We don’t think so. There are many excellent products built by small companies for specific industries that are worthy of consideration. But there are risks that the vendor will not be around for the long haul. There are a number of ways to evaluate long-term viability:
- The system is built with old technology that is getting really difficult to support by the boomers ripe for retirement.
- There is a lack of investment in the system. Ask to see the product roadmap and recent enhancements.
- The company is not profitable. Private companies will be reluctant to release this but it can be obtained with an NDA late in the selection process. There can be extending circumstances such as the company now offers a subscription fee rather than up-front license fees.
- There is a lack of good people available for implementation and support. Ask for resumes and meet members of the team.
- Customers are not so happy with support. Ask for references that can be called or visited in person.
- The owners are nearing retirement age. Ask them directly about their plans. Systems with a good client base and using recent technology will be purchased and will very likely be maintained and enhanced by the acquiring company who should know better than to alienate new customers. However if the technology is old or not built with industry-standard tools, then who can blame the new vendor from encouraging clients to convert to one of their other systems.
There are also advantages to being a bigger fish in a smaller pond.