About 20 years ago, back in the early days of mrc, I specifically remember a few big software companies. These were the established players, the companies that couldn’t fail. Sure, they sold expensive software, but companies bought from them because it was a safe choice.
Then, one by one, they went out of business. All of their customers were stuck with software that was no longer supported or updated. Because it was all proprietary software built on closed foundations, nobody could maintain it. Soon, it was completely obsolete. Hundreds of thousands of dollars went down the drain because the companies that were “too big to fail” actually failed.
Here’s a lesson I’ve learned over the years: Nobody is “too big to fail.” Never base a software purchase on company size, but on software capabilities and foundation. What do I mean? Obviously, any software you purchase should address all of your needs, but it should also operate on an open and flexible foundation. Why? Here are four reasons why choosing software with an open foundation is critical:
1. If the vendor goes out of business, it’s not obsolete. Software built on a closed, proprietary foundation is dead if the vendor goes under. Nobody supports it, nobody improves it. However, software built on open architecture and frameworks is still supported by a large user community even if the vendor goes out of business.
2. Customization options. Open architecture is easily customized to fit your business needs. Closed, proprietary software is also customizable, but usually only by the vendor. You know what that means? There’s no competition…so, they charge whatever they want. On the other hand, you have many options when customizing open architecture.
3. Works well with your current software. Open architecture integrates well with your current software and systems. That means you don’t have to worry about disparate systems that don’t communicate with each other. That means you don’t have to type the same information into different systems.
4. Work well with each other. Open source software/frameworks work well with other open source software/frameworks. Here’s a great example for you: This application uses Java, jQuery, and Google maps and was designed with a modified version of CKEditor (open source WYSIWYG editor). It retrieves data in real-time from the database, and even updates the database and re-draws the map when orders are dragged to different trucks. All of these different parts work perfectly together, and even better yet, nothing is closed.
To sum everything up, architecture is one of the most important aspects of software. When you buy closed, proprietary software, you put yourself at the mercy of the vendor. They charge whatever they want for customization and you are stuck with unsupported software should they ever go out of business. On the other hand, open software works well with others and doesn’t tie you to any one vendor. In other words, it puts you in charge of your own future.