15 December 2023
Now that Elon looks at code, will you?
4 min read
So it has finally happened. Elon Musk is Chief Twit and has stepped into our world. That is to say, having now invested a whopping 44 Billion USD into a communication platform he is focused on the software.
He requested his engineers from Tesla to look at the code of Twitter. Which is GREAT! It showcases that the ‘real’ IP is buried within the various repositories that are maintained and updated by the small legion of software engineers. From my perspective, it reinforces the point that software matters and that it may very well contain risks that can turn a good deal into a bad one.
So, here is what I am really wondering.
Why, oh why, is Elon Musk and his merry band of top-notch tesla software engineers looking at the code as late as day one. “Late? It is the first day, it could not be any sooner.” I hear you say.
Well… my consultancy answer would be: that depends.
It could very well be that the Twitter code has been off-limits up till now. However, it is still possible to review a target’s source code before any acquisition. This has been best practice for several years and a service SIG has executed for many mergers and acquisitions. SIG are experts when it comes to IT due diligence, diving deep into the code to identify and quantify hidden investment risks and opportunities.
And this is a good development. The market is becoming digital, and every company depends upon its IT. Software typically runs core operations and can be a competitive differentiator.
I do, however, have two questions for Elon:
- What does Elon think to gain from looking at the code?
- How do his people actually evaluate the code?
Considering my background these questions will come as no surprise. Let’s discuss them quickly.
First, what is to be gained from looking at the code? I cannot speak for Elon Musk, but we expect some core subjects to be part of what you want to find. To name the most common:
- Is there any significant technical debt or deferred maintenance that requires additional investment?
- Will the software scale and support the business growth objectives?
- Are there any known security vulnerabilities?
- Are there any open-source software licenses that will get me into trouble later on?
Admittedly, you’d expect Twitter to be very experienced and quite advanced technically when you are the world’s largest social networking platform. Scalability and security might not be a worry upfront. Plus, considering the billion-dollar price tag, any additional investments in the software are a non-issue at the negotiation table.
There is one thing I can guarantee you, this is not the case for 99.999% of the other acquisitions out there.
Regarding code reviews, it would be interesting to see what information Elon gets. However, reading reports that ‘engineers have been asked to print their code’ does not inspire confidence. Twitter’s code base is large enough to lose yourself thrice over. The volume and complexity require a structural approach. On top of that, to get to an evaluation there needs to be an indication of what is acceptable. Are they using any models? If so, what ones? How will this be determined?
I’ve spent 10 years in the realm of code reviews which resulted in the creation of Sigrid®. Our software assurance platform automates the analysis using scientifically proven models that help digital leadership answer these big questions.
Will Elon spill the beans? Will we learn how one of the world’s biggest acquisitions evaluates code?
I hope so.
If nothing else, this is a massive indication of how important code is to business. If Elon looks at it, who else will follow!
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