You might need a partner, not a platform

The number and breadth of software platforms (Software as a Service, SaaS) available to businesses at affordable prices is astounding. Accounting, lead management, inbound marketing, human resources, it’s all there. I use as many of these tools as the next person, and it offers a degree of independence with limited resources that has defined the business operations landscape over the past few decades.

The task of creating an invaluable solution for the largest number of people is the cornerstone of “platform” companies. Create a square box that will fit the most approximately square customers inside it and call it a day. By no means is this a trivial task, and a deep understanding of the problem is clearly required. However, this often leads to customers sanding down their abnormalities to fit inside a box that is affordable and readily available. It’s a great scalable model and provides tremendous value to a huge population. But what about the others? What about those with limited resources and extremely irregular problems that don’t fit into a square box? Once you sand off all the edges to a problem, are you still solving an important problem? Or are you solving a problem that fits into the solution you just paid $59/mo for? Products and services that address the edge cases allow innovators to innovate.

Don’t do too much

Too many bells and whistles will kill a modern software application. Streamlined and sleek. That is a requirement for a successful, widely adopted piece of software. The best ones accomplish tasks under the hood that you never see on the surface. This is both a feature and a bug. It’s great that it shortens the learning curve since consumers demand immediacy, but this often comes at the expense of depth and flexibility. The product usually does the few things that it was built to do extremely well. If the product was built to do X, and 95% of businesses need to do X, that is awesome and we have a winner. If instead, your business needs to do Y and there is no product that addresses Y, you may be forced to buy products A, B, and C to accomplish Y. Not a bad solution, but this can triple the cost, adoption time, and complexity. In addition, your new cohort of products most likely do not play nice together and demand a hand-holding approach. Every company has some “Y” challenges that don’t fit into a pre-design box.

Making the smart compromise

An ideal solution is to have a cache of experts at your beck and call in the next room that will solve all of your specific and crucial problems. This is what the big kids do, but if you don’t have the resources, and have already invested in DIY solutions for most of what you do, you may find yourself in a pinch. Most likely, you will find yourself addressing a problem that your newly purchased software platform was designed to solve, rather than the real deal.

The “return” of an agency model that provides broad expertise in a subject matter leads to the next best thing as having experts in-house. Proficiency in hundreds of tools, often created by the agency itself, allows an enormous number of custom solutions to be created on demand. It can act as a true partner and not a “one size fits all” platform. True, this is nothing new. Agencies and consultants far pre-date the introduction of DIY platforms but it’s too easy to fall into the trap of the comfortable faceless interfaces and assume all the problems have been solved with a few clicks and a quick payment that will hit your account every month without you noticing. Instead, consider letting your partners deal with platform learning curves and effectively expand the toolset available to your company.

Deep knowledge of the parts of a vehicle is essential to building a world class vehicle. But what if you were only experts in the wheels and the windshield wipers? Of course, every car needs them, but it may take more expertise to build something that will get you where you need to go.

To learn more about how Automata’s “agency” approach can help you build a custom solution to solve your marketing, sales, and intelligence goals, contact info@automata-solutions.com or fill out our Contact Form and let us know exactly you need.


About
Andrew Fraine, PhD is a Co-Founder and Director of Data Science at Automata. Get in touch at andrew.fraine@automata-solutions.com or on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrew-fraine-45853517
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