Insight & News

Software Project Rescues and App Crisis Help

What happens when your app or software project goes wrong and how we can help.

Dean Horton

At Jack’s, we’re accustomed to working with clients who come to us in urgent need of support during crisis situations.

What are software crisis situations?  There are a bunch of typical scenarios that we frequently experience, and we’ll run through them below.  We’ll also share the key step you can take to prepare yourself, so, if things do go ‘wrong’ you can attempt to minimise the disruption to your progress and budget.

These are the top five scenarios we get called in to help with:

1) Outsource/ offshore haywire;

2) International hostage crises;

3) In-house/domestic hostage situations;

4) Engineers or development companies evaporating mid-project;

5) All the above.

1) Outsource and Offshore Haywire

Tempted by low cost development rates?  It’s not hard to be.  It can be an effective way of getting a project off the ground cheaply, but it can also turn a ‘cheap’ project into a never-ending expensive project or a half-baked cheap project, that isn’t what you wanted.

Our findings are that even the most skilled project manager and software engineer, from enterprise or a start-up, will be challenged running an offshore project.  If you have domain expertise, and involved in your first project, the risks will be magnified even further.

Communication and language nuances, scope understanding (what you understand vs what they understand), time differences, productivity and code quality can have major impacts on design, functionality, usability, and progress.  Similarly, if you don’t understand code, then really, you have no idea about what you’re getting.

Half-way, three quarters, or even more, through the project, is where we get called in for help.  Peak frustration has kicked in and an exhausted client gets what they’ve never had, time to sit down and have a face to face discussion, in Perth, with an experienced development team.


2) International ‘Hostage’ Crises

The international hostage crisis is a classic, and one of the most painful situations a client can get themselves involved in.

These situations are just like real life kidnap and ransoms, except it’s not your loved one that gets held offshore in a windowless garage, it’s the code for your app or software, that you’ve invested time and money in.  You think you have the latest version, but you don’t, or maybe you don’t even have access to your code repository at all.  Then you can’t compile or run the software i.e. it just doesn’t work anymore.

The options we help with are 1) we take stock of what you have, what’s missing, and what we need;2) delicately negotiate with the offshore developer/hostage taker (if they're still contactable) using tried and tested techniques; and sometimes 3) pay off the offshore developer/ hostage taker i.e. there’s often a ‘ransom’.

Jack’s has been involved in a number of these scenarios and have solved some of the most complex code hostage situations, successfully compiling and running the most uncompilable!


3) In-house / Domestic Hostage Situations

Very similar to the international hostage situation, not quite as bad, but equally delicate.

This most frequently happens when the owner or sponsor (can be a corporate or an individual), or a project finds themselves at the mercy of a key-person dependency i.e. one engineer in a group, or on their own, controls the code or project.  This is typically disguised as them ‘knowing best’ about how to manage, work with, and look after the code i.e. masked as safety but evolves into a trap, then a hostage situation.

When relationships break down, or even better, when the engineer or code-keeper suddenly knows what’s best for the project and timeline (a hijack situation), we get called in, by management and project owners.  We can help management and project owners get back control of their projects and code.  We speak the language of the engineers, and management, and can negotiate or solve complex imbalances.


4) Engineers or development companies evaporating mid-project;

Projects get abandoned by developers for a lot of reasons. Developers go out of business, relationships break-down, dedicated engineers move on etc.  This happens.

At this stage you are left high and dry and you may or may not have all the pieces of the puzzle/an incomplete project, or a complete project with code that doesn’t work.

Once again, we’ve seen it all and safely brought projects back to life and put control of code and initiatives back where they belong, with the owner, not the engineer.

How to Prepare and Minimise Project Crisis Risk

Early preparation is the key.  Having procedures in place, early, makes it easier to manage issues through the project,

Changing procedures when relationships break-down, or mid-way through a project is a red-flag and may result in adverse responses from your developers.

  • Make sure, you, as the project owner, always have access to the latest code in your own source code repository (e.g. GitHub, Mercurial, TFS). Code should be committed to your repository in line with a set a schedule, and make sure that it happens. If it doesn't happen, find out why.
  • Retain administrator control for all key project accounts e.g. AWS, Azure, domains, and other third-party accounts.  Don't share or give your admin credentials away.  Create user accounts instead (e.g. AWS IAM).  If you give admin credentials away, or don’t even have them, you have just surrendered project sovereignty.
  • Have regular progress update sessions or calls with your developer and ask for progress reports.  Maybe you have agreed for documentation to be provided, or maybe not, the former is ideal.
  • Lastly, try to maintain a positive relationship with your developers, because when communication breaks down and reports don’t happen, then there is a lot at stake.

If 1) through 5) have already happened, you have a problem. If no one else can help, and if you can find us… etc. feel free to give us a call.

About Jack's

Jack’s is a database, software and mobile technology firm that provides a wide range of design, product and engineering services to a diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and start-ups. Founded in 2013, the firm maintains offices in Jakarta, Indonesia and Perth, Australia. © Jack’s Labs PTY LTD, 2018. All rights reserved.

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