Saturday, October 3, 2015

Dealing with software acquisition related problems.

Buying vs. building systems to meet your needs is a difficult decision, with traps waiting for the unwary (and even for those with experience). If we assume that building a system is not going to be an option for you, then you have to buy. This makes perfect sense for commoditized, well defined needs (such as preparing your tax return, email, bookkeeping, spreadsheets, word processing, games, and so on).  You still need to understand the various different products that are available, and which you prefer, but building your own is not viable if you want something to use (rather than the questionable delight of building something!)
But what you may not realize is what you are really buying when you acquire an off the shelf solution. So let me explain.
It’s easy to think you are buying a system that you can tailor to your business. But that is completely the wrong mindset. While some form of limited customization is always needed, anything that moves you away from the standard product must be avoided. Why? Because then the system either can’t be upgraded at all, or can’t be upgraded cost effectively after such changes. Maybe you think you can live without all the cool features the vendor will add. But what about security updates, regulatory changes, and all that sort of thing. You will be on your own, or at the mercy of the vendor for expensive customizations for stuff that otherwise would have been available within the cost of your maintenance agreement. So you are not buying a system to tailor to meet your business needs. You are in fact buying a system for which you will change your business practices so that you can work with the system. And you are buying a relationship with a vendor where you can work together for mutual benefit in a jointly profitable relationship.
I have seen many, many projects fail because an enterprise didn’t really realize what it was buying when it bought an off the shelf system. Don’t fall into that trap! And don’t do unpowered change!
So what do you do if you are stuck with a system that doesn’t do what you need it to do?
Well, you could always purchase our Software Acquisition and Use Consulting service, designed to give one on one advice about a specific situation, either before or after acquisition. Ultimately, you will have to change your mindset, and you will have to develop exceptional relationships with the vendor (even though things may have got adversarial).
We are working right now on a software acquisition practices class. While it may be too late for this if you have an existing system with a problem, it’s never too late to learn how to do it better next time. Follow needpoweredchg on Twitter to hear an announcement when the class is ready.