Your Software Has Been Taken Hostage


The other day I met a prospect with an all too common problem.

The main app that they run their business on—is hostage to an angry developer.

If you haven’t heard of this before I’ll explain.

It goes something like this…

You start your business

You need some custom software and so you hire a developer.

They build an app for you.

It mostly works but it needs some changes.

The developer works on the app here and there.

Then eventually, you get to a point where you’d like to end the relationship with your developer for whatever reason and bam!

Your software is now hostage.

The developer could be an employee or he/she could be outsourced.

The point is.

You’re stuck.

Unfortunately this prospect is not my first rodeo.

Moving on

So I brought in a developer to help with the transition.

And as usual, the incumbent developer is being difficult and defensive.

There is no code repository to work from.

There is no documentation to reference.

There are no passwords or keys to aid in the transition.

Yep, this one is a mess.

When building a custom app for your business or any app for your business it’s important to set some boundaries.

It helps with later issues like transitioning to another app or another developer.


Here are a few items to consider when building an app for your business.

Always insist on having all passwords to your app

This includes, passwords to the application, passwords to servers, passwords to vendors, passwords to other applications your app talks to.

Yep, all passwords please.

Always insist on keeping the source code somewhere where you can get to it

Even if you don’t know how to code.

On a server, on GitHub, wherever.

Know where your source code is kept.

Always make sure your app is backed up somewhere

Yes, having the source code is important.

Very important.

But having a backup of the running application is important to.

Always have documentation on your app

Ask your developer to make a diagram of the systems your app runs on and how they talk to each other.

Ask your developer to write down the key features of your app and how they are supposed to work.

Ask your developer to document how the database is laid out.

Document, document, document.

The more information you have the better off you’ll be when a change is needed.

An ounce of prevention goes a long way

Whether it’s hostage software or even a hostage web site.

Small businesses have their tech taken hostage all of the time.

It’s an unfortunate situation.

But it happens all of the time.

Be prepared.

A little planning up front when the relationship is good—will help to smooth a possible transition later.