Welcome to the 2019 3rd Quarter Mitrais newsletter!
In this edition we would like to introduce one of our clients, Cider House. Cider House Information and Communication Technologies is a perfect example of a family-owned business that has evolved strong industry knowledge and expertise into a successfully long-term business that is an industry leader in their field. Mitrais is proud to be involved in the development of Cider House’s new mobile platform.
Next, we want to take you to have a closer look at 2 strategies commonly described as a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) and Custom (or Bespoke) Software Development. Find the full article of Buy or Build and we will give you our insights on both strategies.
Lastly, we would like to introduce Bayu Cahyadi, one of our excellent Project Managers and our Featured Employee for this quarter. Find out more about his lifelong fascination with IT that helps in forging his career in Mitrais.
The Right People at The Right Time - Cider House ICT
It’s always great to come across a family-owned business that has evolved strong industry knowledge and expertise into a successfully long-term business that is an industry leader in their field. Cider House Information and Communication Technologies (Cider House ICT) is a perfect example. From the beginning, the Cider House team could see there was an unsatisfied niche in the market, and were sure they could fill it.
Starting with the first iteration of the CHSVET Veterinary Practice Management System (VPMS) more than 20 years ago, it was clear from the start that practices everywhere were crying out for a solution that would enable them to effectively manage their businesses through enabling them insight into their valuable data. CHSVET VPMS was developed after considerable assessment conducted of existing practice management software, as well as significant market feedback conducted among an extensive network of veterinary practice managers. Those initial providers remain consultants and users of CHSVET to this day. And, given that CHSVET combined this with features that could easily scale from SMEs to large scale veterinary groups while remaining a cost effective solution with superior service and support, it is no surprise that it was a success. So much so, that in 1999 Cider House ICT were the recipients of the prestigious Maroondah City Council Small Business Encouragement Award in recognition of their extended customer support.
It didn’t stop there, however, and Cider House ICT is now an established supplier of quality hardware, software and services in the education, veterinary and general CRM spaces, as well as providing specialised e-safety and security solutions to schools. The Cider House ICT stable currently includes CHSVET (which is now based on international standards and integrates PetCOIN crypto-currency making it truly cutting edge), PetBooqz (which adopts VetXML for interoperability and can work on or offline as connectivity demands) and Advance Notice (an On-line appointment, boarding and e-commerce platform with optimised connection for CHSVET, PetBooqz and the Your Local Vet mobile platform, together with open APIs and a data structure consistent with VetXML standards).
In addition to the broad range of products that Cider House ICT already provides, there was an emerging demand for a new product. A mobile platform was envisaged that would allow veterinary practitioners initially, and broader health professionals including doctors and dentists etc eventually, to combine client records with loyalty programs, live reminders, appointment booking ecommerce and more. Having already gained buy in from a major player, Doug Bail (Director at Cider House ICT) faced the challenge of delivering this application (Your Local Vet) to the high quality that they were famous for, and quickly. With the existing workload on his in-house team, Doug sought out Mitrais to supplement his team. “It was this last development that prompted us to seek outsourced support through Mitrais. Our clients required an iOS/Android development with some strategic custom development over short time-frames.”
As he says, “Utilising the services of Mitrais we were able to focus on the core features and development strategy while making sure the extra resources were available to meet both anticipated and unexpected demands without going through an extensive advertising/trialling/training regime which in itself soaks up valuable management resources.”
Doug needed an extended team with the right skills in place and working with his in-house team as soon as possible – and Mitrais delivered. “Mitrais quickly had a team of people evaluated and filtered based on skills from which we could choose” he says. “It was a fast and effective means of adding the required people resources.”
With Cider House ICT’s history and corporate culture, though, Doug needed more than just an anonymous body-shop. It was very important that they select a development partner that reflected their values, and Doug was impressed here too.
“We particularly liked the attention Mitrais pays to ensuring their staff are accorded decent pay and conditions. With sick leave, annual leave, training programs and more, we were able to add flexible and highly trained additional people resources while ensuring quality working conditions. We consider this crucial.”
While all of this gave Doug confidence in engaging with Mitrais, the real test of working with a software development is, of course, how it works on a day to day basis. For Doug, the results have been worthwhile. “The experience has been very successful, despite our clients not progressing projects as anticipated. We were able to leverage the additional resources to meet other custom developments, add resources to key developments and otherwise ensure best utilisation of local people assets”.
