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Identity Crisis! Are you a technology company or a leadership development company?

If you’ve been in the 360 degree feedback, or broader leadership assessment space, for long enough you’ve likely managed your own 360 platform at some point. And if so, you’ve surely grappled with this decision, how long should you continue managing and maintaining your own 360 software and when does it make sense to finally outsource. In this day and age, many are already past this crossroads, but for those who continue to question whether or not outsourcing their assessment platform is right for them, this article may prove helpful.

Look, we get it, after years of managing and maintaining your systems, chasing down issues and scrambling just to keep up with the latest trends, you end up spending too much time and money on the tech side of the business, and not enough time and focus on your core business, which is surely where your real expertise and passions lie. And yet, many firms seem stuck in this very scenario. For those who are trying to be both a software company and a leadership development company this article explores 3 reasons why it's more critical than ever to re-think your firm’s identity.

One: Checkers is now Chess

While terms like “hosting” and “in the cloud” are used in nearly all aspects of business technology today, they simply didn’t exist back when many assessment companies were looking to move assessments online. This was near the end of the golden era of paper surveys and Scantron machines; it was a time when Software as a Service (SaaS) or even Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) just weren’t a thing. So, when assessments began migrating away from paper and towards the web, assessment companies (at least those who wanted to survive) took the logical step of building out their own platforms. These weren’t companies carefully weighing the options of build vs. outsource; there was only one option. If you wanted to move to the web, then you needed to find a way to build your own platform, manage your own servers, hire software developers, etc. And even when outsourcing options initially did become available, they were cost prohibitive. Simply put, the landscape has changed and there are options that exist today that just didn’t exist when L&D and assessment firms were transitioning their business to the web.

Think about it, if today’s options existed during that pivotal time, would these assessment companies still have made the costly decision to hire IT teams and developers just to build something entirely from scratch and then pay to manage it themselves? Would you have made the same decision? Probably not. Many organizations are now taking a good hard look in the mirror to determine what type of company they want to be. Are we a content company? A training or coaching company? Or a technology company? Don’t get caught playing in the wrong space; one that doesn’t cater to your strengths. Chess or Checkers? It’s an important distinction.

Two: Keeping up with the Joneses

For years, the act of taking out a pencil and manually completing a paper survey was just how it was done; it was accepted as the standard. Until it wasn’t. As soon as an easier, faster and cheaper option became available, (i.e. clicking through a survey online) paper surveys quickly became antiquated. There came a point in time where proposing paper surveys was a sales pitch killer and not having an online option meant losing to your competitors. This same evolution is happening again, but this time with the online User Experience itself. Just as paper surveys became obsolete so too have previous generations of technology and web design. UI and UX trends are evolving at such a rate, that presenting an even slightly outdated system becomes a highly visible blemish to what otherwise might be an excellent assessment solution.

As technology becomes more advanced and more integrated in all aspects of our lives, user expectations are higher than ever. Keeping ahead of the curve is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement – at least if you want to remain relevant and competitive. However, doing so requires immense financial investment. It also requires time, focus, and advanced technological expertise. If you’re not going “all in” on your 360 feedback software, then you risk falling behind and from there, it’s a slow march towards irrelevance. Like the evolutionary leap from paper to online, we’re now in an era where not having tools like interactive dashboards, talent analytics, or fully automated integrations is becoming an albatross. And this is not to mention the ever-increasing security and data privacy hoops you must jump through (don’t worry, we cover that in a separate blog).

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Three: Migration Anxiety

Over the years, we’ve heard from several leaders in our industry who maintain their own platform, while also fully understanding the benefits of a hosting provider. They can clearly see that outsourcing would be cheaper and yield better outcomes, and they understand the massive time and resource drain involved in maintaining their current system. They can visualize the end-state of freeing up resources and having pure focus on their core business, all while saving money and getting a better user experience. These are folks who know where to go, they just aren’t quite sure how to get there. After all, the idea of forklifting an entire ecosystem of surveys, scoring, normative data, report templates, etc. can seem daunting. And we’ve found that most make assumptions about what that might cost and what else might they lose in the migration. We’re often asked, will I have to adopt a generic report, will I be able to keep my branding, my norms, my historical data, my methodology? We answer those questions in three words: Fully Customized Hosting. The goal is to leverage the technology, the security and performance that a hosting solution provides, but while keeping all the elements of your existing and proprietary content that makes you, “you.”

In closing, the core question here is about identity. Are you a technology company or are you an L&D company? While doing both may have worked in the past, it just doesn’t cut it in today’s environment. The tech game has fundamentally changed, the stakes of not keeping up have never been higher, and migrating isn’t as daunting (or expensive) as you may think. The bottom line: The costs of outsourcing has dropped over the years, while the cost of maintaining the status quo are growing every day.