As a software company, people ask us why they should buy IBM i professionally developed software instead of programming the functionality themselves.
I started discussing this question in an earlier post on why writing your own IBM i do-it-yourself (DIY) software isn’t really a bargain, and why you should look to professionally developed software for common IBM i functions such as report generation.
But there’s more to the story. Professional third-party IBM i software also benefits your application development process. Here are four ways that professionally developed software can improve your application environment.
Benefit #1: Professionally developed software frees up programming resources
Buying professionally developed software frees up staff programming time to work on other projects that provide better value for your organization.
As an example, here are some common professional packages that most shops can implement at a low cost, as opposed to creating a DIY solution.
- Report writing software that shifts custom report generation to user or administrative staff. Check out my blog post on getting your programmers out of the report writing business for more information on how this works.
- Document management software that lets you design forms and populate them with IBM i data to print and distribute electronic forms, such as checks and invoices
- Paperless reporting software that enables electronic distribution of IBM i documents in digital formats that employees, customers, and business partners can immediately use
Using professionally developed software allows you to focus programming resources on critical new applications that will advance the business, rather than reinventing a package or function that has already been developed.
Benefit #2: Cut in-house maintenance workload
Using professional designed software to replace custom programming can also reduce your maintenance workload. With a DIY package, your application department has to support, troubleshoot, and fix any issues that develop.
Software vendors have on-call support desks to diagnose and fix issues as they occur, which includes help desk specialists as well as level 2 and level 3 technicians and the program’s developers. Many vendors also work with customers to provide custom-written modules that are specific to customer needs. And the vendor will develop and distribute bug fixes and updated versions.
You’re not just purchasing software with professionally developed packages; you’re purchasing a support and maintenance team that includes the entire development organization, along with the experience of hundreds of the vendor’s customers.
Benefit #3: It bootstraps you into ready-to-go software
For custom-written software, you have to create your own database, interfaces, and code.
With vendor software, you purchase a pre-written environment for adding new software functions to your organization. You then configure the software to handle your processing.
Vendors also provide software exit points to add functions specific to your organization without changing the main code (preserving the code base for later updates). Exit points allow you to insert custom code into the software to extend a feature or interface with other systems. Many packages also allow you to include APIs for additional processing within the code. As mentioned above, vendors can code custom modifications for a customer, as requested. Finally, user interfaces can be changed to customize the software to your organization’s needs.
While vendor software is ready-to-go for its intended purchase, there are interfaces and techniques where you can customize the software and add functionality created specifically for your organization.
Benefit #4: It’s easier to deploy on schedule
With professionally developed software, you have a pre-written and pre-tested environment. You then install and integrate the software into your environment, which is more efficient than developing from scratch with your own code.
Many universal packages such as IBM i monitoring systems and report writing packages, require less configuration. More complicated packages such as ERP systems or data warehouse software, take more configuration (and possibly consulting) to implement. Good packages employ best programming standards, are pre-written for the function they service, and are supported by the vendor’s support team. All of which jump-starts your deployment over a custom-written implementation.
The Real Benefits
Buying a professionally developed software package at a reasonable price provides new functionality for your organization. It can save programming time, reduce maintenance workload, provide an environment for adding new functionality, and speed up your deployment schedule. All of which show why when you’re ready to add new functionality to your IBM i partitions, it’s a good idea to look at using professionally developed software as well as developing the software in-house.
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