

Nikolaus Obwegeser

Aarhus University - School of Business and Social Sciences

Date Written: March 11, 2018


Context: Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FOSS/FLOSS) has had a profound impact in the field of Information Technology. In recent years, adoption rates of FLOSS have been growing throughout public and private organizations. However, extant research shows us that regardless of its potential benefits, there are still significant barriers that hinder the wider adoption of FLOSS.

Objective: To allow for a comprehensive overview of the current body-of-knowledge on FLOSS adoption barriers, this study seeks to review and synthesize relevant existing literature. Based on the organizing logic of the Technology, Organization, Environment and Individual (TOEI) framework, we aim to categorize the challenges reported in the literature into the 4 TOEI dimensions and discuss our findings in relation to practice and research.

Methods: This study relies on a systematic review of literature related to FLOSS adoption published between 2003 and 2016. After a structured search and selection process, our final sample consists of 44 relevant papers. Our qualitative, inductive analysis of the articles in our sample revealed 19 high-level factors that challenge or inhibit the adoption of FLOSS in various contexts. Using the TOEI framework, we categorized these challenges (and associated sub-challenges) systematically into the 4 main dimensions of TOEI.

Results: We identify several major adoption barriers in each dimension of the TOEI framework. Technology barriers include vendor lock-in, FLOSS maturity and lack of external support. At the organizational level, companies lack financial and human resources, while adequate managerial support is also identified as a crucial aspect. On the environmental side, cultural elements, policies, and legal frameworks can hinder FLOSS adoption. Individual factors, such as employees’ resistance to change and non-competitive technology leadership behaviour may also negatively influence the adoption process.

Conclusions: Adopting any kind of new technology into organization is a challenging process that needs to be carefully thought through.

Keywords: Systematic Literature Review, Open Source Software, Barriers, Challenges, Adoption, TOEI

JEL Classification: M15

Suggested Citation

Petrov, Dmitrij and Obwegeser, Nikolaus, Adoption Barriers of Open-Source Software: A Systematic Review (March 11, 2018). Available at SSRN:

Dmitrij Petrov

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg ( email )

Lange Gasse 20
Nürnberg, 90403

Nikolaus Obwegeser (Contact Author)

Aarhus University - School of Business and Social Sciences ( email )

Nordre Ringgade 1
Aarhus C, DK-8000

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