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February 28, 2022
Data Intelligence

Making the Case for Custom Analytics Software

How to effectively present innovative custom-built digital tools to your c-suite

Many business leaders come to a crossroads where existing analytics tools or SaaS products are no longer making the cut, but getting budget and buy-in for something new can be a challenge.

We've walked this road with clients like Hyatt, Gulfstream, and ArcBest and want to share our tips for selling up within your org — ensuring your team has the tools and insights it needs to do the job well.

How to think like the c-suite:

Each executive may have a different set of priorities, so think through their mindset: 

  • CFO - making a financially sound investment, not affecting profitability
  • CTO/CIO/CDO - technical costs of implementation and team member's time, competing tech priorities
  • COO - operational costs, efficiencies, user adoption
  • CEO - long-term business goals, overall company success

Don't lead with your recommendations. Do your homework and present all opportunities to show you've thought through the options — from building in-house to buying off-the-shelf and everything in between. When presenting to the c-suite, brevity and impact matter, and your focus should be on delivering the pain points, solutions, and expertise on the issue. 

Present your current/existing software, and its challenges

What is it costing your organization? Time, money, effort, inefficiency? (Try to get to a ballpark number if possible)

  • What's wrong now? (see the issues we consider "red flags" below)
  • Why explore other options?
  • Give qualitative feedback
  • Give quantitative feedback 

Communicate the existing product "red flags" in which your executives need to be aware. These include a lack of efficiency and effectiveness, data that is insufficient or miscommunicated, pricey licensing fees, multiple systems that are "spliced-together," antiquated systems, lack of flexibility, an inability to adapt the software yourself (lack of customizable interfaces and tech within a SaaS product), and even the possibility of the current SaaS company going out of business or being acquired. 

SaaS products can return value faster but can be costlier in the long run, requiring upgrades every 3-7 years. And when discussing the topic of security, you'll want to note that an on-premise or private cloud gives the owners of the data more security and control. Partnering with a cloud service provider like Google Cloud can provide visibility and compliance, compute-based security, network protections, and identity security.

C-suite concern:

white male with short spiky hair, clean face and a large white smile

Q: SaaS means that I don't need to employ a team to maintain a system. Why should I bring this in-house?

A: "In choosing to build custom software, you get to customize the solution for your stakeholders. The downside is its cost. The benefit is that, because there are very few SaaS applications that meet all of your needs, custom-built solutions allow you to constantly optimize and prioritize where you're going to have the most financial or business value." - Jason Fox, Senior Program Manager, RevUnit

Ultimately, SaaS solutions can be appealing as a quick fix but are often not ideal for scalability or long-term company goals. More often than not, businesses run into limitations fairly quickly in SaaS tools that they have to compromise on or workaround, which reduces the tool's effectiveness.

Be prepared to present SaaS software options and their associated challenges, keeping in mind what it would cost. You can easily list the options for off-the-shelf solutions, pricing (think about scaling, not just initial cost), limitations of the tools, implementing a timeline, scalability, and the customization and security risks that come with non-owned software.

Presenting a custom-built software option

C-suite concern:

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Q: What will a custom-built solution initially cost, and what is the long-term financial commitment?

A: "When comparing a custom-build project vs. a SaaS product, you're comparing apples to oranges. To give an effective answer to your c-suite about the cost, you must first build a TCO (total cost of ownership) model and compare it to the alternative (SaaS product or no solution at all). One interpretation of the TCO equation is money gained - money spent / money spent x 100. What does this mean for your organization? Cost over time and analysis are substantial factors to consider, amongst others, like whether your organization has or hasn't budgeted for CapEx vs. OpEx. All of these things will play a role in their decision-making. You must articulate the TCO vs. the TBO (Total Benefits of Ownership) to provide leadership with a comprehensive view of the investment's impact on the organization. Broadly, building enterprise custom software starts in the 6-figure range, with a long-term financial commitment landing in the 7-figure range. Overall, your goal is to prove a picture of the competitive advantage and the market opportunity that exists for your company to develop and integrate a custom-built solution." - Danny Estavillo, CRO, RevUnit

Additional talking points to consider:

Team skill sets: will you need to hire outside help or build it in-house? 

