by Nick Mead
Published on 17 February 2016
In any business, when it comes to choosing whether to go it alone with your own bespoke software or leave the hard work to someone else with a SaaS solution, there are no easy answers. In the fast changing, seasonal nature of the T&A (tour & activity) industry, it's particularly tricky deciding which way to go.
The decision whether to go it alone or with a vendor is also made more complicated by the choice between desktop or cloud solutions. Do you choose to develop or buy a desktop client software or, as is increasingly more common, do you put everything in the cloud? Both bespoke software and SaaS apps for tour and activity companies are long term investments that have their own risks and payoffs, and the difficult decision for every entrepreneur or business owner is always: which one will pay off in the long run?
The key to making the right decision is to understand the needs of your business and the risks involved. This is what we're going to look at in more detail here.
In the T&A booking industry, there are an increasing number of vendors out there providing SaaS solutions, so it may be tempting to plump for one instead of investing the considerable time and resources required to build a bespoke system. SaaS vendors such as TrekkSoft, for example, provide slick and sophisticated online booking software that works on any platform or device and can instantly solve your problem for a modest monthly subscription.
It's worth remembering that what fits your T&A business now might not suit your needs a few years down the line. TrekkSoft and other vendors move with the market but, to a large extent, you are tethered to the direction they take. Being stuck with a SaaS solution that no longer fits your needs, financial resources or changes in the market in a few years time can work out a lot more stressful and expensive in the long term.
The worst case scenario is buying a SaaS solution that simply doesn't provide what you need as your business grows. If you've purchased multiple licenses and invested time and effort in training your team, this can work out very expensive and messy. A bespoke solution can avoid all of this heartache by putting you in the driving seat rather than a third party.
The biggest obvious advantage of bespoke software is that you own the piece of software. This is not only advantageous from the aspect of being able to tailor it to your precise business needs, it can also be a very lucrative asset as you can lease it out to other companies.
With bespoke, there's no commitment to annual or monthly subscriptions for the technology and you have full control over the future direction of the booking system. And if you don't like having all of your sensitive business stored in the cloud by a software vendor, you control exactly how and where your business data is stored. The keyword here with bespoke is clearly "control".
On the flip-side, the initial costs in manpower and development time of a bespoke solution can be very high. This is not to even mention added costs if the project runs into overtime and problems - which almost every software development project invariably does. In terms of time, you are sure to be looking at several months of development time in order to create your own bespoke solution whereas with a SaaS software solution, you can be up and running in literally days.
There's also the question of who exactly builds your bespoke software. Whether you go in-house or contract it out, what do you do if the development team or designer moves on? No one will ever know the product like that person or team, meaning you can end up over a barrel when there are technical problems further down the line. If your booking system crashes or fails this can be a nightmare, or at least extremely expensive, if your development team is on a retainer contract.
Then of course there's the issue of keeping your product on top of changes in the market. Do you really have the resources and time to keep developing the original product? Leaving this responsibility to a SaaS vendor saves considerable hassle and worry as it's their job to constantly stay on top of new technologies, platforms and industry trends.
There are also specific seasonal disadvantages to going with bespoke T&A software too. If your business is reliant on seasonal staff, you have to train them how to use the specific features and functionality of your own software. SaaS solutions like TrekkSoft, however, are widely used across the industry, are more likely to be familiar to new staff, and are very easy to learn
While SaaS isn't perfect or without its drawbacks - maybe the developer will make changes to the software's functionality or the company may be bought out - it's still an obvious choice for tour & activity operators.
SaaS solutions will constantly stay on top of new innovations due to the raft of competitors in the market, and most solutions deliver regular updates, often with features you have requested. As a contrast, bespoke software can get out of date very quickly. Add to that the predictable cost of a SaaS license, the inherent scalability, the reduction in IT support needs, and the customer support from the software vendor if something goes wrong, and you have a strong business case for buying a cloud-based online booking platform.
This post was brought to you by tour and activity software provider Trekksoft.