Open Source vs. Custom Build – Which is Better? A guide to choosing between Open Source and Custom Built Solutions

 

Plan By Denise Maia

Small and mid-size businesses face the same dilemma when building a new website: should we build a website from scratch or use an open source CMS solution, such as Joomla, Wordpress, Drupal. Which is better? Which is cheaper? Which will cause less development pain? Which will best turn my ideas into reality? And, ultimately, which will deliver the best ROI?

Building a website from scratch is a great way to get all the bells and whistles you need just the way you want them. Custom built solutions are very flexible. You determine the look-and-feel, the functionality, the tools, the engagement mechanisms, the administrative interface, the reports and the integrations with 3rd party software, such as CRM tools (Customer Relationship Management), marketing optimization tools and the like. However, all that flexibility comes with a cost. The cost can be high, especially if you do not take the time to plan. Then there is the issue of hiring the right developer or development team who understands your vision, your needs and is completely capable of bringing the project to completion on time, on budget, and up to specs. 

The alternative, is generally seen as less expensive: use a CMS (content management software) platform. CMS platforms can be either “free” open source, such as Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, or be a paid solution, such as Sitefinity and Sitecore, or even be an industry-specific service that provides most of what you need for companies in your specific industry. For this post, I’ll concentrate on the open source platforms since they have grown so popular.

At first glance open source software products provide a lot of functionality, and provide it free. The core of the CMS functionality is that it allows non-technical users to add pages and content easily. This is very compelling to any company who has had to pay for every content update and it also addresses the demand for lots of frequent site updates. In truth, open source dramatically lowers the costs for these tasks by bringing them inside your organization.

However, today’s web demands increasing sophistication and sexy functionality. We expect it because we see the top sites using carousels, light box effects and more. But the core functionality of open source lies in the CMS, not in the specific functions your site design will surely require and that, in my experience, is where the cost and complexity lies.

Beyond the CMS, additional functionality is achieved through plugins. These are little programs that are written by open source developers to enhance the core product. Choosing the right plugin from a reliable source is where the expense begins:

  • There are many free plugins, but it’s very likely that you will have to purchase some as well, Ka-ching!
  • Regardless if the plugin is free or commercial, your developer will have to install them, Ka-ching!
  • It’s likely that there will be compatibility issues, Ka-ching!
  • It’s likely that the plugins won’t work quite like their description or exactly the way you want or need them to work, Ka-ching!
  • You might have to look for another plugin, customize an existing plugin to your needs, or build one from scratch. Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Ka-ching!

There are further issues with plugins, the more plugins you add the more chances of incompatibly you will have when it’s time to upgrade to the next version of the core open source software. “OK”, you may think, “we will not upgrade!” But here is the rub, upgrading is your first defense against security problems and other issues. Keeping your core software up to date is an absolute must for a technically stable site.

Plugins are a necessary evil when using open source solutions and that’s why they need to be chosen carefully so development and maintenance costs can be minimized. If you do not chose with care, the cost of open source can be as high as the cost of building a custom solution. 

Whether executing a custom build or using an open source platform, planning is the key to success. 

In reality, no matter which way you go: custom or open source, building a web site is never without bumps along the way. Once you see how things work it is entirely likely you will want adjustments. So build that into your plan.

Whether you're a small, mid-size or large business, before you begin carefully consider your options. There are no right or wrong solutions, it all depends on your needs, so before you green light to a build:  

1) Envision: Envision how your website would work if there were no budget limitations. Envision all the engagement mechanisms, the tools and the features and how each one would function. Take time to consider your multiple audiences and the user experience.

2) Specify: Review the top open source platforms available, such as Joomla, Wordpress and Drupal, and their plugins. Will any of them fulfill your vision? Do they have all the plugins you need or will you have to customize or write a plugin from scratch?  Create a feature set document where you specify exactly what your site will require, then determine, which, if any, open source platforms will fulfill those needs. In my next post I’ll detail the pros and cons of each, but, at a top level, here is a general rule of thumb:

    • Wordpress is great for businesses that need a cheap site with blog functionality. It also has many plugins that can be used to expand it's functionality.
    • Joomla works well for sites that demand more complexity than a Wordpress build but are not hugely demanding. It has powerful resources and easier learning curve for both developers and end users. But it has limitations, it requires repetitive work and understanding of code and it might take more time to get the site working then a Drupal build.
    • Drupal is for complex sites. It has a higher learning curve for the user, it will require more experienced developers, but once you get the hang of it, it’s smoother and more intuitive than Joomla.

