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Packaged solutions vs the platform – here’s why the platform wins

There’s a dilemma many organisations face as they move to the cloud – how do you retain the value of the packaged software systems you depend on, while harnessing all the advantages of moving to a true platform?

Packaged solutions vs the platform – here’s why the platform wins

The answer for many will be complicated. It may involve continuing to maintain and pay for packaged software solutions while shifting core systems and development to a common platform, such as the Microsoft cloud, which spans Office 365, Dynamics 365, Power Platform, Power BI, collaboration tools such as Teams and the Azure cloud.

In the last decade we have seen a real commoditisation in software towards platforms and software-as-a-service (SaaS). Many packaged systems have also moved to the SaaS model. Whether it is a cloud-based accounting or inventory system, a customer relationship management or project management tool, you’ll typically pay a monthly subscription per user. Most likely, you’ll pay for several different subscriptions simultaneously and deal with different levels of support and development cycles for each.

You may know and trust your best of breed software systems to deliver. But could a software platform deliver most, if not all of what you need? It could be that a system like Microsoft Dynamics 365 and the Power Platform delivers 80 per cent of the capability of what you need, while Microsoft’s configurable platform allows you to build out the remaining functionality.

The platform approach

At Empired, we increasingly find that our clients want to take a platform approach to software, rather than trying to maintain five or ten disparate applications. What is driving this is their desire to become more customer or citizen-centric, to have one view of their customers so they can better serve their needs.

Take the area of grants management. Many government departments, not for profits and businesses dispense grants and need systems to run the process transparently and efficiently. Empired has developed a grants management system based on Dynamics 365 that allows our clients to extend it based on their needs, using the Microsoft platform. That is much harder to do with a bespoke system and a closed development shop.

If you are already running a Microsoft product such as the Office 365 productivity suite across your organisation and are looking to leverage the cost savings and flexibility of the cloud, it makes sense to look at how you can also leverage the likes of Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement, or Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations to perform the tasks your legacy bespoke software systems currently do.

Taking a long-term view

Traditionally, taking a platform approach had high upfront implementation costs because you needed to undertake extensive development work to adapt the platform to your needs. But this is no longer the daunting task it used to be. Microsoft’s platform can be extended to suit your needs, with configuration tools and open APIs enabling the organisations to adapt the core Microsoft product to the needs of the business.

A huge amount of intellectual property has also now been created around this platform, including by Empired, which is available to those looking to leverage Microsoft products and accelerate this initial implementation phase.

While the initial cost of using the platform may be higher when compared to a packaged solution, you need to look to phase 2 and phase 3 of development.

The key thing is that the return on investment (RoI) is likely to look better in the long term than holding onto your collection of packaged systems.

Five key advantages to taking a platform approach to your software systems

The developers’ edge – Microsoft has literally thousands of developers working on improving its core products and making them even more interoperable. It is hard for any single software maker to match the regularity and quality of software updates and the introduction of added functionality. Package solutions are often beset with delayed releases of new systems, narrow function sets and added cost for new features.

More intelligence in the platform – the big cloud platforms are increasingly leveraging sophisticated artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to allow you to make more use of and gain greater insights from the data your organisation and customers are generating. Microsoft’s AI platform, for instance, lets you develop cognitive services, intelligent serverless bots, AI-powered cloud search and machine learning models, all on the same platform. Packaged software makers struggle to match the scale of Microsoft’s platform when it comes to the next generation of tools that will power your business.

Consolidate your spend – With a platform approach, you are likely to be able to save money by consolidating your monthly spend on software licences. For instance, a Microsoft E5 licence includes a range of security and threat intelligence features as well as collaboration tools. You may have version of these features elsewhere, but by consolidating them on one platform, your costs are likely to be lower and your overall functionality may improve.

Lessen your risk – there is a huge amount of consolidation going on in the software industry. SaaS players that start with a roar often fizzle when their venture capital funding runs out and it becomes clear their business model doesn’t stack up. Others are acquired and change direction leaving you stranded with a system that is no longer fit for purpose. You won’t strike that with Microsoft’s platform, which has the weight of Redmond’s resources behind it, a huge base of customers and a long-term commitment to them. The platform also offers better protection when it comes to security.

Better value for you and your customers – With Microsoft’s platform, you can easily create customer or citizen facing portals and use Power BI to take your data and publish it in formats tailored to the needs of your customers, staff and vendors. The platform also allows you to be more agile. Your ‘citizen developers’ can create apps that extend the functionality of Microsoft products, without them needing any coding proficiency, or having to wait for IT to do it for them.

Ultimately you can enjoy lower total cost of ownership (TCO) from leveraging the platform. At Empired, we recommend our customers to ask themselves three questions when it comes to considering sticking with a packaged software product versus moving to a platform approach:  

  1. Is the application you are looking to replace centred around a customer or staff experience? If it is, you are more likely to be able to have one view of your client or employee across multiple applications, using a platform approach.
  2. Do you really understand what your requirements are? With best of breed systems, it is easy to buy off the brochure. You need to deeply understand what your needs are and whether a packaged system actually meets them. The platform is more adaptable to your needs.
  3. What does your five-year journey look like? Think beyond the initial build – to phases 3, 4, and 5. Have you the confidence that a packaged system will still be able to deliver down the track?

Empired has extensive experience in helping customers big and small navigate the software landscape. Get in touch with our experts you find the best approach for your organisation.

Posted by: Rowan Miller, Solution Sales Manager, Business Applications | 21 November 2019


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