Which is Better for a Growing Company: Software, Service or a Complete Solution?

What technology options do companies
face as they try to manage growth?

business people clap their hands

As companies start to grow, the increasing amount of work necessitates change. The efficiency and processes of internal teams are examined. The quality of service and support provided to customers is more clearly defined, which results in the need for KPIs and measurement. Employees don’t know every single person personally, so sophisticated tools for communicating and tracking work become necessary.

Naturally, growing companies start looking to technology as a means of facilitating these changes. And, they have several options when the time comes.

What options are available for implementing technical tools?

There are three main approaches to implementing new software in companies.

  1. Some companies delve into the world of open source technology, thinking that free software is the best choice for their budget. They use internal resources to administer, adapt and support their software choices.
  2. Other companies might make the same choice in terms of software, but don’t have the internal expertise to manage or customize the software themselves, so they look to external service providers for support.
  3. The third group of companies likes to avoid risk and wants to make sure that technology choices support instead of hinder work and service success. These companies will partner with product manufactures that offer a complete solution.

Let’s take a deeper dive into each option . . .

Open-source – cheap, driven by enthusiasts, riddled with risk

When opting for open-source software, there are few start-up costs, and that’s a large part of its appeal. You can get a lot of functionality without spending as much money.

However, while there are communities online (larger or smaller depending on the popularity of the software) that talk about all aspects of the software installation and administration, companies do need to have someone employed who is:

  • technically skilled enough to get it up and running,
  • can commit the time to adapting it to the business’ needs, and
  • has the bandwidth to serve as its admin in an on-going capacity.

Oftentimes, this causes issues. First and foremost, it typically winds up that only a single person understands the software. Should the person leave the company for any reason, the system on which you’ve developed your workflows is left unsupported and stagnant.

More importantly, however, all software requires maintenance – for performance and for security reasons. If there’s not a skilled person available to implement patches to the software, or worse case if the open-source software does not have a patch for an identified vulnerability, companies are left with their people, processes and technology at risk.

If there's not a skilled person available to implement patches to the software, or worse case if the open-source software does not have a patch for an identified vulnerability, companies are left with their people, processes and technology at risk.

Third-party service providers – lower cost, fewer internal resources needed, continued risk

Sometimes called grey market providers, these business position themselves as expert users/administrators of a particular software(s). This is a middle-of-the-road option that companies try. In this case, they continue to save on software licensing and such, but they pay a service provider to help with implementation and support.

Companies feel like they are in the hands of an expert who will alleviate the concerns identified above. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Both of the cons of working with open-source software internally can still cause risk to a growing company.

Some services providers are smaller shops – one, two, five people. Sometimes, they have only been in business for a couple of years or so. So, if you are considering this option, be sure to do your due diligence and gather some information about their experience and plans for the future: Otherwise, should they go out of business, you will experience the same knowledge drain as mentioned above.

Data security can remain a risk too. Certainly a quality service provider will work to ensure that your software is well administered. But they often run into two problems: either updates to the open source software are not available, or updates are not possible because the underlying code was customized by the service provider, thereby making it incompatible with published updates.

Be sure to understand the relationship that the service provider has to the software that they are suggesting to help avoid either of these situations.

Professional product manufacturer – stable, proven, a partner in helping your business grow successfully

When working with a professional software manufacturer, businesses are opting for a complete solution. Unlike a third-party service provider, the product manufacturer has a vested interest in making sure the software:

  • is of high quality,
  • meets your needs – today and in the future, and
  • exemplifies all best practices in security.

For a product manufacturer, their business depends on this.

To make sure that customers are satisfied, the product manufacturer offers far more than simply software. Professional documentation and training are available to make sure that you are able to work effectively. Consulting services streamline configurations and customizations; help you fully exploit the software’s potential; and offer guidance as you grow and your business needs change or develop. Plus, customers have direct access to be able to add input about future needs.

Of course, the risks move to zero too. As a manufacturer, the business employs professional developers who are skilled at taking security considerations into account when making changes. They offer support teams to guide you when you’re stuck and (when it’s a managed solution) to deploy patches and updates that will keep your data safe.

The product manufacturer is consistently investing in innovation and has a long-term product roadmap in place so that the software remains a viable solution for customer needs today and into the future.

This option can cost more up-front, but because of the longevity of the company, risk mitigation and increased level of expertise and support, businesses that are looking for stability and scalability/flexibility often make this choice.

When businesses grow, it’s tempting to stay locked in the “we can do it ourselves mindset.” After all, that’s how a business begins life. But, there’s a time – when the risk becomes too high and the cost of trying to do everything oneself becomes too much – to take that next step. To play a bigger game and partner with professional product manufacturers.

Where are you at with your business? What choices are you trying to make these days?

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