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Ownership of source code – Things to consider when choosing a software partner

Have you ever thought about if your company actually owns the source code developed for your various software systems? Or do you at least have access to it? And do you know in what environment it is hosted?

Read on to find out why you should be able to answer yes to all these questions.

The importance of source code

Today, many companies use external software engineers to help them develop products or services, and the ownership of the source code for those projects is something that can create a lot of confusion as well as problems.

Often, you might not even realize you need the code until you’re standing there without it. You’ve got a contract signed with a new tech consultancy partner to do further development work on a product or maybe an integration with another one of your systems. They ask you for the source code and… you don’t have it. The work gets delayed, and you have to contact your old tech consultancy firm in order to get access to the code – if they'll let you have it, that is.

This issue is something we as a software consultancy firm have seen on more than one occasion. Often, we build solutions from scratch, but just as often, we start working on “old” software that we then administer and develop even further. To do that without the original source code is practically impossible.

Today there are unfortunately some consultancy companies that work in a way that creates a lock-in effect for the customer. This means that it will be more difficult for you as a customer to change a supplier or bring in additional suppliers. If a new project is to be started where the original source code is needed, but there is a lack of clarity about its ownership, the project will probably be significantly more expensive than intended – both in terms of time and money.

The lock-in effect does not always have to be a thought-out strategy, but can in many cases be a consequence of other decisions made in the offer to customers.

Access to the source code gives control and flexibility

We do not mean to brag (or do we?) but when we build solutions for our customers, we have it all planned from the start, from the very first line of code all the way into the cloud where the code is deployed and hosted. When it comes to the operation of the solution, we can always take care of that – even when we have not built the software ourselves. (If you manage to get that source code, that is).

We will always prefer and propose to have both code and infrastructure hosted in customer's existing environment that you control or in a separate environment that we manage on you behalf. This gives the customer not just control and access to the code but also flexibility when it comes to future collaborations with other partners.

What to consider when choosing a software partner

The next time you enter into an agreement with a new development partner, ask yourself the following questions (or perhaps think about the contract with your current supplier):

  • Do you own the code?
  • Where is the code and how quickly can you gain access to it?
  • Is the code securely stored and version controlled?
  • What would happen if the system stops working and it’s not possible to contact your supplier?

Has the above given you something to think about? Good! No matter how good the consultancy firm is or how much you trust it, you should never compromise on these kinds of security measures. Be involved, ask questions and set high requirements.

If you want to discuss the matter more, we are of course here for you – regardless of if you are an existing client, a potential client or even a just-want-to-chat-over-coffee client.

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