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Is there an equivalent to Build-Operate-Transfer or Build-Lease-Transfer in software development? Does it even make any sense to operate such a project in software? Do you know of any projects in your experience that have been launched as such?

Another way to put it is: for a large software system project, why wouldn't a company bid it out to third parties for them to build and operate for a period of time (i.e. the third party will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and operation of the system), until the concession is up? The third party recuperates expenses from software development through the running of the system; the original company might earn from residuals during this period, and then absorb income from the system once the concession is up.

Does this even make any sense?

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For that kind of arrangement to work, it would require that the system perform as a profit center. That already limits the kinds of software that would have any chance of fitting. Certainly some software fits that bill, but quite a bit doesn't. B2B, or B2C, or perhaps a GOV system collecting usage fees might be more obvious candidates.

The second element that limits this kind of arrangement is [projected] life-cycle. By the time the software has paid for itself, it may often be time to revamp or replace it. Keep in mind this is intended to be a profit center which is often pushed by and with certain marketing aims that follow or endure trends and freshness.

Now that being said, it could be a decent avenue to pursue, if trying to build a portfolio and partnerships where both parties are aware of the risk and opportunity.

EDIT:

Those arrangements do exist. In particular, certain gov/gov related services that operate on a fee per use basis often have 3rd party payment processors under contract to provide the infrastructure. I am sure the government ends up with a small cut of that fee while the contracted provider keeps a majority of the fee for providing us with that convenience.

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