3) Quote: Once you’ve specified your needs, get a quote to build using a CMS or to build a solution from scratch. Beyond price, consider: the developer’s experience and team size, scheduling and  the developer’s ability to deliver on time, on budget and up to specs. (Check references with care.)

4) Review and Plan: In my experience, clients experience sticker shock at seeing the estimates for the first time. But don’t worry, you can get what you want for what you can afford, if you break the project down into manageable development phases. Prioritize the features you must have now and slide the “nice-to-have” features into the next phase.  This is an excellent  practice: building a solution now that can be made ready to easily expand for future needs. 

5) Execute: Now that you have your plan, go and execute it! You will never regret all the planning time invested.

 

And off course, if you need expert support, we at Camarès are specialists in turning your web dreams into a profitable reality. Give us a call.

 

 

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When Success is the Only Possible Outcome

 

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Engagement_20130613-032121_1.jpg By Deb Di Gregorio

When practiced responsibly, capitalism provides a more stable and vibrant society for all. Business is a complex and risky endeavor. When business challenges are understood from a broad perspective, positive change is accelerated and success is the only possible outcome.

Mid-sized companies are at the fulcrum of our economy and our social well being. Ensuring their success is nothing short of necessary for our shared peace and prosperity. Today success can only be achieved through situational awareness on a grand scale.

Reducing the risk of failure for any major business endeavor requires exploration of the greatest number of options. A broad perspective provides many potential solutions. Rather than slowing the process it accelerates success enabling companies to get to optimal solutions early.

Domain Expert Myopia

Unfortunately we are increasingly sold on leveraging the knowledge of domain experts as our best opportunity for success. Those who are selling the idea, posit that there is simply too much to know to be a successful generalist. But the problem is domain experts know only what they know – and they don’t know what they don’t know. For the very reason that there is too much to understand in any domain, it takes a major investment in time and energy to become a domain expert and that results in dangerous myopia.

Bankers, accountants and lawyers see the world through their respective lenses, but rarely do they understand business. Or, in today’s tech-driven world it takes a programmer years to learn one language or one platform. Once understood that programmer is absolutely convinced his platform will do everything your company needs including making your breakfast and ironing your shirts. Programming specialists provide the greatest potential for insidious risk: the result of their efforts can ruin your day, everyday – for years.

A domain expert may be able to take a project down the road and bring it to conclusion fast, but there is a very good chance it will be the wrong road, or a road riddled with pot holes, ultimately requiring the organization to start again from the beginning.

Interdisciplinary Expertise 20/20

Rather than domain expertise, business today require teams of interdisciplinary specialists. Individuals who are, for example, both graphic designers and programmers, or IT security experts and managers, or financial experts and marketers. These individuals bring a powerful cross-discipline understanding of cause and effect to problem solving. For example: understanding the resultant technology and business infrastructure impact of a major marketing effort – and how to minimize it.

Interdisciplinary specialists are a much rarer find. Generally they are seasoned professionals with good communications skills and a collegial working style. They have experience working in teams and willingly learn from each other – no matter how seasoned they are. They are no-nonsense in their approach and directed in their mission. 

Creating a team of interdisciplinary specialists assures business management that myriad potential opportunities as well as pitfalls are contemplated as large projects move forward. Only once a broad plan is structured is it time to call in the domain experts who are then perfectly positioned to prove out assumptions and bring deeper domain considerations to the team. 

