For those of you that know me, I am on the road half of the year meeting with customers, prospects and industry leaders discussing document production and the business around it—everything from workflows, trends, politics and business factors.

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with two customers on back-to-back days. They were both diverse service bureaus that offered both transaction printing and mailing services and print-on-demand services. They also offered online portals. Both companies have been around for decades, and both had the typical mix of home-grown solutions and commercially available software. Both had multiple sites and tight controls.

Even though they were so similar, they had polar opposite philosophies when it came to future software purchases. One was for buying and owning software, and the other was for using software available in the cloud as a service.

So, what were the underlying reasons? Security? Control? Operating budget allocation methodologies? Those typical concerns were certainly part of the conversation, but the philosophies were simply those of the ultimate check signer. One owner, a baby boomer—over 60, was all about buying software and paying for support. He wanted to own the software, integrate within all, or most, of his divisions and make it their own. Why wouldn’t he think like that? After all, he grew up in a time of high interest rates, home ownership, paying off your debts and slowly building a nest egg to live off of in the future. A very conservative, Warren Buffet-esque thought process.

The other company’s check signer was a Gen Xer, in his late 40s, with a team of millennials that would use the software and manage the clients. The millennials have grown up in the “sharing economy.” A place that enables distribution, sharing and reuse of excess capacity in goods and services. These folks wanted to use the best available product when they needed it, and they wanted the ability to turn it off or discontinue its use once they were finished with it. They also did not want to dedicate years to learning a new product or to maintain it. Essentially, they are in more of a “renting” state of mind, or what we call in the software business, a subscription model. They want to use it and someone else maintain it. More like renting a nice downtown condo versus buying a house. They do not want to cut the grass or shovel the driveway. If they did buy the house, they might share a lawnmower or shovel with a neighbor since both items had a lot of idle time in the garage.

Both philosophies are interesting and valid for different products and business strategies. Warren Buffet is still making money and now so is Facebook founder and shareholder Mark Zuckerberg.

So, who would you hire to make your next software purchase decision? Would you buy and maintain it or use it to fulfill its purpose and then get the next one?

Paul Abdool is the vice president of enterprise solutions for Solimar Systems, Inc.. He uses his 17 years of document industry experience to help customers develop and optimize their automated document factories with process automation, workflow solutions and professional services. Follow him on Twitter @PaulAbdool.

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