Shall I develop a utility product inhouse, or look for a cloud-based product?

Shall I develop a utility product inhouse, or look for a cloud-based product?

Imagine this scenario – You plan to leverage a smart utility software strategy, but are yet to decide on the actual execution of the strategy. Some of your team members are suggesting that you go for a reputed cloud-based billing software to help you out while some colleagues are leaning towards creating an internal team to get started. What should be the right method? Should you develop the utility billing software product inhouse or go for a cloud-based product? We weigh in the options for you here by looking at major considerations. 

Requirements 

If you are looking for a product which can help you manage all your utility billing requirements, there are some factors that are a must have. A product which can help you manage complex billing processes and consider rate changes while ensuring error handling. The product should also be able to help you manage all your workforce and inventory. Invoice handling is another important factor. Another consideration would be to decide the level of automation you desire. Your team might do well with the highest levels of automation, but is that feasible enough for you to plan and accomplish your goals without losing too much of time? Too many requirements might make it really difficult for you to finish the project on time if you decide to develop it internally. This is where a cloud-based solution can help – to prioritise, plan, implement and achieve.  

Our verdict: Developing a product inhouse can be considered based on your requirements but a customized cloud-based billing software might be a better option since it can be easily tweaked to take into consideration major requirements.  

Cost

The initial costs of an in-house product are definitely on the higher side as it involves getting a license. Servers, devices and consultation fees should also be factored in. Bug fixes, development processes, project management and upgrades will also come with their own additional costs. Add the costs for system setup, IT infrastructure and resources. Contrast that with a cloud-based solution which is typically used by multiple companies. A monthly fee along with a one-time implementation cost is what companies can expect to shell out. Pay-per-use models make the proposition even more worthwhile to consider. 

Our verdict: A cloud-based billing software wins hands down when it comes to costs as a SaaS-based solution used by multiple clients can bring the costs further down for all parties involved. 

Maintenance 

Now imagine that a utility company has been able to develop a product in-house. The job is only half done as the main uphill task still lies ahead – maintaining the product. This is not restricted to just the upkeep of the product in the form of bug fixes, issue resolution etc. but also involves further product enhancements. A team has to be dedicated to the product, which means additional effort, focus and cost for the maintenance activity. If a cloud-based billing software is used, the burden of maintenance lies on the solution provider. They can use their expertise and best practices to ensure regular updates and enhancements. A company can also be on par with their competitors through such a solution as a SaaS solution provider can ensure industry leading examples are applied to your business too. No additional hardware or software might be required to be installed, which means end-to-end management of the project. 

Our verdict: Though teams can definitely be set up in-house to ensure continued product enhancements, maintenance becomes a lot smoother and hassle-free if a cloud-based billing software is incorporated. 

Time to value / market

In today’s world, having an idea is not enough. Implementation makes all the difference. An in-house product will take its own time as companies might want to perfect their product. A lot of the times, companies become victims of excess perfectionism. They of course do learn from their own mistakes over a period of time, but often lose sight of the big picture in the end. This is the exact reason why companies go for outsourcing. They need to see results fast and can’t wait for their competitors to surge ahead. A cloud-based solution is a better bet since the vendor comes with years of experience of having implemented the solution for similar companies. Depending upon the scale of the project, a good cloud-based utility solution should be able to develop a plan with crystal clear goals and train the client teams to get hands-on experience with the product. 

Our verdict: With all the time in the world, it is very much possible to develop a decent utility software in-house. But if a company wants to be realistic and go to market soon while keeping their competitive advantage in place, a cloud-based solution is better. 

Security

When a product is developed in-house, the company will have greater control over their data. An internal security team can make this even more robust. A cloud-based solution would be secure too since SaaS-based utility software solutions do follow all the major security guidelines. Breaches and hacks are of course very much possible in either of the cases. 

Our verdict: Both the scenarios are at an almost equal footing since it all boils down to the security standards that companies follow. 

Our final verdict

Developing a product in-house is definitely interesting and gives you better control over the progress of a project. It also becomes easier to communicate internally and prioritize. However, a cloud-based utility billing software is any day a lot easier to implement since you get a trusted partner to implement your vision. You can also focus on other strategic activities and tasks while keeping an eye on the progress of the project. It also helps leverage best practices while taking the advantage of bulk discounts / rates. An additional brownie point goes to cloud-based solutions since companies can focus on their core business. What really makes a big difference is the solution provider that you go for – somebody who knows the utility business, can help cover a slew of areas like billing, customer experience, workforce automation and inventory would be a safe bet to go for. Such a software can be a delight for all your stakeholders – customers, field staff and supervisors. Wondering how? We would be happy to let you know how!