Estimated pricing: long term, often more cost-effective than paying to scale SaaS. 

Competitive advantages: will it help you beat out the competition?

Potential revenue streams: could you take the software to the market or use the data collected in the market?

Potential expansion opportunities: could you take the data created in this tool and use it elsewhere to improve the business?

Discuss the implementation timeline and remind your executive team that they don't have to commit right away. If you sense the need for baby steps, explain the opportunity to try a validated prototype (a RevUnit service).

Give your recommendation for a custom-built solution and pull in others throughout the organization to support your efforts. Bring the conversation back to the long-term business strategy and paint a picture of how this tooling could help achieve that.

Specific custom-built offerings to consider sharing with your c-suite:

Custom data visualization software

"The way you present your data will determine how effectively your users will act on it." - The Complete Guide to Better Data Visualization, RevUnit

When presenting your case for custom data visualization, explain its impact on long-term business goals. 

First, highlight top priorities unique to your organization, such as:

  • Custom data visualization can tell the whole data story in real-time (not limited by SaaS)
  • Transform your visualization by understanding the psychology of color, shapes, order, and position (present data better)
  • Present accurate data that incites action (your data should reveal a clear CTA)

Second, answer their questions about custom data visualization tools before they ask:

  • Why does your organization require better data visualization?
  • What is the projected outcome of integrating better data visualization tools?

Support recommendations: Download our free Data Visualization Guide

Custom store operations software

"A partner, like RevUnit, will work with your teams and systems to get the data necessary to surface actionable insights, faster." - Custom Analytics Software Solutions, RevUnit.

C-suite concern:

white male with short dark blond hair with some facial stubble, smiling

Q: Will our people use this? 

A: "Your people are the single greatest asset to your business. Their moment-by-moment decisions, when aggregated, effect meaningful change. Therefore, involving end-users in the discovery, planning, building, and implementation phases of custom application development will not only drive acceptance but value as well." - Doug Mitchell, VP of Delivery, RevUnit

Allow your c-suite to buy into the idea that including users in the product's initial development conversations will ensure their alliance when adopting a new system. Change management is possible when leadership takes the opportunity to show how a given solution can benefit frontline employees and allow them to speak into the process.

A custom store ops solution can better connect frontline workers to corporate, manage inventory, manage employees, deliver the most critical insights, and improve the overall in-store experience for customers and employees. Read about how RevUnit can help.

Continue building your case with RevUnit's store efficiency case study.

Custom data & analytics software 

"Start with getting the necessary data, tying business goals to your managers' operational reality, then create a tool that surfaces regular insights into the existing workflow." - Retail Store Operations Data Analysis & Insights Article, RevUnit.

A customized analytics solution can have a massive impact on operational insight, producing profitable insights. Building an analytics tool can solve high priority issues such as:

  • Financial reporting
  • Data-led or delayed decision making
  • Inventory loss 
  • Reduced number of ad hoc reporting requests
  • And much, much more!

Support your research by sharing our financial reporting case studies.

Next Steps:

Need help talking through how to tailor your talking points to your specific software challenge? Meet with one of our strategy experts for a free 15-min call, and we can help you brainstorm.

As you prepare your presentation, be sure to review our "Build vs. Buy vs. Hybrid: How to Determine the Right Approach Flowchart."

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RevUnit is a technology studio that helps supply chain clients identify and implement data solutions that actually prove ROI. We help organizations across industries like transportation, freight, logistics, retail, and manufacturing achieve business results through innovative data solutions — powered by AI/ML and the cloud. We’ve done it for clients like ArcBest, J.B. Hunt, and Walmart.

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