How do you strategically know whether it’s better to invest in a new software tool or build it internally?
Often, that process starts with identifying the problem you need to solve. It needs to be quantified. Find a way to calculate the hours people spend internally coping with or working around a problem workflow. If there is a better way to do it, pursue a solution. Sometimes, investing in an existing solution or contracting out the development is less expensive than trying to develop one inhouse.
Get estimates from vendors for a solution. Then calculate the time and hours it will take to develop the solution inhouse, including testing and revising to fine-tune it.
- Quantify the problem
- Identify the options
- Calculate the cost and return for the options
If you decide to develop a solution inhouse, be sure it will integrate with your existing tools. The days of operating with information silos are quickly waning. The thing most companies don’t have enough of is time. Everything needs to communicate to keep your operation running smoothly and efficiently.
If decisions are made in one tool, the information needs to be available in every part of your company. Integration and flexibility are increasingly important. Operating from a single source of truth is becoming critical. Everyone who needs certain information should have access to it at the right time.
If you choose to have your solution developed externally, your provider has a responsibility to make sure your implementation is completely successful. A good provider will listen and learn, then propose a solution that incorporates the features you’ve identified as necessary.
This is especially true for construction companies, which are not focused on implementing software. Tech providers need to meet construction clients more than halfway for an implementation. It’s up to the provider to make sure the team knows what they are doing and has what users need to succeed.
Education is a key component; your team is responsible for doing its part to learn the software and communicate with the customer success team if something is not working properly – whether software error or user error. No one picks up a piece of software and instantly becomes an expert using, and no one uses all of the features of any software.
Especially in construction, there’s a big learning curve for implementation. Sometimes some handholding is needed in addition to the education. The complexity and variability of construction projects are so great that, even for the simplest solution, the implementation of that solution requires diligent attention. For example, there are still subcontractors who don’t regularly use computers and still have old cell phone technology. There are handwritten invoices and reports.
Since companies don’t have time to waste, guarding the investment of time extends to implementation. Over the years there have been subpar technology solutions for the construction industry. Therefore, construction companies have that history that may cause them to be more demanding than a provider expects. While it may not seem fair, it is a reality.
Tune in to episode 119 of Bridging the Gap Podcast for some experienced insights about software applications from Eric Whobrey.