Visionary Results for Business and Community

Twenty years ago, adopting advanced information technology strategies gave companies a competitive edge. Today, to ensure success, focus must be on cultivating interdisciplinary talent with a zeal for understanding business beyond their area of expertise. And that not only helps mid-sized businesses, it helps everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Di Gregorio Honored as NJ Woman of Influence on May 10

b2ap3_thumbnail_DebDiGregorio-Camares.pngCamarès President, Deb Di Gregorio was one of 50 past honorees of Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey Women of Influence series who gathered last May 10, 2013 at Nanina’s In the Park for the first annual Chairman’s Reception. Di Gregorio served on the first Women of Influence panel held at Ramapo College in 2007.  She and her fellow Women of Influence were honored for their efforts and achievements in the areas of business, government and community outreach.  Lt Governor Kim Guadagno and CIANJ Chair Tracy Straka were joined by more than 150 friends, family and guests in saluting the women for their accomplishments.  Ms. Guadagno spoke about her unique experience as NJ’s first lieutenant governor and lauded the honorees for breaking down barriers in their respective areas and achieving success.

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Deb Di Gregorio foi homenageada como Mulher de Influência em New Jersey dia 10 de Maio

DebDiGregorio-Camares.pngA Presidente da Camarès, Deb Di Gregorio foi uma das 50 mulheres homenageadas pela Associação do Comércio e Indústria de Nova Jersey na séria Mulheres de Influência que se reuniram no último dia 10 de Maio de 2013 no Nanina's In the Park pela primeira reunião anual da presidente da associação. Di Gregorio serviu no primeiro painel das Mulheres de Influência realizado pelo Ramapo College em 2007. Ela e suas companheiras do Mulheres de Influência foram homenageadas por seus esforços e realizações nas áreas de negócios, governo e sensibilização da comunidade. A vice-governadora do estado de Nova Jersey, Kim Guadagno, e a Presidente da CIANJ (Associação do Comércio e Indústria de Nova Jersey),  Tracy Straka, e mais de 150 amigos, familiares e convidados se reuniram para saudar estas mulheres por suas realizações. Guadagno falou sobre sua experiência única como a primeira vice-governadora de Nova Jersey e elogiou as homenageadas por derrubar barreiras nas suas respectivas áreas e alcançar o sucesso.

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Suas Vendas Comprimiram? Não é a economia, são os novos hábitos de compra B2B.

 

Esta economia oferece grandes oportunidades para as empresas de medio porte que vendem B2B. A economia não esta muito quente, nem muito fria. É um ambiente perfeito para a abertura de novos canais de receitas de uma forma ponderada e rentável. No entanto, muitas empresas de medio porte estão relutantes em investir em novas oportunidades de geração de receita, porque muitas vezes já estão enfrentado desafios em gerar negócios a partir dos produtos e serviços que já comercializam.

Este é uma consequencia de uma mudança significativa no hábito de compras de clientes em potenciais, os quais estão exigindo novos conjuntos de habilidades por parte de empresas de médio porte. Estas são as mesmas tendências de compra que vimos desenvolver entre os compradores de consumo (B2C) que agora têm infiltrado no processo de compra B2B e agora estão tendo um sério efeito negativo nas receitas.

O comprador B2B está agora fazendo pré-compras on-line. Em média, o comprador de hoje já está a 57% no processo de decisão de compra no momento em que ele deseja falar com um representante comercial. Em muitos casos, eles são a 70% no processo de compra, independentemente do preço, da complexidade da compra e da incumbência (de acordo com uma pesquisa conjunta Google/CEB de 1.900 empresas).

 

  • Como fazer o B2B pular o processo de pré-compras?

Hoje, como no passado, quando clientes em potenciais precisão efetuar uma comprar eles consultam com colegas de confiança. Mas quando no passado o cliente poderia ter ligado e marcado uma reunião inicial face-a-face, agora este primeiro encontro está sendo adiado até que o cliente em potencial:

  • revise a website das empresas referidas para ver como elas se comunicam.
  • confira as mídias sociais verticais de confiança para ver quais das empresas referidas participam de forma relevante e atraente.
  • poste perguntas sobre as empresas referidas nas mídia sociais verticais, como: "Quem já trabalhou com a empresa XYZ?" Ou mais incisivamente: "Estamos pensando em fazer X alguém já teve experiência com uma empresa que tenha feito isso muito bem?"