So, what is Doug’s advice to others thinking about working with a software development partner like Mitrais? “We have no hesitation in recommending Mitrais as an ethical, well-structured and very well managed group” he says.
And, at Mitrais, we look forward to continuing to add value to Cider House ICT and contributing to their continued success well into the future.
Now that you have decided that your organisation needs to adopt a software solution to support your business, your customers, and/or increase your productivity (or all 3!), the next decision might be the most complex one of all. At its core, the decision is going to be between adopting an existing “generic” solution from an established vendor, or to opt to start with a blank page and build software specific to your needs from the ground up. Often these 2 strategies are described as a Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) versus Custom (or Bespoke) Software Development.
Firstly, it is very important to acknowledge that there is no “right” answer to this question. The requirements, aspirations and budgets of different organisations vary widely. To successfully tackle it, we need to navigate through the pros and cons of the alternatives. Let’s have a closer look at the choices.
For some, the software they are looking for will support only one part of their business processes in relative isolation. In many cases, the rules and requirements associated with that process are strict and mandatory. Consider, for example, a standard General Ledger Accounting System. If you are looking for an Accounting solution, there may be little opportunity or need to customise how your accounts are managed – your accounting package must maintain records in compliance with legal requirements, and the market is well-served with established and mature vendors who satisfy these needs. You may need interoperability with your other systems, and often these vendors offer this type of functionality as a relatively inexpensive add-on (assuming your other systems are well-known offerings). The other advantage of a COTS solution like this is that the vendor is likely quite responsive to legislative and compliance changes, offering timely upgrades to take them into account. To a large extent, this insulates you from the need to make constant changes to your base systems. And, because a COTS vendor is spreading the development and maintenance costs of their product across all of their clients, the up-front savings over custom development can make the case a fairly compelling one. Some COTS vendors support the customisation of their offerings, and this can be a good middle ground between “vanilla” COTS and a full-blown bespoke solution.
There are potential disadvantages to a COTS solution, though. Adopting such a solution requires you to place your faith in the quality and stability of the vendor’s business. How good is their support, for instance? Since a vendor needs to produce a solution that meets MOST of the needs of MOST of their clients, they might not be open to modifying their solution to meet your specific requirements unless they see evidence that it would be attractive to a significant portion of their other clients. Adopting a COTS solution can sometimes require you to change your business practices to match the needs of the software (rather than the other way around), and you need to be prepared for the situation where a new version needs you to do so regularly. COTS solutions are often provided on a subscription licensing basis, so there is always the possibility of unforeseen cost increases. If the vendor is at any point acquired by another entity or ceases to trade, you may be forced into “changing horses mid-river”, absorbing the cost and effort of unexpectedly having to rejig your systems to accommodate an alternative solution with little or no notice.
Often more cost effective initially
Reliance on a 3rd party vendor
Built-in support from vendor
Limited influence on functional\interoperability improvements
Automatic updates in response to changes
Business processes must match software
Access to user community in some cases
Licensing costs subject to change
Custom Software Development
By their very nature, custom software is perfectly tailored to your business’s needs. You alone control the specifications and features of your application. If the purpose of the software that you have in mind is to create a holistic, integrated system that serves every part of your business’s workflow, developing a custom piece of software can represent a strategic investment resulting in a competitive advantage for you over others in your market. Some take that idea a step further, and consider white-labelling parts of their custom software to others, creating a completely new revenue stream.
Custom software development also represents a significant Intellectual Property asset for your organisation. It can encapsulate and support innovation that makes you different to your competitors and provides your customers with features that are unmatched in your market.
While the up-front costs of custom software development is nearly always significantly higher than that of implementing a COTS solution, that is not the entire equation. Over time, you need to consider the licensing costs of a COTS solution. Is your COTS solution licensing based on the number of users within your organisation, the number of transactions that you perform, or some other size metric? If so, what happens to that licensing cost when you grow? With a custom software development, your per-user costs can be contained, as you are using your own systems.
Exact match to your requirements
Higher initial investment
Creation of Intellectual Property asset/competitive advantage
Effort required to define initial functionality and subsequent enhancements
Potential for resale/licensing revenue streams
No automatic updates
No (or limited) recurrent licensing costs
No support outside of what you provide
As we mentioned at the outset, there is no right or wrong answers to this choice. The best strategy will depend on your needs and aspirations for the software solution, and that will vary considerably from company to company.
