Ben Franklin and The False Economy

Posted by Lucidea on 9/1/2016

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Originally Posted 1/12/2016

Benjamin Franklin, the founder of America’s first lending library, wrote: “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” We think Mr. Franklin would likely agree that discount ILS platforms often don’t provide the long term quality (i.e. value) that financially savvy and strategic library leaders must require.

When you buy a technology product, you are also buying into an ecosystem, with all the value that delivers. In today’s information based world, buyers have more research and knowledge at their fingertips than ever before (often doing 90% of their fact finding before even making contact with a vendor) and can come to fully informed expectations of price and value.

The “sweetness of low price” is often very attractive, but consider this: small or new vendors need to quickly develop an installed base, and so they will offer low cost solutions as an incentive. That’s great, but it’s a catch-22 because they may never be able to fund the R&D required to produce new versions, deliver upgrades, and meet evolving requirements such as smartphone support and social media integration.

Buying into the low price solution might mean that you experience the “bitterness of poor quality (i.e. value)” over the long term, when your ILS can’t keep up with the latest technology and the emerging needs of your users – meaning that you cannot fully leverage your organization’s information assets and you lose your competitive advantage.

Low cost solutions usually translate to a greater labor burden on the customer – either in the form of required (and ongoing) IT support or expensive third party consultants. They may also translate to higher financial risk, since vendors with shorter track records may go out of business or be acquired - and then what will you do? At the very least, a costly migration could be in the wind.

Returning to fully informed expectations of price and value, and in the context of a knowledge ecosystem, one useful question to ask is: “Do you see your organization as similar to those in the Lucidea client community, for example, or as a DIY organization with abundant downstream resources for IT support and consultants?” (And by the way, going the Open Source route usually requires the same downstream labor resources as a solution purchased from a smaller vendor. Plus, when you encounter problems, as the Ghostbusters would say: “Who You Gonna Call?”)

A second question to ask is: “Will my organization benefit from working with a vendor that has a long track record in the business, and multiyear experience with similar entities facing similar challenges?”

When you are evaluating an information technology solution, whether it’s an ILS, KM platform, or collections management system, don’t just focus on price - look for the following indicators of value:

  • Longevity in the business and financial stability
  • Cutting edge technology
  • Hosted solutions (Cloud, SaaS)
  • Experience across many sectors, geographies and client sizes
  • Demonstrated commitment to client service

The bottom line? Sweetly priced solutions without an equal or greater emphasis on long term value don’t support the sustainability and relevance of special libraries or their parent organizations. So, “who you gonna call?”

Topics: Library Management, Knowledge Management, Information Management

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