The software industry is still a relatively “young” industry- think car manufacturing, steel manufacturing etc. begun more than a hundred years ago versus software starting in the 50’s but only becoming widespread in the late 80’s/early 90's. There is also the creative side of software design that enters the picture. Because of this there are many temptations to have a homegrown system built just for your organization.
Should You Build Your System From The Ground Up?
There are plenty of independent software consultants and developers that hang a shingle to contract for separate software projects for small to medium agencies. They claim they can build a system that is especially for your needs and yours alone. Herein lies the rub.
When you deploy a software system that is a “one off- unique to your organization” system you run the risk of having multiple problems down the road.
When Should You Decide to Leverage Proven Case Management Technology, Instead?
There are questions to ask yourself, your staff and other key stakeholders…specific questions that will help you know which direction to take.
Depending on your situation – it may make more sense to contract with a software company that has some legacy, stability and multiple levels of resources, not only for the initial startup but also for the longevity of support and maintenance.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot have a system customized to your needs but it means there is a “platform” or base system that has been in place for many years and shares plenty of testing among the user base. It also means that as other customers ask for new functionality it is placed in the future upgrades so you are constantly receiving enhancements as part of your lease or maintenance.
Are There Risks That Can Be Mitigated by Going With an Established Case Management Solution?
There are certain risks associated with building your own system. In the early days – when we were creating new systems for clients… there was more risk. As we looked to get better – we introduced a platform that would help with the creation of systems… and then systematically included over the years special tools to help us mitigate risks – mostly through automated wizards that added a new check and balance to our development and system rollout. Yes – there are risks associated with building from the ground up – raw coding vs. using a platform to roll out systems.
When you start with something that is already working… you mitigate so many risks and pitfalls. The early pioneers still have the “scars” of where the arrows were embedded in their chests and backs. Today – not so much. The risk has been removed. Now the risk can be controlled through a systematic approach to tailoring and customizations, rather than scripting from the ground up.
It also alleviates the fear that the original developer may decide to go to Bimini and retire leaving you with software that would be hard for someone else to maintain and grow. Often times because software development is still an art it is hard for another programmer to pick up the original work and continue it. Platform software begins with a structured premise making this issue go away.
A Case Management Insurance Plan?
Most platform software companies include a Software Escrow Agreement in their contracts to protect customers from the above scenario. This is like an insurance policy that promises that if certain conditions happen and the company becomes insolvent you will be allowed to have a copy of the source code that would allow others to help you continue to run and maintain the software.
This is the ultimate protection of your investment and should be required by any company you employ to help you with your software needs.
An Ultimate Point of Leverage…
A software provider with a wide and diverse customer base provides a rich environment of users that can provide advice, support and overall increase the user experience when they each have their own little tweaks and tricks that make the use of the system even better.
So, it makes total sense to go with a system that has already been deployed in multiple practices with a variety of disciplines to get the most for every dollar you spend and provide the safest, most secure system available.
If you want to see a list of questions to think about that may help you in this area, we’ve written a short guide, that may interest you. In the guide you will have a series of worksheets with good questions to ask if you wish to go deeper in this area.