Empowering the Customer – so many choices

May 10, 2013

As time moves forward in the world of business and commerce, we as consumers increasingly get offered more and more choices and options. “Empowering the customer” is what it’s all about.

A case in point is the financial and business management software industry where I work through my role at Enprise Group. Today there are exponentially more options than ever before in all aspects of designing, configuring, consuming, delivering, accessing and paying for software and related services. In addition, there are significantly varied choices of software vendor and choices in the type of expert services to help and guide you in the use of your selected system. I think this abundance of choice is great and the different options work well for different types of businesses in different situations.

Let’s look at the different choices and I’ll offer you my opinion of the relative pros and cons;

    1. Choice of Financial Software

Your choice of financial software is critical because you want to know that the software will be around for the long-term to grow along with your business. My advice is to stick with strong market-leading vendors who have modern technology platforms & development roadmaps, decent market share and are profitable growing businesses themselves. My recommendations for Australasian businesses are vendors like MYOB, SAP and Microsoft. These are sound and proven long-term operators that have innovative, future-proof offerings. The heart of your financial system is not something to take undue risks with in my opinion. Your choice of software vendor has long-term implications. Strong, established vendors will also tend to have a strong and established channel of service and solution partners that can ensure that you get the best performance and add-on solutions for your system.

    2. Cloud versus On-Premise

Financial software in “The Cloud” is a valid software outsourcing/management, delivery and financing option for many businesses, but it is being over-hyped at this time in my opinion. It is the right option for some businesses, just as on-premise is the right option for other businesses. A clear and logical view is required to see through all the smoke and mirrors to make the right decision for your business.

“The Cloud” for financial software refers to a combination of options, including; multi-tenanting, outsourcing, hosting and subscription pricing or “software as a service” or “pay as you go”. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the individual options and remember that each of these can be selected individually or collectively when buying financial software solutions these days.

    • Multi-Tenanting:

    This is where many different businesses share the same instance of an on-line software package. It is a very good way of getting a large number of customers to share and thereby reduce costs, but that in turn comes at a cost in terms of a loss in flexibility. It’s a bit like riding in a bus instead of your own car. It costs a lot less but you have no control over a lot of things, such as when upgrades, fixes and changes will happen to your system and the ability to pilot-test for workflow issues in a new version on your data before you commit to an upgrade. There is also the limiting of options with regard to connecting to other software or devices. This is potentially scary stuff to medium or large businesses with more complex workflows, but of little concern to smaller simpler businesses.

    • Remote Hosting:

    Having your software and server hosted and managed in a professional-grade data centre with lots of redundancy, by professional, qualified engineers is without doubt the most safe and secure option if you’re serious about safety and security for your system. This is a good option if you have business-grade Internet connectivity which is subject to minimal outages and speed problems. If your local Internet connections are not up to scratch then hosting your software and/or server outside your building will be painful. There are other benefits, such as being able to access your software using a range of platforms and devices but then again there can be added complexities when you want to do simple things like integrate with software on your local computer or do fancy stuff with printers and scanners etc.
    Remote hosting can be more expensive or less expensive than on-premise hosting, depending on the expertise level of your staff, Internet and other costs and what grade of server you already own.
    All in all a mixture of pros and cons depending on your situation. Remember that any software can be remotely hosted – not only the multi-tenanted browser-based variety. As an example, check out 2Cloud.biz

    • Subscription Pricing:

    Often referred to as SaaS Pricing (Software as a Service) – this is where you pay as you use the software. It’s a bit like leasing a car and there is usually a minimum term, such as two or three years that you sign up for. It’s a Profit & Loss expense instead of buying a software license asset on the Balance Sheet of your business. An advantage of subscription pricing is that for full Cloud solutions, it’s clean & simple and includes all costs including software upgrades, hosting and support. A disadvantage is that you’re often locked into a payment plan and in the long run it can be more expensive than buying the software license outright in the first place.

At Enprise, we like to empower our customers with choices when it comes to their financial software solutions and our consultants are well equipped to help them in making the right choices for their businesses. Cloud or on-premise, local or hosted, up-front or subscription pricing – the choices are all there.

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