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Finding the Perfect Fit: Ag-Specific vs Off-the-Shelf Software

With seemingly endless choices out there for digital platforms, picking the right solution can feel overwhelming.

Many agribusinesses will forego building a digital solution themselves. The long-term costs often outweigh the benefits, and they know they’re better off devoting time and resources to their specific value-add in the market.

But when an agribusiness decides to “buy” its digital technology, two paths emerge:

  1. Put all your eggs into one of the popular, industry-neutral platforms? And then customize as needed?
  2. Do you narrow in and go with a solution built specifically for Ag?

The benefits  (and downsides) of an industry-neutral platform

Going with a more general platform purchase can have some upsides. There’s potential for cross-industry learning, and sometimes an outsider’s view can be valuable.

But put simply, industry-agnostic platforms often don’t give an agribusiness everything it needs without further customization. These platforms might be catch-all solutions for other industries. But agribusinesses need functionality and data around rebates, crop inputs, POS transactions, and more.

An agribusiness that buys an industry-agnostic solution often realizes quickly it needs to build customizations on top to actually make it work for its needs.

So what happens?

Agribusinesses get stuck in the middle.

They thought buying would be a simple solution. But in reality, they’ve unintentionally taken on all the downsides of building a solution themselves. As they add on customizations, they pay the vendor for their product and their services. Expenses go up.

Meanwhile, timelines extend alongside those bills. Customizing a solution to your exact needs can be nice, and may eventually work the best. But buckle up for a long road because this is not a quick solution. Buying a platform, then customizing on top, can turn into a multi-year project to roll out.

At the end of the day, buying an industry-agnostic solution is never just a simple purchase. It turns into a purchase and a build.

It’s like buying a “ready-made meal” – but still having to spend time chopping vegetables, boiling the water, and making the sauce yourself. You’ve spent money on something you thought would save you time. But it ended up just delaying your dinner even more.

Why go Ag-specific?

Buying a digital solution doesn’t have to be so complex though. Ag-specific platforms are already customized to your needs. Here’s what you stand to gain when you choose an ag-specific platform:

Foundational industry information and data: It’s easier to understand and work with data within ag-specific platforms – whether it’s from the farm or elsewhere in the supply chain. Your partner already has experience in the greater digital ag ecosystem, so integrations with data providers have been configured and managed. For example, seed data comes with its own life cycle, seasons, and nuanced ways of storing and using it. Other industries may not have the capacity to understand (or work with) all those layers.

Pre-built calculation engines: Industry leaders have already vetted the formulas and tech being used, so you don’t have to work backwards and make sure they actually work for agriculture. This means less iteration and last-minute fixes – which empower quicker timelines for your projects.

Speed to market: Spend less time going back and forth. With an ag-specific partner, you spend less time getting everyone up to speed – and can get to a launch in a fraction of the time. And once you’re live, you maintain that speed advantage, since the team can work quickly to resolve issues or upgrade features and capabilities. When companies outside the ag world provide general solutions, how far away are they from your use case? Those systems have been built for the 80% of use cases out there. But ag lives in the 20%.

Interested experts (working in an industry they care about): Going industry-specific means you’ll work with people who already understand best practices within your sector – and have already built those practices directly into the platform. When you team up with an ag-specific platform, your partner understands the industry, its inherent problems, and past attempts at fixing issues. Plus, they’re getting constant ag-specific input and info on best practices from industry peers.

Reduce your timeline + get what you need

Choosing an industry-agnostic platform, then building customizations on top of it, can feel like the path of least resistance. But this route usually just leads to more confusion, expenses, and delays.

Picking the other fork in the road (an ag-specific digital technology) can be the difference between delayed, expensive, frustrating projects – and smooth, fast rollout of all the functionalities you actually need already built in.