By Jesse Kolber, founder and CEO of LogicPrep.
To build or not to build your own software? It's a question that many business owners face. I've spent a lot of time wrestling with this myself and ultimately decided to develop a bespoke solution. However, I understand after going through my own journey that it's not the right choice for all companies.
Here are a few questions that I think all organizations should consider as they seek technical solutions to their software problems.
What business are you really in?
Over the years, many seasoned entrepreneurs and consultants have challenged my interest in building our software by asking me what business I am really in -- service or technology? The truth is, as an entrepreneur it's easy to be drawn by the dreams of software like a bug to the light. And it's true, our company is a service-based business that provides highly customized educational support to students.
So, initially, we tried many off-the-shelf solutions but none of them could get us close enough to what we wanted. When we set out to design our own software, our goal was to create an agile product that reflects our teaching methodologies and processes and allows us to provide a consistent experience for our students and instructors alike.
Is there an off-the-shelf, third-party solution that would work?
There are so many different types of businesses that likely experience some of the same problems you do. Because of this, many of your issues may actually already be solvable with pre-existing software options.
If you are a company that has a unique angle but not a unique business type, there could be a great solution that with a few minor custom tweaks could allow you to be operational within days or weeks instead of months and years. Not only will this solution potentially save you time and money, it might also help you adopt better business practices such as connectivity to your marketing and finances.
At the end of the day, you need to be able to justify the time and costs of building a bespoke solution and invest the time to make sure that what you're building truly reflects your organization's needs. It's not enough to just close your eyes and trust that your tech team will understand your business's vision.
Does your software support scalability?
When we set out to build our own software, one of our major concerns was whether it would be able to grow and scale with our company. Software solutions that work for 50 users might not be able to handle 500. Not only should you account for what you need today but also consider your needs that are likely to arise.
Be sure to take into account the growth in the number of users as well as locations. For example, what KPIs might you want to track? What data do you anticipate you'll want to access in the future that you might not be considering today? Additionally, switching systems can be very annoying and extremely costly. Make sure that any solution you choose has solid APIs that allow you to pull data out should you want to make a switch in the future.
Now that our company has been using our software for more than three years I'm very happy about the path we chose. We have achieved communication and data management wins that I don't think we could have with an out of the box solution. But, with cost and security concerns -- not to mention the frustrations you're bound to encounter. Make sure you take the necessary time to think through your needs before embarking on your software journey.
Jesse Kolber is the founder and CEO of LogicPrep, an education company that helps students prepare for college and beyond.