How dependent are you on your service provider?

Spacing Dash
Insight from @morganphilo - May 2019
How dependent are you on your service provider? Primary Image

You have a problem you would like solved, you commission a software company who prices the job and sends back a proposal.
"We will build your system in our platform as a launch pad to get it up and running faster and at a lower cost."

To most people this sounds like a fantastic idea, utilise what they have already built to reduce the development cost. I have one big problem with this; can you move software provider in the future should your business requirements change, or they stop trading?

How dependent are you on your service provider?

To me it sounds like you are signing a perpetual agreement for the software company to be your supplier. That might be acceptable, but if it is an integral part of your business are you ready to take this risk?

The Platform Solution

A platform is a piece or collection of software that allows you to build your own software within it. Think of the software aspect of IOS and Android mobile phones, they are platforms - app developers utilise the platform to deliver their value (the app).

Building upon an existing platform is not only a good idea, it is the only way to go. The question at hand is: what are the risks of utilising one platform over another and does the platform offer value over not using a platform at all?

Cost benefit is the obvious one - should we build an IOS app for our business? Depending on the business, this is may be a yes because access to the user base is far more valuable than not servicing them. Should you build a Blackberry or Windows Phone app? As the user base is small to none, probably not.

Eco System - does the platform have a large eco system where software developers external to the platform owners can build your system?
If there is a market, competition can take place. Now you can negotiate pricing and find the best developer to provide value.

Open Source - is the platform open source? Closed source platforms mean there is a certain amount of IP that is exclusively owned by the supplier that you do not have access to. If it is open source, you can find another company to take over development as you "own" every piece of code running in your system.

Understanding the implications of coupling your business to a platform and it's software stacks is a decision that you should not outsource to your supplier as they may have a vested interest in guiding your decision. Find an unbiased external party to review the scoping document and identify the coupling amongst any other risks that may be derived. For a relatively small price you can fully understand the mess of confusing technology and have it translated to make business decisions now and in the future.

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