In an earlier post, I talked about what makes for a great IBM i software vendor.
Today, I am going to add to those ideas by talking about vendor software families and how good integrated packages increase the benefits you receive when installing new software.
Here are four areas where your software and vendor selection increases the value of IBM i third-party software.
1. Companion products
Good software vendors offer families of products that work together. At DRV Tech for example, we offer spooled file distribution software that integrates with report re-formatter, electronic forms, and database query/report writer software.
When you buy third-party IBM i software, you’re also buying into a company’s software family, one that’s available for future expansion.
While you should always buy software that best matches your needs, it’s worth looking at what else the vendor brings to the table. There may be other packages you’ll need later on to extend your functionality and provide new capabilities. And it’s usually easier to integrate two packages from the same company.
2. Add-on modules
A fair IBM i pricing model insures that buyers don’t pay for capabilities they don’t need. Many companies including DRV Tech, provide modular software that can be used to add capabilities in later years.
When buying new third-party software, look at the modules that you aren’t purchasing today. While they may provide benefits you don’t need or have the budget for this year, you may need to add those capabilities next year in a phase-two rollout.
For example, DRV Tech’s SpoolFlex software provides spooled file management and distribution for IBM i partitions. A customer can buy the core package this year. If their audit requirements increase next year, they can add the audit trail add-on module. If they need increased security, they could also add the advanced security module.
Add-on modules are a great way to plan for future capabilities and budget-and-pay-as-you go, rather than buying the entire package up front and paying for features you don’t need to implement right now.
Remember. Your software implementation won’t be static. You may have to add new features and provide new benefits every year. Rather than coding those features yourself, look at what else the vendor has to offer that you can take advantage of later.
3. Integration with your primary IBM i package
Most IBM i third-party packages provides capabilities that aren’t available with your primary software. A report writing package like DBXFLEX may provide query capabilities for a banking package like Jack Henry & Associates.
The key is to ask your vendor how well their software integrates with your core production package.
If you’re running a JD Edwards ERP environment for example, how well does the software you’re buying integrate with your most critical JDE modules? Many vendors integrate and test their software against popular enterprise-wide software packages for ERP, health care, banking, and other industries.
Ask your vendor if there are any features or integration points that work well with your primary IBM i package. Good integration with outside packages can save you additional development time later.
4. Application program interfaces (APIs)
While it’s great to configure and use third-party apps through GUIs, green-screen commands, menus, or job schedulers, there’s nothing like integrating functionality directly into your own programming with APIs.
Check out what APIs and exit points are available with the software. Find out how easy is it to call a feature from within your own custom programs. Determine what kind of exit points the package offers for adding your own functionality to a feature.
The question here is, how easy is it to extend a package’s functionality, or for you to add their program features into your own development? With APIs, you’re buying additional functionality to integrate vendor code into your own applications. You don’t have to recreate a function that’s already included in your package, if you’ve already licensed an API that performs that function.
Learn more about DRV Tech’s report automation and document management software family