Fitting the Solution to Problem

Anye Freer
Architect - Modifly

Imagine your kitchen sink is leaking and you call a plumber to fix it.  The plumber arrives with a single wrench, and that wrench is too large to tighten the pipe.  The plumber then explains to you that to fix the sink will require replacing all the pipes with larger ones so that he will be able to tighten the connections with his wrench.  You would chase that plumber out of your house post-haste!  You don’t have to be a plumbing expert to see that the solution here is to get a smaller wrench, which is much easier and much cheaper than replacing all the pipes just so that the wrench that happens to be on hand can be used!

Why then do so many fall prey to the technology equivalent of this scenario?  A company calls in consultants (who just happen to be experts in a particular software platform) to solve a problem that they have, and the consultants bend over backwards to figure out how to solve that problem with the software platform that they like to use, regardless of whether it is the right tool for the job.  Whether they do this because of a strategic partnership with a vendor or because they are most familiar with that platform is besides the point, the end result is the same – if you prioritize the tool over the job, it is very likely that the end result will be more expensive and more cumbersome than if you approach the problem with an open mind and select the right tool for the job.

Part of finding a best-fit solution to a problem involves determining what universe of tools could be applied to the problem and comparing the cost and benefit of selecting a pre-existing tool versus building one from scratch.  This is a question that doesn’t have a universal answer, it really does depend on the problem.  If the problem being solved is one that is fairly common, or at the very least resembles problems that are found in many businesses, then the likelihood of there being an out-of-the-box solution that could be “tweaked” for your purposes is much higher than if the problem is an esoteric one that is truly unique to your business model.  That said, if you have to jump through hoops to “jury rig” a commercial platform to get it to fit your scenario, you might be better off with a custom solution.

A technology partner that has the best interests of your organization at heart will present you with several alternative solutions, including the pros and cons of each one and detailed reasoning why they recommend the selection that they do.  They will have considered many factors in their final recommendation including the skillset of your IT team, your budget, time to market, what other software systems will need to integrate with the solution, what future extensibility and scalability needs will be, and so forth.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if it feels like they want to replace the pipes rather than the wrench, get another opinion!

The IWDR family of companies do not have obligations to any particular software vendor or platform, so we look at each individual relationship with an open mind and no preconceived notions of how to solve that client’s problem.  We talk to our clients, ask a ton of questions about what works for them and what is causing them pain, and weigh many factors to devise a solution that fits their unique scenario.  We take advantage of existing platforms when they fit well and will save time and/or money; we create and customize new platforms when they don’t.