It is a general question when it comes to software – should you buy an off-the-shelf solution or do custom build your own?
Both approaches have their pro’s and con’s. We will discuss them here in the context of mobile solutions for SAP Plant Maintenance/Customer Service and will present you a third option, which combines the best of both worlds.
Buying a standard mobile solution has many advantages over building your own software, but it also comes with limitations. To make an informed decision, you need to consider the following factors:
- Implementation time – assuming your SAP PM/CS modules are already customized and up and running, the implementation of a standard software should be a lot faster than to build something from scratch.
- Budget – paying a license or subscription fee per user is often cheaper than the development efforts. Only if we talk about a gigantic amount of users it is worth considering a custom build application.
- Project Risk – the risk of failure is smaller when you implement a standard solution as it was most likely previously implemented at many other companies. Usually only early adopters face larger issues. If you custom build, you will face many more issues that are typical for new software.
- Maintenance and Support – if you build your mobile asset management solution yourself, you are the one responsible for fixing all the bugs in the system. Remember that mobile software is more than just the piece that you install on your smartphone or tablet. It also includes the backend Add Ons and optionally the middleware component. You are responsible to make all these components run all the time. Issues that typically come up are bugs and the support for new operating system/framework versions on all three layers.
- Documentation/Training – don’t underestimate the non-development tasks when you build your own solution. In that case you need to write all the documentation as well. You need to prepare administrator and end-user training material. Standard software comes with all of this.
- Tailor made for your business – a mobile solution for inspection, maintenance or customer service can not be compared to standard office solution. While a word processor or a spreadsheet fit for every business, the customer service process in companies can be very different. Yes, there are best practices for how to setup the process in SAP but still the differences are big enough to make off-the-shelf options fit 100% with your business. In my opinion, usability is the most important aspect of every software. Especially if we talk about service technicians who may not be as familiar with software as you and me. After all it is their job to repair equipment and not to fight with their smartphone or tablet.
The choice is yours – all facts would speak in favour of a standard solution if it would not come for the last point – the fit to your business.
The last point is sometimes outweighing all other points and lead to a custom build app. Another reason to build your own software is the lack of mobile device operating system support. We did a custom CRM Sales app in the past for example because there was no support for Windows 7 from the existing standard solutions. So we did custom development on top of MobiLink to give the customer the solution that they needed.
We solved the build vs. buy issue with SAM Smart Asset Management. SAM is totally open and can be adjusted to customer requirements without limitations. The changes to the app can be done by either us, one of our partners or the customer himself. SAM is shipped with the source code of all three layers, making it as open as possible. As SAM is build with standard technologies like ABAP, Java and SAP UI5, it is easy for companies to find skilled resources to support them.
With SAM we combined the best of both worlds – we have a standard solution that offers enterprise grade support, fast implementations for an affordable budget and documentation is shipped with it. At the same time we give you the possibility to fit the app 100% to your business process. What do you think? What is right for your business?