At its simplest, a good rule of thumb when considering custom software development, and one that is widely agreed by the industry to be valid, is the 80/20 rule. If an available COTS solution affordably delivers 80% of the functionality you require for 20% of the cost of developing an alternative from scratch, it is well worth considering. Providing that you understand and accept the risks and have mitigation strategies in place, this is a completely legitimate, and potentially cost-saving strategy.
If, however, you see your software as being mission-critical and strategic to your organisation’s growth and development, and need control of its feature set and licensing, an investment in custom software may be a good choice. There are many successful organisations who have made this investment in their intellectual property, and have gone on to realise great benefits from doing so. If you are prepared to invest the financial and organisational capital necessary to create a completely new software solution, you may find custom software development suits you.
Choosing Your Development Partner
Whether you have decided that custom software is right for you or that modification of an existing COTS system is a better fit, you need to decide who you can trust to develop it? The choice of developer is a crucial one.
Do they have a track record of delivering solutions like yours? Do they have the resources and know-how to deliver your product in a reasonable timeframe? Do their quality systems align with your own? How do they support a product once it is delivered, and manage maintenance and enhancements?
A critical point to remember is that good development partners will be completely confident with the technologies to be used in developing your software, but only you completely understand the nuances of your business, your requirements and your client’s needs. Expect that you (or your key staff) will need to be involved heavily at the inception of a custom software development. Experience shows that 90% of the risk in the development of a custom development occurs during this phase, where the exact definitions of what the software will do are documented. As with everything, the proper planning and specification of the solution, along with exhaustive user testing before commissioning are the absolute keys to success.
One of our excellent Project Managers, Bayu Cahyadi was born with his twin, Whisnu, in Bandung. His father was such a fan of West Javanese traditional puppetry (known as Wayang Golek), that he said that he named the twins after the characters portrayed – Batara Bayu and Batara Wisnu. Bayu fondly remembers watching performances on local television every Saturday night with his father.
Growing up, he and his brother exhibited typical twin behaviour at first, dressing alike and attending the same kindergarten and schools right up to graduating junior high school.
Bayu initially found a great fascination in IT, which he studied at junior high school. But as he progressed through senior high school, his focus switched to chemistry, and he even represented his school at the International Chemistry Olympiad (ICHO).
University found him gravitating back toward programming, however, and as his interest deepened he was appointed a Computer Programming Laboratory Assistant in only his 2nd year, delivering programming training in PASCAL and C++ for first-year college students. He also tried some freelance work creating applications for clients.
While Whisnu went on to a Master’s Degree in psychology and a career as a lecturer at the prestigious Padjajaran University, Bayu studied and graduated with a degree in Informatics Engineering from Sekolah Tinggi Teknologi Telkom Bandung (now known as Telkom University). Both he and Whisnu had been strongly influenced by their mother, a teacher, and Bayu credits her with instilling them with both the discipline to learn and her love of mathematics. Both the boys have found these incredibly useful in their careers.
On graduating, Bayu joined a fellow graduate for a short time in his start-up, providing software development to deliver premium SMS content to the public (a boom industry at the time). In 2005, Bayu read about Mitrais in the local newspaper, and the prospect of challenging himself in a large, international software development organisation was too much of a temptation. Given his background, it is not surprising that his application process was very smooth, and before he knew it he was offered a role as a developer.
Bayu initially saw joining Mitrais as a mixed blessing, though. Although he was excited by the opportunity to forge a career with such a reputable firm, he was (of course) sad that it would mean that he would need to relocate away from his family in Bandung to Bali, at least initially. But the warm welcome he received from his new Mitrais friends and colleagues reduced any homesick feelings that he had, and he was soon enjoying running, beach soccer and basketball, working hard during the week, and vacationing around Bali on the weekends.
Since then, Bayu has forged ahead in Mitrais, establishing himself as a knowledgeable team member with talent in a number of areas, and the personality to allow others to easily interact with (and learn from) him. Many Mitrais clients have also benefitted from his skills, and he is well regarded by them as well.
So, Bayu is clearly a talented member of the Mitrais team, but what is his “secret talent”? He is a master coffee brewer, enjoying not only manually brewing great coffee, but also indulging in a little “latte art”, expertly creating tulips and love hearts on demand. And with a wife who is an expert home baker, perhaps a café might be in his future some day?
Bayu says he lives his life according to one of his favourite quotes. As the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) told us “The best of people among you are those that bring most benefit to the rest of mankind”. Bayu says “What motivates me on a daily basis is to make myself useful and give the most benefit to people around me, whether it is for my work, my family or others”. And we can see that he really walks-the-walk in this regard.