Recently, an executive I’ll call Stan told my team he was in the final stages of negotiating with a software vendor. The latter promised to revolutionize his business by developing customized AI. When I heard this, I stopped Stan dead in his tracks with a response he hadn’t expected: “You can probably get all you need without reinventing the wheel, er... AI solution.”
Stan is no outlier.
In fact, he’s in the same position as many business leaders. He knows of rapid AI advances and wants to harness such powers lest he fall behind competitors. The particular custom-built solution he considered before talking with us at Louder Co. was based on generative pre-trained transformer tech—the “GPT” in ChatGPT.
Our software vendor’s approach seems attractive given how ChatGPT has emerged as a cultural phenomenon, one being adopted by big business. Yet for small and medium-sized companies, this method is typically not ideal to enjoy AI’s many benefits. And although every client of Louder Co. has their own unique processes and challenges, common initial questions from execs interested in supercharging their business can be boiled down to these two:
What’s the best way to adopt AI—sooner rather than later?
How do we invest in an AI solution that will help—not hurt us?
What today’s leadership often doesn’t realize is that these questions are related to a classic business decision: Do we make it, or do we buy it? A make-or-buy choice can be critical for effective, fast implementation of a solution of any type, but it’s doubly critical with AI.
Although ChatGPT soaks up so much of the current buzz around this technology, an entire universe of artificially intelligent solutions tailored to address many business needs already exist. Developing a system from scratch therefore seems needless once you know the heavy lifting is in place now to create a platform perfectly suited to your organization.
Although we at Louder Co. advise most clients to select an existing solution, here are five important questions to ask if you’re contemplating using a developer to build your own system:
Question #1: What’s your timeframe to the end solution?
The world of AI is moving at warp speed. This leads business owners and execs wanting a solution immediately—especially to avoid falling behind. But software development is not a fast process. The AI developer who told Stan he could turn around a custom solution quickly was glossing over many unknown factors, such as the very real risk his own employees could be poached by other developers cashing in on the AI gold rush.
Another important point about timing is that delivery of a particular solution isn’t the end of the road. Testing and debugging of a custom AI solutions can take months if the bugs are ever worked out at all. On the other hand, with an existing system like Stampli, integration and user training can be done within a few weeks of purchase, bringing AI’s power to bear quicker.
Question #2: Must your AI system integrate with other programs?
AI systems rarely work in a vacuum. They tend to integrate with other software services for best results. If you know your system must work with Microsoft Word and/or Outlook, have a functional connection to workplace organization programs like Slack, and also need to automatically post info to socials, it’s a strong sign you need an existing solution. AI platforms from major ventures feature wide integration options out of the box, as opposed to custom developed systems requiring time and money to add cross-functionality.
Question #3: What’s the total ownership cost?
Most business leaders have a strong understanding of total cost of ownership. Yet they don’t always apply the concept to software solutions. That’s a problem. Big business treats enterprise software the same way it does machines, vehicles, and other equipment vital to a company’s success.
Custom developed software will often suffer a higher total cost of ownership than existing software products for various reasons. For one, service and additional development are typically completed by the original developers, who may not be cost effective. Second, you are likely at the developer’s mercy when it comes to maintenance or bug fixes. Compare this to the ecosystem of software experts ready to help at a moment’s notice with industry-leading solutions like Nextpoint. The difference in total cost is astonishing.
Question #4: What is the problem’s complexity?
The more intricate a business’ challenge, the likelier it’ll need a custom developed solution. But many business leaders overestimate the complexity of issues they want to overcome with AI’s aid. The way to address this internally is to ask, “Are we the first company that’s faced this problem?” If not, there may be a tried and proven AI solution already on the market that can make an immediate impact. If the answer is yes, then the considerable time and financial commitment of custom-developed software may be the answer.
Question #5: What’s the trade-off between cost-effectiveness and long-term maintenance concerns?
In a perfect world, businesses buy software and never have to work with vendors again. But we don’t live in this ideal state—changes to software from adding users, exploring new features, and fixing compatibility problems are common. Addressing these types of changes and fixes are more cost effective when dealing with a major vendor. They must often update software to integrate with Microsoft’s latest version of Windows for many clients as opposed to a custom developer who might not know of an update until a client’s software breaks. Likewise, long-term maintenance is a concern when a small developer can go out of business at any time. Who will support your software when there’s no one to answer the phone?
Now, the good news. You don’t have to answer these questions alone. Louder Co.’s team of AI specialists is dedicated to helping small and medium businesses find perfect solutions to their business needs. We also don’t limit ourselves to suggesting a limited number of fixes. Instead, we’re constantly exploring the entire range of AI packages on the market to find the right fit. And this all begins by documenting what your business needs to achieve success powered by cutting-edge technology.
To learn what we can do to help you thrive, schedule a call today.