Off the Rack v. Customized?

There’s nothing like a new pair of shoes! Imagine you go to the department store, find a beautiful pair of shoes, (on sale), once very expensive, now still expensive but affordable. You excitedly take these shoes home and wear them out that night proud of your fashionably frugal shopping. They hurt the first time but you’re just breaking them in, it’s to be expected. You wear them a few more times and- sheesh, these puppies are pretty uncomfortable actually! But you can’t return them because you bought them on sale, and you feel guilty with them sitting in the back of your closet because you paid so much for them. So you wear these uncomfortable shoes or keep them in the back of your closet until you have psychologically depreciated their useful life in relation to how much you paid for them and eventually throw them out.

Now imagine a scenario where you go to a cobbler and have a perfect pair of shoes customized for you. They are more expensive and take a few weeks to make, you even have to wait a little longer for the imported Italian leather to arrive; but- gosh it feels like you are walking on clouds! The craftsmanship is so exquisite yet so durable they last you what seems like forever. You feel confident in these shoes and comfortable, and even though it was a big initial investment they pay for themselves in terms of how often you wear them and their associated psychological useful life, (and of course the compliments you get when you wear them!)

This principal exemplified by a shoe purchase can be translated across any consumer or enterprise purchasing decision.

The real question for buyers becomes do I want something off the rack where I accept it may not fit me perfectly or last very long, but it’s imperfections are negated by it’s ease of purchase with a small intellectual investment of time for decision making or customization and bargain pricing; or do I instead elect to invest more time, energy, and money into my initial evaluation of options and go with something more custom tailored to my needs where I am confident it will fit me and last much longer?

This is a core question faced by my prospects as they evaluate financial software applications. There are many solutions on the market today that are out of the box, simple, easy, and cheap for the masses. But just like anything built to be used off the rack or out of the box, there are going to be things you need as an individual that can’t be accommodated without a supplemental solution, and eventually all those little gaps start to add up and the supplemental plug-ins grow more consuming to a point where the new ecosystem of cobbled together systems doesn’t make sense as you scale.

No one disputes that a custom solution is going to be a better fit and last longer, but if it’s not affordable, even though it would be nice to have, it’s not a realistic start for everyone. Might as well start with the discount, out of the box solution, build the work-arounds as needed, and when it becomes too much to manage worry about that when it happens.

I supported the mid-market sales team at NetSuite for 3 years where I would see just that scenario play out every day. Companies had chosen to go with the quick and dirty applications for as long as they could and then came to me when it became too difficult to manage. By this point there were material impacts to the business if we couldn’t get it right for them. Some were at risk of not getting a funding round if reporting didn’t get better, some were exposed to an audit risk without user permissions and an audit trail or real-time currency conversion, but mostly they just had teams of unhappy and underutilized employees working nights and weekends to reconcile data from various silos with rampant opportunities for manual error and revenue leakage.

I was happy to sell our solution to these companies but I kept thinking what if this had been caught earlier? What if there was a solution where we could offer a lighter version of the product to these small emerging tech companies that was affordable but still had all the power and scalability of the core application tailored to the unique needs of a growing startup? Perhaps like a high quality shoe you bought off the rack from a brand you trusted but tweaked with a few minor alterations at the cobbler; so not starting from scratch, but also not restricting you to the manufacturer’s model.

So that’s what we did. In January of 2015 I built an emerging markets team atNetSuite. We redesigned the product from the ground up specifically based on what we knew about our other 2,500 early adopting software and technology companies already using NetSuite. We took what we had learned from our customers and built a few variations of a package that could get a growing tech start-up to see an ROI in half the time and for about half the price from what we had in 2014.

Enter the #suiteSTARTsquad! Click here to learn more about the Starter Kit for Software, Technology, and Internet companies and see if your company is eligible for our early adopter program.

Kelli Lampkin

Kelli Lampkin is a writer, traveler, comedienne, and entrepreneur.

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