Does paying for code mean owning
The thorny issues that surround code ownership
3rd August 2012
Ten years ago, our clients understood that if they wished
to update their websites or solutions, they would need to do so through their software
developer or service provider. These days, however, many clients believe that by
paying for software development, they would own the source code. On the face of
it this seems reasonable: surely if you pay for something then you own it, right?
Many providers would make a comparison of the sort; if I pay a plumber to fix my
tap, I don’t ask him to leave his toolbox so I can fix it myself next time. If you
give away ownership of code you’re giving away your “tools of the trade”, just as
much as that plumber would be by leaving his toolbox behind. Well, this comparison
isn`t really fair or relevant, especially when you would rather have the money spent
on your Websites or IT solution be more of an investment and less of a cost.
Spending money on building a site or IT solution should be considered as an investment.
You are investing time and resources into building your own shop window or in the
case of an IT solution, in a tool which will either facilitate your working procedures
and in many cases, actually generate income. The more functionality required, the
more complex the site and therefore the more costly! The question is, why would
you spend money on these unless you also have the peace of mind of owning the code
of the actual system? And what would actually owning the code mean for your business?
The code of your website or of your IT solution together with the database that
contains all of your files is the actual value of your solution. Without owning
these the site is a cost and not an investment. Owning the code provides peace of
mind that if, worst case scenario, you are having issues with your service provider,
they do not have the right to switch you off, leaving you to move to the next provider
to start off from scratch. Although it always makes sense to maintain excellent
relations with your supplier and you might never need to resort to managing your
own code, you need to avoid getting into situations where your hands are tied before
you actually make the decision of which supplier to go with.
Apart from allowing you to grab your code and move on to the next supplier without
having to start from scratch and without having to pay the cost of redevelopment
in the case that the supplier relations have turned sour, owning the code has other
benefits. Having an entirely custom built solution will allow you to integrate with
your internal applications (such as stock and inventory systems, etc) without any
major headaches. Some clients might already have an internal department who can
manage the code of the system following go live. Furthermore, owning the code gives
you the advantage of being able to reuse components that have been developed within
the system in other systems as well.