Custom Kitchen vs. Artisanal Brew or Value Meal
The decision on whether to purchase or develop the innovative applications that your firm needs to compete has changed dramatically with cloud solutions. Law firm leaders are often faced with critical decisions when it comes to technology:
- Purchase an “off-the-shelf” application?
- Should we use in-house resources to develop a custom application that meets our exact needs?
- Or should we do nothing and risk being inefficient with our billable time?
Often, it feels as if most software solutions fall in the Value Meal category. Firms and attorneys may feel there is no solution that is customizable to meet the unique needs of their teams. However, there are Artisanal Brew software solutions whose sole focus is to listen and learn from customers to create a solution that is easily customized yet still user-friendly. This is what Pitchly offers.
In-House Solutions Require Bandwidth
The developed in-house side would point to the existing investment in staff talent. For sure, no one understands the pressing needs more than the people who work within an organization every day. If in-house development resources have the bandwidth, why not assign them the important task of creating a new platform or application?
Developer Talent and Time
The buy side will point to the firm focusing on what it does best. Even if developer talent exists within the firm, odds are the resources are, limited, distracted by day-to-day projects, and may only have some of the knowledge required to complete the project. For example, creating an experience management platform requires subject matter expertise, programmers, quality assurance, implementation specialists, professional services engineers, and a roadmap of future functionality requests.
Paradigm Shift in Software Solutions
What is instructive about my recent experience, is that the build versus buy versus “just get by decision” has changed from a pure A, B or C selection. There are two significant paradigm shifts in software development, which have altered the equation:
1. Cloud-based services provide a variety of options
The acceleration and acceptance of cloud-based services have allowed Artisanal Brews in the market for core platform development. I would also say IT teams can find Custom Kitchens to purchase, as we offer a PaaS to eliminate what takes internal IT teams months or years to develop, build, and maintain.
Firms now have the ability to subscribe to a service rather than make an “all-in” commitment to a platform. We are all familiar with protracted and costly professional services engagements associated with ERP, CRM, and other core enterprise solutions. Firm executives often find themselves in a position similar to families that undertake a major house remodel: it cost more and took much longer than expected, while several unforeseen obstacles changed the project scope.
Upside: The cloud services model requires the developer to continually meet the changing needs of the client, or they are free to move on.
2. Cloud platforms offer web service APIs
Just as equally as important, cloud services platforms offer web service APIs that allow the client, vendor or even a third-party integrator to easily customize the solution to meet the exact needs of the firm, without requiring proprietary knowledge of the vendor. Again, no more Value Meals.
Upside: This flexibility provides the client with the best of both worlds: the immediacy and cost-effectiveness of commercial software with customization of a home-grown solution.
Relating these two qualities to the encounter I had with the CIO, it points to the benefits of a hybrid build/buy decision. This client saw that our platform could meet many of its knowledge management needs, in addition to allowing the team to custom design tombstones for proposals. The cloud platform could replace the existing relational database and office productivity applications that were serving as a piecemeal solution.
But the compelling factor was our willingness to adapt our product to accommodate the workflow and data management needs for each of the firm’s practices. No doubt that given time, the firm could develop a working program in-house to address these needs, but the ability to leverage our platform:
- Cut months of in-house development and operational costs
- Reduced complexity for delivery and support (now they just call Pitchly)
- Saved hundreds of thousands of dollars annually
As you consider your own build versus buy decision, consider the benefits of a hybrid approach where you work with a vendor to identify your priorities, assess product feature development and staff skill sets, and aligning of firm and vendor goals and incentives. With the right partnership in both platform functionality and allied business models, you may find that “buying to build” may produce the winning combination.