May 31 2017 Manufacturers Developing Applications: Brilliant Or Foolhardy?



Should you trust manufacturers with application development?

I bring up this question since several of my customers have reached out to me recently to discuss how they can move away from the manufacturer for development and support of their applications. When they were all making their selection for a technology refresh, they went through the standard process in our industry:

  • Consult Gartner to identify the leaders in the industry (“Magic Quadrant”)
  • Issue RFPs to the manufacturers listed in the Magic Quadrant
  • Select the manufacturer to provide the technology
  • Use the manufacturer’s professional services to install and implement the desired solution

While the first three steps of this process are reasonable, my question is always, “Why do you think the manufacturer is the best choice to develop and support your applications?”

Systems Are a Science, Applications Are an Art

I guess if you look around, there is a precedent for this type of thinking in other industries. If you buy a new car, it is probably prudent to have the dealer do the maintenance work on the car. They will definitely be more expensive, but you are assured they will know your vehicle and will use the right parts. And then there is that warranty to consider, of course.

However, this approach does not hold true for application development – well, other than the fact that the manufacturer will likely be more expensive.

You certainly wouldn’t ask the builder of your new home to help you decorate it. Similarly, you shouldn’t ask manufacturer of your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform to write your IVR applications.

In the end, it comes down to the difference between art and science. There is a science to developing a reliable IVR system – redundancy, scalability, expandability, support for industry standards. Manufacturers know how to do that. Developing a good IVR application, however, is an art. An IVR application developer needs to understand how the callers want to perform their transactions, and then design the application in a manner that the transaction can be completed effortlessly.

Manufacturers Have Their Limitations

The crux of the problem is that the manufacturer has a limited toolbox to work with when developing your application.

First, they will always develop your application in the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) that comes with the platform. They are encouraged to use the built-in IDE because that’s all they know and tying your application to the IDE locks you into using their platform. Most IVRs support the open standard application language, VoiceXML, which allows your application to run on any IVR platform in case years down the road you decide to switch vendors.

Second, manufacturers are often unfamiliar with how to use advanced IVR features such as speech recognition, and text-to-speech, and voice biometrics that are typically not supplied by the manufacturer of the IVR platform. The development team will often defer to the manufacturer of those products for guidance and often subcontract those portions of the application development to that manufacturer. As a result, you have an application developed by multiple parties often not working together in a cohesive manner to guarantee usable application.

Third, and probably most important, IVR application development requires programmers that are familiar with your industry and how your company interacts with customers. Without insight into your company and the products and services you provide, the manufacturer is going to develop the application according to their best practices not yours.

…And They Know It

The reality is that while manufacturers may know the best way to manufacture the systems you want for your contact center, they are not the best candidates for developing the applications for your contact center. You are certainly not going to use Dell or Lenovo to develop applications for your new laptop; the same strategy should hold true for your critical business applications.

Manufacturers are themselves realizing that they are not good at application development and support. Most manufacturers today are expanding their channel partner programs to utilize partners that specialize in certain industries and technologies. They are moving to a model where they simply create the products and partner experts take on the responsibility of customizing the solution to meet customer needs. The strategy allows them to focus on their core strengths and reduces the liability on the organization.

Final Thought

In the end, it comes down to trust.

Trust your technology to those who have proven products in the industry and trust the development of your business applications to those who understand your business and have a proven track record of dependability and success. Choose the right vendor for the right task and your chances of success are guaranteed.