Developing and maintaining software is a tough game to play. But the historic lack of solutions in the energy industry has forced brokers to become developers. Until now.
As a founder of a software business, there is nothing more satisfying than to pick up a ringing phone to hear from a potential new customer. Someone who, having found our little company on Google or after been referred through one of our existing customers, has got in touch reactively to talk about coming on board.
For the last year or more, the vast majority of our revenue has been down to exactly that – reactive sales. We haven’t pushed people to sign on the dotted line, nor have we made false claims to get deals done. To us, that’s always seemed a fruitless exercise. After all, promise something you can’t deliver and ultimately it will all fall down eventually.
When we started UC, we expected the lack of suitable software solutions in the procurement sector would be to our advantage. Every reactive call we receive is sparked by something which differs from customer to customer – rapid expansion, the end of their existing CRM contract, the need for a complete end to end solution. But one reason above all others comes across all too frequently – many brokers have been forced to try and solve the lack of a decent system by taking on the challenge themselves: build a system in-house.
I’d say that 30-40% of calls we receive are from brokers who either have a system in-house which is not able to meet their needs, or who have spent tens or even hundreds of thousands building a system which hasn’t been completed, or is way off their initial spec. I can only assume this comes down to mis-selling by development companies – promising the dream of providing intellectual property that the broker can proudly store on their balance sheet and a low-maintenance solution ready for the future.
The fact is, that however simple and straight forward you envisage a software system to be, it will be at least a factor of ten times more complex, more involving and more time consuming to get right. Building a system which truly manages your business requirements end-to-end is a mammoth task.
From a capital expenditure stance, building the base software to a ‘complete’ stage will cost a multiple of what you may expect. The intricacies of systemising the procurement and contract management process are engrossing – miss out part of your process and your staff will be forced to use other third party systems to fill in the gaps. Try to simplify too far at risk of losing flexibility in your business operations. And don’t forget to account for bugs – lots, and lots, and lots of them (trust me!) for every part of the system you develop. Bug fixes and tweaks will at least double the cost of your software venture.
From an operational expenditure stance, we are talking maintenance. Making sure things are running smoothly in the face of industry change, business growth, new legislation such as GDPR, evolving requirements of your users and even keeping the system running error-free with as close to 100% uptime as possible.
This is not an easy task, especially when software isn’t your bag. Brokers are specialists – in selling energy, maintaining a loyal customer base and providing guidance on all things utility-related. Diverting time (and a lot of it) to developing software often results in regular headaches, spiralling expenditure and – ultimately – leads you back to a third party solution.
Software is tough, but now we are firmly in the market, at least there’s a comprehensive solution which allows you to focus on what you do best!