Cloud Applications – Are They Worth It?

Online applications such as Office 365, Gmail, and Quickbooks (for example) are excellent examples of successful cloud applications used by the masses, and the reason they’re so successful are because they do a specialized function that works the same way for every business.  A Word document or chart of accounts are what they are, and they’ll never change.  If you use them, they will work exactly as advertised, and in the case of Quickbooks it will apply the laws of accounting that are accepted world-wide financial practice.  You will adapt to use these tools if you want to use them.

Issues arise as soon as I get a call and they say “Can you make “XYZ” happen?”.  My first response is a canned one, “Sorry, I’d love to help, but the software is written and managed by the company you’re paying the subscription to.  Have you asked them?”. Of course they did…and they are not interested in making one-off modifications…so they call us.  We write software, right?

I can certainly understand they flat-out deny the request.  From the business perspective, they must always ask themselves a few questions:
*  Will the change being requested will benefit the hosting company in any way? (ie. is this a new feature request that other users of the software will benefit or find greater value?)
*  How will this affect our ability to support multiple versions of the same package?

Since there are MANY users for the software, these two questions carry a lot of weight with the software provider. Usually their game is to produce a generic-enough package to satisfy the majority of users, and keep support to a minimum by automating as much as possible — ie. let the machines do the work we programmed them to do.

Most companies will not want to modify their software for you, unless there’s a big pot-of-gold at the end.  For example, can you imagine Microsoft changing Office 365, or Google changing Gmail just because you need some additional functionality?  No way…they don’t want to support 1M users + your company, because your company is using a variation of the main software — which requires a “specialist” to help you.  It’s just not cost effective for the subscription model.

The point of my article is that unless your business is so generic that the programs you need are available and match up with your way of doing business, there’s going to be some pain and suffering when moving to a software-as-a-service (SAAS) subscription model. A qualified consultant can help you make decisions on whether it is advantageous for you to move to cloud-based subscription services once they understand your business model, your goals, and your wishes. Most importantly, your plans can be placed on a timeline to also help understand the timing of your needs and growth.

Palm Beach Software Design, Inc. takes the time necessary to understand your business, your workflow, your data, and your plans for the future. From this valuable information, we can help you determine if there are actual “savings” from using a generic cloud application, or maybe we can show you how a custom software application written specifically for your business can help you grow and be more profitable on a faster time-table.

There is a simple test I use with my clients to help them determine direction when it comes to packaged or cloud software.  I simply ask them if it does everything they need.  If the answer comes with words such as “except, I wish, it would be great if…”, etc. then we need to dig deeper, ask more questions, and find out what would have to give in order to make this work (as an improvement) to your business. If we can’t get rid of those “keywords”, it tells me that they will have to make too radical of a change to their business to accommodate the software, and it is not a good match for them. 

There is still a strong market out there for custom software developers, because at the end of the day, it is hard to change how we do business. At that point, the argument for custom software development becomes much stronger, and the options for SAAS solutions become rare.

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