B2b Productizing In-house Solutions

By: Maansi Sanghi

Every company today has an IT department. Be it the manufacturing industry, chemical, scientific or the hotel and travel industry. Information technology has become an indispensable part of businesses. Initially custom software development was at a boom. Each company got a custom unique solution built to suit its typical business processes - a tightly coupled approach. Over the years the concept of distributed architectures and the need to share information across geographies led to the development of standards and a need for software to be loosely coupled. This has led to the appreciation and demand for products. Today the B2B software productizing services industry is in a boom and companies prefer to buy products which can be configured instead of building a custom solution which more often than not will not come out right at the first time. Whereas through software product development products can be tried and tested and the feedbacks for the same are available for all to make a decision as to which product suits the business processes the best.

That said and done what is to be done about the systems that had once been custom made. Are they really like the old man who has served his purpose in life? I feel that there is a lot left in many of these old men still doing great. There is a lot of domain expertise and intelligence that has gathered over the years. These old men still have a lot to deliver. All we need is to productize them. Capture the intelligence and domain expertise. Also we have seen that lot of 'off the shelf' products fail to handle the ground realities of a particular business as the generalization sometimes miss the domain specific intelligence and workflow in them. E.g. Any Front Desk software where in the user needs to use the software along with attending to the person in front of them should enable the user to use the software and still maintain eye contact with the person standing in front of them. This means the user should use less of mouse and more of keyboard, which is not necessarily a preferred way of most new generation user interfaces. A non-IT company by virtue of their in-house software product development team has managed to come out with software that works for them and should be able to work for similar business houses. This opens up a new business line for them and enables them to latch on to the IT wave, which has proven record of high returns and is growing still.

We can re-factor existing custom software development solutions into products so that they can be used with minimum effort by similar business houses. Re-factoring involves many things- studying the existing solution, identifying the areas that binds the solution to work for just the current set-up, would generally involve redesign to a certain extent but ensuring that the features work in the same way or in a better way. In such approaches we need to ensure that the domain intelligence of the solution has been retained and also that it is generalized enough to be adaptable to environments in other business houses and adaptable enough to enhance for newer functionalities. Scalability is something that needs a lot of attention since the solution could have been originally developed for a limited load and might need to handle much more load in other environments. Also with time, the scalability requirements might drastically change. Loose coupling and decoupling is also an area that needs a re-look depending upon a particular solution, which might need a more distributed architecture with changing times and environment.

With the above background we need to come out with a solution that is best of both-worlds, the old man and the new generation. The world is getting flatter and distributed and adaptable systems are becoming key to the success of IT initiatives of business houses. These custom solutions might just be ideally suited to offer them as a B2B productizing service thereby enabling such businesses to latch on to the SaaS wave that is giving exponential and disproportionate returns to the B2B software productizing service providers.

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