The Advantage of Being David

Contributed by Terry Gill

Picture the last major purchasing decision you made.  When it came down to the final vendors, what were the best predictors of those company’s reliability or capability?

Experience.  Reputation.  Years in operation.  Size.

What about size?  Does size matter?

To some degree, yes, size matters.  In some cases size is a legitimate consideration.  For example, imagine you are National Geographic Magazine.  If you’re trying to identify the ideal vendor to produce and distribute your publication – size matters.

On the other hand if you’re looking for a company to help you develop a software application, I believe size carries far less weight in making the right partner choice.  In fact, if the solution is web facing, size becomes less and less relevant.

Case In Point

Craigslist has redefined the on-line classified ad concept.  It has over 20 billion page views a month.  Yes, 20,000,000,000!  It features a simple interface, but provides users the option to create their own content.  Its listings are geographically oriented and it provides real-time data.  All of these features and achievements require a sophisticated infrastructure and smart people at the helm.

Now the punch line – guess how many employees?  I’ll give you a hint; your local coffee shop might be in the same range.

Craigslist has 32 employees.  32.

Size trumps all other predictors when you have good, clean execution of a concept.  Craigslist is a disruptor on many levels.  They clearly use size as a competitive advantage.  Imagine how nimble and flexible Craigslist can afford to be when decisions are made with 32 employees…and loads of cash.

David vs. Goliath

Smaller organizations can and will continue to compete successfully against larger competitors if the objective is focused on creativity, speed and flexibility.  Again, in the world of custom software application development, this is especially true.

Smaller companies often adopt an Agile development methodology, which as the name suggests, is well suited for assignments that need to be developed and deployed quickly.  Think SWAT team.

These applications are the types that take a few months to engineer and implement.  They often work alongside other larger applications of the enterprise variety.  Playing a supporting role to a CRM or DAM application is a common scenario.

But smaller companies developing these applications must be vigilant in their commitment to building out their infrastructure.  Proper bandwidth, security and redundancy cannot be overlooked.  Boutique size shops must commit to greater resources for hardware, software and network administrators who keep abreast of the latest security threats.    Nobody gets a hall pass on ensuring they have proper network design and oversight.  No one will tolerate relaxed security.

In the end, don’t discount the advantages of working with a smaller organization; just remember to take advantage of their strong suit.   Go ahead and open up that next project pitch to those quirky folks you’ve been hearing about.  If nothing else you’re bound to get some fresh perspective on how desire and creativity stack up against sheer size.