Building, Buying or Sourcing Software: Top 5 Considerations for Mobility Planners

Deploying a Sustainable Urban Mobility Plan (SUMP) presents a series of challenges for cities’ authorities, requiring careful navigation of funding constraints, effective stakeholder engagement, balanced integration of transport suppliers, robust data analysis, and a commitment to long-term sustainability.

In this context, accurate and up-to-date data becomes crucial. Therefore, technology plays a pivotal role in determining success. Planners and operators must count on their tools and expertise to extract meaningful insights and make informed decisions based on the data available, often facing the choice of either developing their own mobility tech solutions or purchasing them from external providers.

While the latter may seem convenient at first glance, this article argues that transport authorities may want to consider prioritizing the development or adaptation of dedicated tech mobility solutions due to the numerous advantages this offers, including customization, cost-effectiveness, and long-term sustainability.

  1. Customization and Tailored Solutions:

    Custom building of mobility tech solutions enables transport planners to create bespoke systems that align perfectly with the city’s unique road networks and their citizens’ daily commutes. By designing and building their own technology solutions, planners can customize them to fit their specific needs, allowing for greater flexibility and efficiency. Off-the-shelf solutions, on the other hand, often come with limitations and a "one-size-fits-all" approach that may not fully address the intricate complexities of the city’s unique situation. Internal technology development empowers transport authorities to precisely tailor solutions, leading to improved operational performance and enhanced service levels.

  2. Cost-effectiveness and Long-term Savings:

    While purchasing mobility tech solutions from external providers may seem like a quick and easy solution, it can often lead to significant long-term costs. Licensing fees, subscription models, and recurrent maintenance expenses can accumulate over time, straining organizational resources. On the other hand, internal technology development allows transport authorities to strategically allocate funds, focusing on areas that yield the most value and that are strictly aligned with city planning strategy. Although initial development costs may be higher, they can be recouped over time through the elimination of recurring licensing fees and customization costs, resulting in long-term savings.

  3. Enhanced Control and Security:

    Developing internal technology solutions empowers transport authorities and city councils to have complete control over their systems and data. With their own proprietary technology, these organizations can establish robust security measures, ensuring that sensitive information remains protected from external threats. This control also extends to software updates, bug fixes, and system enhancements, allowing cities to respond quickly to evolving needs and citizens’ demands. Relying on external providers for mobility tech solutions may introduce dependencies and potential vulnerabilities, as the provider's priorities and strategies may not always align with those of the city.

  4. Agility and Scalability:

    In a rapidly changing world, agility and scalability are crucial factors for success. Internal technology development gives transport authorities the flexibility to adapt quickly to changing circumstances, as they have the ability to modify and expand their systems in real time. This level of agility may not be achievable with off-the-shelf solutions, which often require coordination with and approval from external providers. By developing or customizing their own mobility tech solutions, cities can respond swiftly to new trends, seize new opportunities, remain on top of policy changes and even influence new policy decisions.

  5. Intellectual Property and Competitive Edge:

    Creating proprietary technology solutions provides transport authorities with a valuable asset: intellectual property (IP). By investing in internal development, these organizations can safeguard their innovative ideas, processes, and algorithms, and if they opt to develop a side revenue stream as consultants, help deploy them in other cities. External tech providers may offer pre-packaged solutions that are used in multiple locations, potentially diluting the distinctiveness of a particular environment. Developing internal tech mobility solutions allows for the creation of unique IP, enhancing the competitive market position of its consulting departments.

Developing internal mobility tech solutions provides transport authorities with the advantages of customization, cost-effectiveness, intellectual property ownership, enhanced control, and agility. By investing in their own technological capabilities, cities can secure a sustainable urbanization model while retro-feeding their SUMP with valuable data for pivoting or persisting with agreed strategies.

As part of a new strategy, Shotl just started licensing its source code to organizations with an interest in adding a demand-responsive transport solution to their portfolio. As part of a new program, Shotl is offering a unique proposition by making its source code available for licensing while simultaneously maintaining their operation as a Software as a Service (SaaS) business.

This means that customers can keep accessing the company's software through a subscription-based model while also having the opportunity to purchase the underlying source code. By adopting this approach, Shotl aims to provide flexibility to customers, so they can leverage the benefits of a SaaS solution while having the option to customize and modify the software according to their city’s specific needs. This dual offering empowers transport authorities and operators to better optimize the usage of the software and tailor it to their unique requirements.

In case you are curious in learning about how you can license, evolve and commercialize the existing Shotl source code, schedule a meeting by sending an email to hello@shotl.com.

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