Don’t waste time reinventing the software wheel


I was talking to an old friend who was leaving tech journalism for a start-up tech company. Yeah him! So I asked what he would do there first.

“Create a custom content management system (CMS),” he told me.

I then let slip the first question that came to my mind: “Why! “

I mean, seriously, how many CMS are there? By my calculations, there are well over 100 of them. They come in all kinds: open source, proprietary, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). And these are only those that are accessible to the public. If you count those that are custom built, there are probably at least as many more.

This is insane. There is no reason on Earth for anyone to create another CMS from scratch. Sure, sometimes, there is a real change, like the rise of headless CMS, like Strapi.

Before you ask, a Headless CMS doesn’t come with any pre-built web interface themes or the tools to create them. Instead, unlike conventional CMS, they don’t care about the front-end of your website. Instead, they focus on the main content repository, which is used to store and deliver structured content. This content is then made available for viewing through a RESTful API, typically using JSON or XML.

Understood? Good.

Now, maybe some companies could make good use of Strapi. (I have to mention that there are plenty of others, including Ghost, Contentful, and Prismic.) So, you don’t need to build your own headless CMS. In fact, for most of us, the old-fashioned CMS, such as WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal, work fine. I mean, heck, WordPress runs 34% of all websites in the world.

In other words, if you are building or maintaining your own homebrew CMS, you are wasting valuable time and money.

It’s not just CMS, of course. There are many examples. I’ve seen more bad homemade verticals for real estate, small banks, and retailers than I ever wanted to see. I mean, I think the only custom real estate program I’ve seen running on a 1985 Amiga 1000 was cool. But let’s face it: sooner or later this 36-year-old material is going to die.

Now if your business is building vertical software, great for you. Keep on going. There will also always be room for Value Added Resellers (VARs) or software integrators. But if your business puts words and pictures in front of people, manages property, or sells geegaws, you don’t need to be a software developer either.

Entrepreneur Marc Andreessen was right when he explained in Why Software Is Eating the World that big companies need to become software companies. But I don’t write to CEOs of Fortune 500, I write to owners of small and midsize businesses. You won’t hire dozens of programmers to perfect your business software. Even if you have, it is unlikely that you will be able to improve your results by developing your own programs.

Instead, you should research the best programs that match your needs. If you can’t do this, contact value-added resellers, system integrators, or managed service providers (MSPs). Finding the right hardware and the right programs, and making them work for you, is their job, not yours.

Don’t think that I’m only talking to those of you who aren’t in the tech industry. Tech companies make the same kinds of mistakes.

For example, there are hundreds of Linux distributions.s the low. Of these, no more than a dozen are commercially viable. I mean, if you want to build your own Linux, go for it. It’s funny. (Really, I did it myself.) For some of us it is fun. But there is a big gap between creating software for fun and building a viable business.

Just inventing a better mousetrap is great, but if you can’t market, ship, support, and sell that mousetrap, you don’t have a business. You don’t even have a business plan. You need a great idea, execution, and all those other things that I mentioned.

So once again, and with emotion, stick with your own expertise and let the real software pros help you with your business. They’ll be happier, you’ll be happier, and, oh yes, you’ll be more likely to be profitable as well.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.


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