Part of my job when I was in SharePoint Marketing at Microsoft, and most of my job when I was a competitive/technical subject matter expert for Microsoft’s field account teams, involved helping map product capabilities to customer requirements. Frequently, that meant supplementing the out-of-the-box product with either (a) some customization work or with (b) the aid of a third-party add-on product.
Guess which of those two was often more readily received by salespeople (although not necessarily customers)? Customization. This is, in fact, how IBM sells software; they front all customer interactions in a service agreement, part of which involves the cost of the software but then depends on extensive consultant work.
Why the reluctance (some of the time) to consider third-party add-ons? Sometimes there’s an irrational fear that the third-party will try to control the sale; I can’t really speak to that, other than to say that independent software vendors usually don’t want that at all. What happens more often, I suspect, is plain ol’ sticker shock.
What I find troubling, and not just because I now work for Nintex, a company that creates third-party solutions for SharePoint technology, is that it’s rare that off-the-shelf third-party add-ons don’t save money…
Consider my company’s workflow product (since I know the pricing, etc.): the Enterprise Edition of Nintex Workflow costs (in the United States) $17,500 per SharePoint web front-end server.
Let’s assume you can find a SharePoint technology consultant for $200 an hour. That would mean that he/she has just two weeks and one day (87.5 hours) to build the same functionality. For one thing, that’s an extremely short consulting engagement. For another thing, the odds of being able to build something like Nintex Workflow in that amount of time approach zero. Even doubling it (let’s say you have a two-server deployment) still leaves you with one man-month and an extremely unlikely chance of approaching even a fraction of the product’s functionality.
As for why consulting sometimes feels better than add-on products, I invite discussion in the comments section. Similarly, if you think there isn’t such a tendency, I’d welcome that, too. Heck, if you agree and just want to vent, I’m all for that as well.