 

Como isso se manifesta no dentro da empresa que vende? Aqui está um exemplo:

 

Perguntas simples via website são mal interpretadas

Enquanto os clientes em potenciais estão pesquisando, é de praxe baixar um white papers, um estudos de caso ou fazer perguntas básicas. Eles não querem se envolver com o seu representante comercial diretamente. Eles querem pesquisar em paz. No entanto, agora o vendedor tem o seu nome e e-mail. Isso é muitas vezes mal interpretado pelo departamento de comercial como um contato pronto para efetuar a compra. No entanto, todo contato feito pelo vendedor é ignorado ou rejeitado pelo cliente em potencial e o contato é jogado fora.

 

Marketing e Comercial se culpam mutuamente

O departamento comercial reclama que o departemento de marketing está oferecendo contatos  fracos e o departamento de marketing, usando analytics, afirma que os contatos foram válidos.

Há verdade em ambos os lados do argumento:

  • Os contatos gerados por seu website são bons contatos, porém eles estão simplesmente muito cedo no ciclo de vendas. Eles exigem um novo tipo de tratamento - o qual a equipe de vendas ou marketing podem não estar preparados para dar-los.
  • Pode-se enviar os boletins informativos da empresa (newsletters) para o cliente em potencial, no entanto, é muito mais eficaz a comunicação individual com uma pessoa que é altamente qualificado sobre o produto e tem facilidade de envolver as pessoas através da palavra escrita. Esta é uma tarefa difícil para vendedores tradicional, os quais o conjunto de habilidades tendem ser a persistência e o dom da palavra. 
  • Marketing precisa desenvolver um arsenal de materiais colaterais atraentes e diretamente relevante: estudos de mercado e da indústria, estudos de caso e white papers que demonstram o compromisso da empresa para o sucesso de seus clientes. O departamento de Marketing  pode até compreender o produto, mas não profundamente o suficiente para criar estes materiais relevantes.
  • O website da empresa deve trabalhar mais e falar claramente aos diferentes tipos de clientes em potenciais, começando com a pessoa que está sofrendo "a dor" para solucionar o problema, a pessoa que toma decisão financeira e aos influenciadores. Mas a verdade é que a maioria dos web sites não são centrados ao cliente, eles são centrados na própria empresa. A maioria dos wesites as empresas "falam com si mesmas", e estes devem ser completamente repensado.
  • Comunicações digitais devem agora estar presente em todos os lugares que clientes em potenciais possam fazer suas pesquisas. No entanto, muitas vezes os investimentos em mídas sociais são mal aplicados nas plataformas mais populares, ao invés das quais seus clientes em potenciais realmente se comunicam online.

 

Abraçando o novo comprador e a mudança

O quanto mais cedo você compreender os novos hábitos de compra do seu cliente em potencial, mais cedo você terá recompensas. Responder com sucesso a esta mudança de hábito exigirá uma reorganização interna de talentos e uma nova abordagem estratégica para todo o processo de marketing e vendas:

 

  • Novos treinamento da equipe de vendas pode ser bem sucedida, mas somente até certo ponto. Cada vez mais as empresas estão re-calibrando seus esforços de marketing para apoiar as vendas mais profundamente.

 

  • Redistribuir os especialistas da empresa para funções de suporte de comunicação de marketing, através da participação ativa nas mídias sociais para apoiar a equipe de marketing.
  • Reorganizar os esforços de marketing para semear informações sobre a empresa em todos os lugares que clientes em potenciais se reúnem.
  • Considerar a reconfiguração de parte dos serviços da empresa para ser adaptável a campanhas de links patrocinados, isto é, que possa ser rapidamente e imediatamente consumível por clientes em potenciais. O qual pode ser facilmente potencializado uma vez que o cliente em potencial se firmou como um cliente de nível inferior.    
  • Potencializar analytics em todos os esforços de marketing, incluindo esforços tradicionais, como eventos e mídia impressa.
  • E, finalmente, colocar em prática a gestão completa de oportunidades de negócios e comunicação (ou modificar a prática existente para enfrentar o ciclo de vendas mais longo).
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