It’s a big confusing world out there, with solutions offered for every possible workflow challenge. That’s why conferences like Henry Stewart that I recently attended are so important.
Operations professionals go to find answers and to learn from case studies like mine from Comedy Central to see how other enterprises are dealing with workflow issues. (Read my other blog post about how I helped Comedy Central find its Sweet Spot.)
Attendees are trying to understand the problem space, trying to find the right answers, and hoping to meet very smart and dedicated solution providers and vendors.
You can survey the vendor landscape as I did for potential market-ready solutions, and rank them by a number of metrics to identify their range of solutions, power, complexity and specificity. It’s the most direct way out: Issue an RFP, evaluate the responses, and then dive in.
Except, it sounds a lot easier than it really is. There’s no guarantee of success here. The landscape is littered with failed efforts, and over-consulted solutions that turned out to be a disappointment. Not all, not even most, but enough to matter.
The biggest challenge for broad-market solutions is that — in wanting to be all things to all potential customers — the providers struggle to offer solutions finely tuned to a customer’s specific needs. They may well offer some configuration options, but there are limits to how far any sane vendor will go to customize their system for any but their largest clients.
The real-world consequence is that the fit of broad-market solutions for any specific organization may be average to poor. Even if a solution meets 80 percent of a customer’s needs that last 20 percent is what I’m calling the Sweet Spot, it’s where the magic happens.
That last 20 percent is the part that matters — the tools really come together in a useful and effective way that enables the teams within an organization to managing an increasingly complex business delivering more creative, through more channels, to more people than ever before. A good system is indispensable, and can also be elusive.
So, the customer gets something that doesn’t match at all like how they function. It’s a poor fit, with too many options and a bunch of unused bells and whistles that just junk up the interface. Of course, the customer could change their business processes to match their new system. But is that really a good idea? Metaphor alert: Other than Cinderella’s sisters, would anyone remotely consider re-shaping their feet to fit into a pair of shoes?
In other words, the more specific an organization’s needs are, the harder it will be to find a good market-ready solution. I believe it’s virtually impossible for an out-of-the-box system to simply and elegantly meet the top 5-8 needs for us in the areas of media management, information process, task management, and review and approval.
So let’s shift the canvas.
Let’s ask: Should we build something instead of buying?
My answer is, of course, a resounding YES!
Technology has come so far that today that it’s every bit as feasible to build a great solution as to buy one. And there are many advantages to doing so, with the biggest being that you can develop an exact fit to your particular problem space, and also control its future. The Cloud is one of the things that make this possible. Access to open source development platforms is another.