Buying off-the-shelf or Building from scratch?

As an enterprise technology owner, you are commonly faced with the strategic question of… should we build a solution from scratch or does it make sense to just buy a pre-built solution from a 3rd party.

Asking yourself and your team a set of healthy introspective questions is important.

  • Is it cost effective to consider building vs. buying a solution?
  • Have we considered long-term operational & maintenance expenses?
  • Would building this solution fit as a core competency in our team or would this be considered ‘something different’?
  • Is there valuable IP in off-the-shelf software that may be difficult to replicate?

A peer of mine once described a group that decided to spin-up a solution as a team that wanted to ‘play developer’.

Spinning up a solution is an investment. Be cautious about taking this leap. If you are willing and able to make the investment, dedicate the resources, care & feed the solution on an ongoing basis… Great!!!

There is a reason off-the-shelf software typically comes from a dedicated company… because it takes a lot of effort to focus and create a great product. If you cannot make that level of commitment, chances are that the solution your team creates will be old & antiquated in 3-5 years and it will be a mess that somebody has to cleanup.

If you are on the fence, lean more towards buying off-the-shelf.

Transitions

It’s been announced that I will be moving into a new role on September 1, 2021. Still in the same organization, tied to some of the same applications, but residing in a new division and taking on more of the strategic planning responsibilities. The change requires that my current responsibilities are broken apart and spread in a 3 way-ish split. It’s complicated.

Going through this process requires time to be carved out of the schedule. There are many details that have been woven into working level spreadsheets in the manner that made sense as my group organically grew.

The process of pulling apart the tentacles and helping others understand ‘what is what’ is fairly tedious. Everything has a back-story.

This provides interesting perspective on a transition. Hopefully, there will be lessons learned on how to managed details in a way that can be even better organized and ready for the next time someone else needs to jump in and take the reigns.

Associating value to Content

Content management often receives a pass from business leaders when it comes to articulating ‘value to the business’.

It can be considered a no-brainer… Content must be managed as a fundamental element of the marketing & sales processes. Focus on the tools and processes, but don’t worry about associating value. [end sarcastic tone]

One of the concepts I like in the content management space is the idea of treating each piece of content as a financial asset. Each content has a cost of creation, live maintenance, long-term management for reuse, and eventual retirement.

The value equation evaluates the ‘cost of life’ for the content and the relationship to the business value attribution.

Associating a strong analytics process to understand interaction behavior with content and the linkages to leads / sales makes this possible.

Across many digital properties, brands commonly only have strong performance on 40% of their content. This is not a good track record and rarely gets scrutinized.

By tracking the value equation, you can better hone and focus efforts to ensure wasted content creation is avoided.

Provide the tools and embed the formulas for all team members to have these details at their fingertips. Make value association a part of each content creator’s annual goals. Apply pressure to let everyone know that the value is being monitored.

Applying these types of models will increase the quality of your online presence for customers and provide an internal framework for avoiding waste.

Opportunities Abound

A fresh start in a new role is always exciting. It is a chance to reset and consider new ideas and methods.

New responsibilities present scenarios where disconnected concepts can be brought together and long standing issues can be ironed out.

Working through the sticky details of transitioning existing responsibilities while considering how to work in the new position has to be balanced.

It is best to take a methodical approach. Carve out time to establish an organized transition. Start to craft the framework for the new role.

The transition time may be a little wild, but keeping in mind all the opportunities that can be tackled in the future is invigorating.

Intuition

Intuitively knowing when to let something go and when to stop everything comes with experience.

On the fly analysis and pattern recognition is not something that happens overnight. It comes with repeated observation and management of many situations.

When an outlier arrives, having the skill-set to quickly act and rectify is super valuable.

Dealing with Cybersecurity

One of the least fun responsibilities application owners have is maintaining proper process and data controls. This has to be done to ensure cybersecurity is considered with any functionality that is enabled for the application users.

Tools can be very impressive, but they can also be very dangerous when it comes to cybersecurity.

It is common for application owners and security architects to characterize this responsibility as the ‘paranoia’ work.

Typically, when a 3rd party application is purchased, you expect a high-level of confidence that the security model in their applications is strong. However, this is not always the case.

If a vulnerability is available, it is critical that either a technical or process adjustment is made to block the vulnerability.

This may not make everyone happy because it may make work a little more difficult, but it is better than becoming another company in the news with a data breach.

Chapters

Chapters represent a start and an end.

An individual chapter often does not deliver a whole story.

Recall of previous chapters is necessary to have context of the later chapters.

To move on and not keep prior chapters in mind is to loose sense of the story line.

Your story needs the textures and complexities from prior chapters.

Relish the experiences from prior chapters and use them while moving into the next.

Using experiences to shape your modus operandi

In most companies, managers become leaders of people after several years of performing as an individual contributor.

A good manager makes sure to keep their experiences as an individual contributor in mind as they lead people.

Remembering how it sucks to be micromanaged.
Remembering how valuable it is to receive communication and context.
Remembering how empowering it is to be trusted.
Remembering how valuable it is to be mentored.
Remembering how good it feels to be treated with respect.

Reflect on your methods and strive to be a manager you would have appreciated.

Selling a Proposed Direction

One can drift off in the idea that if only ‘I’ could make all the calls and set all strategic decisions everything would work SO much better.

Sorry to burst the bubble, but rarely does anyone have complete control and direction. When it does exist, I think it is called a ‘dictatorship’… which doesn’t always work out so well.

In most companies, direction must be set in a collaborative manner.

Ideas and concepts of how to move forward must be sold.

It takes not only technical know-how, but articulate communication and soft people skills to build trust and confidence before receiving authority to move forward with a strategy.

It can feel tedious. It can feel slow.

However, taking time to properly vet and validate a plan should be expected.

It helps to prepare for push-back. Be ready with research and data to demonstrate justification.

Don’t expect immediate gratification. Moving too fast typically results in oversights and long-term issues.

Keep this in mind as you work with people and you get challenged. These pressures are intended to sharpen your ideas, not stifle.

Cloudy Days

It’s cloudy.

The average number of days with sunshine here is 194. So the clouds are no surprise.

It is nice to enjoy the serotonin release when the sun is out, but here we have to make due without on a regular basis.

When it is clear the day will be dark & gloomy, take a moment to reflect on a happy moment. Your outlook on they day will brighten.