Software Source Code In Your Business

Your company probably uses custom portals, apps or integrations everyday. This software is vital to the business and has driven growth and efficiency. You’re not a technology company, but it was great to work with that software guy Eddie knew - he really helped out and made everyone laugh. But lately we’ve been getting these weird errors when some people login. The IT guy has started getting emails from AWS talking about “Forced Upgrades” but we’re not sure what to do. Eddie no longer works for us, and no one remembers the name of the software guy.

Could this happen to you? 

The basics of custom software ownership often go overlooked. Just as you wouldn't randomly leave your company’s physical assets unsecured or in random locations, knowing the critical details of your source code and digital assets is crucial. 

Control is Power. Your system is down. The app has been removed from the app store. Do you have a dev team? Maybe they can fix it. But is the code in a repository at all? Who has access? A lack of awareness in this case can have disastrous consequences. Knowing where your code is (ideally in secure repositories like GitHub or Bitbucket) and who controls the account empowers you. Even if you don’t have a dev team on staff, you’ll be ok. A software engineer or a team with basic context can work quickly from the source code to identify and address issues.

Powering Collaboration. Building great software doesn't just happen. Always identify an internal champion to own custom software start to finish. This is for any software project. They can drive direction, decisions and progress - even if it’s simply maintaining the status quo. If there’s active or new projects, developers, designers and some key stakeholders need access to the codebase. Your champion can coordinate and track documentation, tracking, updates, bug fixes and feature enhancements. They should understand who has access – and at what level – to ensure everyone is working together to drive results. 

Software Can Die. Your software isn't static. It must evolve to include innovations and account for new risks in an ever-changing world. But what happens when your developer vanishes or the agency you hired shuts down? Your software may run for a bit on its own… Who drives the maintenance schedule? Who knows the status of new features? If you don’t know, your software is now a risk. Updates, backups, and security patches are as vital to software as daily exercise is to the team members.  Your business should not be held hostage by external dependencies. Be in the position to seamlessly transition to new partners or internalize maintenance for long-term stability.

Avoid Legal Nightmares. If your code isn't properly stored or the ownership is unclear, you may be putting your business at risk. Knowing where your code is, who developed it and under what agreements ensures all bases are covered. This protects your valuable intellectual property and prevents costly legal battles. Even if these questions don’t rise to the level of courtrooms and lawyers, any questions regarding rights or ownership can become frustrating and time consuming quickly.

What Can You Do Today? Here are some steps to consider.

  • Find out. Ask the person you’ve entrusted. Don't be shy. Ask where your code is stored, who controls the account, who has access and what the maintenance schedule looks like. Have them “show you” or verify with others if needed.
  • Consider the “what if” scenarios for your business. Should someone leave or if you need to make a move, are you set up for a smooth transition from a source code perspective?
  • Check your documents. Especially if you’re using contractors, agencies or other outside resources, be sure your agreements clearly outline source code ownership, licensing and re-use. If maintenance and updates are not covered in your agreements, understand where those responsibilities fall. 
  • Build the right structure. It’s always best to have an internal champion for custom software. But if you’re unable to have that key person or a team on payroll, ensure that outside vendors are acting in your best interests. Work to build trust. Consult experts to audit your process and ensure you have a workable structure. 
  • Insist on transparency. Schedule regular audits and checkpoints to ensure access controls, agreements, and maintenance schedules are still relevant.

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