For nearly all our clients we replaced tools they had developed in-house. In all cases, we found the same history and pain points connected with those tools.
In small consulting companies all employees know each other, and a centralized overview of consultants’ skills and their availability or projects is not necessary. As the company grows, however, the necessity of such an overview becomes apparent.
Initially, employees start creating Excel spreadsheets to capture skills and plan availabilities. Over time, these Excel spreadsheets are expanded and improved, and perhaps a few macros are added. Possibly, an intern or a consultant who happens to be between projects at the moment develops a small web application for the company. Generally, this is done without any formal investment decision and most of the time even without a clearly defined development team. IT consulting companies often use such in-house developments as training projects for their trainees or new hires.
Of course, eventually the intern leaves the company, and the consultant is deployed on a client project. The next trainee or another consultant then takes over the homegrown tool, which is getting increasingly difficult to maintain.
Usually, after growing to a certain size, companies decide on a new implementation solidly based on technology as part of an internal project. However, even after organically developed homegrown tools become official in-house developments, the same problems still remain. For one thing, consultants do not want to work permanently on an internal project. We found at several of our clients that the last developer who was familiar with the software developed in-house had left the company. Consulting companies thus have to seriously consider which employees they can and want to assign permanently to the maintenance of an internal tool.
These problems leave companies with fragmented tools that lead to inefficient processes and meet with declining acceptance among users. As a result, the quality of data declines.
CVs, skills, and availabilities are again maintained in both Excel and Word files. The central data base erodes. Planning, searching, and analyzing become more and more laborious and time-consuming.
Despite the above-mentioned well-known problems, many consulting companies tenaciously held fast to the do-it-yourself philosophy (aka the not-invented-here syndrome) for a long time. In the last few years this has changed completely because of two essential factors: the continuing high workload and the shifting of IT into the cloud.
Companies do not have their employees work on internal tools if those employees could be working on client projects at profitable daily rates. Since it is getting increasingly difficult to meet the growing need for IT professionals by way of new hires, there is growing pressure to use the existing resources as efficiently as possible.
At the same time, the trend to the cloud has led to a paradigm shift. Nowadays, businesses want software delivered as a service. For example, only a few years ago we were often asked about on-premises installations, but these days clients expect a SaaS solution. Moreover, the standardization of interfaces that goes hand in hand with cloud architectures reduces the costs of integration and the implementation period. The business case of SaaS solution versus in-house development is now a “no-brainer.”
When we entered the market 10 years ago with our SaaS solution decídalo, the cloud was largely still a taboo for German businesses. We therefore installed decídalo in the computer centers of various corporations — as a private cloud, so to speak. By now nobody asks anymore whether the solution is also available as on-premises software. The only thing people still want to know is the location of the data – at least this is the case with our clients in the EU.