We’re off to See the Wizards
Elphaba I. Menzel and Glinda K. Chenoweth are the owners of Emerald City Beautyscapes, a commercial landscaping company. They are trying to decide whether to write their own software, perhaps using Microsoft Access as a basis; adopt a COTS software package such as QuickBooks Pro; or hire a service called Lawn Wizards, Inc., to perform all their bookkeeping functions. Elphaba turns to Glinda and asks, “Is it possible for us to create a system of our own?” Glinda replies, “I suppose we could, but it would take forever. We would need to define all our fields, our queries, and our reports. We would need to know who hasn’t paid us yet and how long it has been since we last billed them.” “Yes,” says Elphaba, “and we would also have to create product descriptions, service descriptions, and codes for everything we sell and provide.” “If that were all we needed, we could probably do it,” says Glinda. “But we also need to include a scheduling system. We need to know when we can provide the services to our customers and what to do if we fall behind schedule. Maybe it just isn’t worth it. “Still,” reflects Glinda, “my mother used to say ‘There’s no place like home.’ Maybe there’s no software like homegrown.” “You see both sides of everything,” remarks Elphaba. “But the path you want to take is too long and risky. We need a software package that is ready for us to use now. I hear that there are products they call commercial off-the-shelf software that we can buy and adapt to our lawn service business. I’ll investigate.” So, Elphaba sets out to look for software that may be suitable. “I’ve found something,” cries Elphaba. “I found this software called QuickBooks Pro at www.quickbooks.intuit.com, and it looks like we can afford it. There are numerous versions of the software already—one for accounting, one for construction, one for health services. Maybe we can find a package that suits us. If not, it looks like we can customize the generic version of QuickBooks Pro to fit our needs. “Our system could grow, too. QuickBooks Pro is readily scalable. We can add customers, suppliers, or products easily. I just wanted to plant the idea of buying a ready-made package on you.” “That’s interesting,” says Glinda, “but I’ve been doing my own research. Some of our competitors have told me they let a company do all the work for them. The company is called Lawn Wizards. They do landscaping, but they also maintain accounts receivable and scheduling packages.” So off they went to see the Wizards. Joel Green, the owner and creator of Lawn Wizards, is proud of his software. “I spent a great deal of time working with my suppliers, that is, nurseries, in the area, and we have developed a coding system for everything,” he brags. “All the trees, sizes of trees, shrubs, flowers, mulch, and even lawn care tools have numbers. “I started with a small firm, but when customers realized I paid attention to every little detail, my business blossomed.” He adds, “My suppliers love my system because it cuts down on confusion. “I noticed that my competitors were working with the same suppliers but were getting less preferential treatment because they couldn’t communicate about products very effectively. So I decided I would offer my software for hire. I would make money by renting out my software and demand even greater respect from my suppliers. I can even deliver it over the cloud. My end-user license agreement states that I own the software, product codes, and data generated by the system. “Using my unique Wizards software, I can customize the package a bit for the customer, but essentially all the lawn services in the state will be using my database, codes, and B2B features. I maintain my software. If you could see the software code, it would look just like a manicured lawn.” Now Glinda and Elphaba are even more confused than before. They have three distinct options: create a custom package on their own, buy COTS software such as QuickBooks Pro, or outsource their needs to Lawn Wizards. Help them learn the true secret of (software) happiness by helping them articulate the pros and cons of each of their alternatives. What would you recommend? In two paragraphs, write a recommendation that grows out of your consideration of their specific business situation.
For this particular comparison question, I would think that the best way to compare among these distinct options is to present your arguments bylisting the "pros" (advantages) and "cons" (disadvantages) for each option in a table layout format and then analyze them to come up with your own decision. I think that this table layout is very easy for everyone to follow.