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Working with the Private Sector

Published 04/19/2018

According to an informal poll we conducted, nearly 80% of over 2,000 respondents reported being unhappy with the software they use at work.

So, you would think there would be a massive push to improve that software, right?

Not so much.

While we have worked with clients of all sizes in the private sector, the large majority have been small to medium size companies.

And in our time working across more than 10 different industries with countless different clients, we’ve learned some truths that hold for most companies in the private sector.

There’s a huge lack of trust

I kind of chuckle when lawyers complain about the lack of trust in their industry.

“You ain’t seen nothing, pal,” I think to myself.

Sure, the legal profession doesn’t have a glowing reputation, but it’s nothing compared to the software industry.

On one hand, it’s unfortunate, but on the other, I realize we have no one to blame but ourselves.

There are a lot of bad actors in the industry who ruin it for the rest of us.

First, I don’t think we’ve ever quoted software to a company who’s response was “That’s it?”

The price is always too high, and I think that comes from two factors.

As we’ve said before, folks who aren’t in the industry, who don’t know how software development works tend to look at what we do as though it’s magic.

“What do you mean it’s going to take you three months and $16,000? Can’t you just wave your wand and make it happen?”

That’s not far off from the expectations we often encounter.

Also, many of our clients and prospects already were approached by a chop shop that either was overseas or outsourced work overseas, who quoted the same work at half the timeline and one-third (or less) of the cost.

This is where the trust starts to deteriorate.

The prospect/client is now in a position where they don’t understand why something will take so long and cost so much from us and they have another company whispering sweet promises in their ear.

Naturally, the client tends to lean toward the price and timeline that better suits their fancy.

Here’s the problem: Every time, without failure, the project takes way longer than was promised and is a piece of junk when it’s “finished.”

You see, these companies know that once you’re locked in a contract, you’re pretty much stuck – outside of legal recourses, which are going to rack up a lot of dough that wasn’t available in the first place.

So they understand that the client won’t be happy about the long timeline, but will have to accept it.

When they’re finally finished, the client gets something that was put together with duct tape and is just a step above worthless.

These same companies make their money on volume. They’ll never have a repeat client, so they churn and burn as quickly as possible.

The old adage holds: You get what you pay for.

But here’s the problem for the rest of us.

The client now has two choices (or in their mind three).

  1. Use the next-to-useless software that they paid for
  2. Go to a reputable company and have it built the right way
  3. (Not really an option) Take the code from the next-to-useless software and have a reputable company “finish the job”

The third option is usually the one that’s always requested of us.

Unfortunately, no one can turn dirt into gold and there is almost always nothing we can salvage from the hackjob the client paid for.

See where this is going?

Now the client has a general distaste for software in general.

If they elect to stick with the hackjob software, they’re going to have software that neither they nor their employees like (hence the result of our poll) or they’re going to have to pay to have to do it right after already paying to have it done wrong.

Second, we see clients and prospects paying for software they just don’t need.

Humans are easily influenced (which is why marketing is a trillion-dollar industry) and don’t like to admit they’re wrong.

You put these together and you have a powder keg for peer pressure, especially in the software world.

Consider this scenario.

Executive at Company A sees a Facebook ad for how great Slack is – let’s call them Pat.

Pat decides to demo Slack and is blown away by how “cool” it is.

So Pat purchases a license for Company A and Company A begins using Slack because Pat thought it was cool.

So first off, if you’re an employee, how are you going to feel about having to use software the you didn’t need or want in the first place? Again, the poll results start to make sense.

But secondly, let’s get back to Pat who now goes to chamber of commerce meetings and trade shows and conferences where Pat is asked about achievements at Company A.

“Well, I just led an initiative to put the whole company on Slack and it’s increased productivity by 10%,” Pat tells the audience or anyone who will listen.

You see, Pat doesn’t want to say “I made this decision to put us all on Slack and it ended up being a huge waste of money and our employees hated it” because that’s an indictment on Pat.

So Pat’s peers listen to him exaggerate (not realizing he’s exaggerating) and assume, they, too, need Slack at their companies.

This isn’t meant to pick on Slack (although, we do firmly believe it is a crutch for companies who lack communication standards and protocols).

The point is that companies often let others tell it what it needs rather than the other way around.

The solution to this is simple.

You know what problems your company faces. You know where there is waste. You know where there is opportunity.

If not, hire a consultant.

The point is: Do your own research to find weaknesses and opportunities and then look for software that can solve and capture them respectively.

Maybe there is off-the-shelf software out there and all you have to do is purchase a license and install it.

But more likely, if you really are looking to solve a specific problem or capture a competitive advantage, you’ll have to hire someone to build the solution tailored specifically to your needs.

Do that, with a reputable company, and you and your employees will be on the opposite end of our poll.