How do I find a new party to take over existing custom software?

Blog  — Tue 19 Mar 2024

Software is ubiquitous nowadays. Some projects have recently been completed, while others were created 20 years ago. For owners of the latter category, this often raises many questions.

As an entrepreneur, you may have needed software in the past decades. And more often than not, something custom-made is eventually created. Every entrepreneur likes to have a niche market, and there simply is no generic solution for that. And as long as the supplier remains in business, maintenance and further development of custom software are usually guaranteed.

But it can happen that a supplier falls away or no longer offers support. This may be due to shifts in specialization, departing personnel, or rising maintenance contract costs. In such cases, the question arises: what now?

When a new party takes over the software for maintenance and/or further development, new questions arise that were usually never discussed before. What is the current state of affairs? Is there documentation available? In which programming language is the software written? What dependencies does the software have? These are just a few of those questions.

Sometimes clients impose requirements on the developer, such as the use of specific languages, techniques, or frameworks. This is often done in the hope that such a structure will make it easier to switch to another party later. However, in practice, it often turns out to be more complicated than expected. Here are some typical challenges that may still arise:

  • The programming language of the software is outdated, and programmers who can work with it are difficult to find.
  • The same goes for outdated frameworks used within the project.
  • New developers may charge high costs for familiarizing themselves with the existing codebase.
  • New developers may pick up the project, but may not work in the same correct manner.
  • It may even be that the project is too outdated and needs to be rebuilt, according to the new party.

These are all scenarios that a software-owning entrepreneur may encounter, and they can lead to unexpected costs and frustrations. Finding the right party to take over the project can therefore prove to be difficult. Even if there has been careful consideration of the need for this later.

One of the most important tips I can give entrepreneurs in this situation is to talk to different parties. Every developer has their own way of working and expertise, and consulting various experts can help to obtain an objective view of the state of the project and the possible options for takeover from that moment on.

For example, it is worth using freelancer platforms to find experts who are familiar with the specific technologies used in the project. And therefore, not to engage in conversation with consultants or salespeople from a potential new party directly. By using insights from independent programmers, you can better determine which route is most suitable for taking over the project.

In addition, ask these programmers to provide a paid assessment of the state of the project. This includes, among other things, how outdated it is, whether it is well-structured, what risks they identify, and any other comments they may have. The costs of such an evaluation do not outweigh the potential savings that can be realized later when selecting a new developer.

In short, finding the right party to take over existing custom software can be a challenge, but by exploring different options and gaining expertise, you increase the chances of success. It's about finding the right partner who can truly take over and further develop the project in the right way. Therefore, it is wise to avoid unnecessary costs by consulting independent technical experts first, and not to speak directly with the technical or even non-technical individuals from the intended acquiring party.