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Today's dental software ecosystem and what it means for you

Aug. 18, 2014
History has a funny way of repeating itself. Twenty years ago, I joined a small software company that was betting its future on Windows.

By Andy Jensen

History has a funny way of repeating itself. Twenty years ago, I joined a small software company that was betting its future on Windows. At the time, replacing disk operating systems (DOS) with Windows meant joining the beginning of a revolution. You'd think it would have been an easy victory, but it was not.

At that time, many DOS applications were on the market, and not many of their developers were happy about Windows. Some companies were quick to make the jump from DOS to Windows, but they lost valuable market share because they were late to the Windows party. By the time they arrived, little cake remained to be enjoyed. The other developers of DOS applications were unable to develop a Windows-based version of their software, or they refused entirely. It's hard to believe today, but many of those who refused scoffed at the Windows operating system, saying it was slow and inefficient. Today, those software companies are no longer in business.

The small company that I joined back then was first to the market with Windows. Today, it boasts the largest number of customers in North America.

Where we stand now and where we need to be

Revolution is in the air once again right now. Outside of the dental office, we're all computing on the cloud. Whenever we pick up a tablet or laptop, we're surfing the Web. When we do our banking, we're doing so online. Nearly three quarters of us have moved our personal lives to the cloud; we're comfortable with our family photos, our daily activities, and our conversations being conveniently accessible from any location at any time.

To join the rest of the world, dental practices need to let go of the server. Although migration to the cloud started about five years ago, it may seem that little movement has happened in the dental industry. Why? Today's dental software leaders control what the market hears. When it comes to the cloud, the dental software industry is adept at spreading fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Now that I've joined the cloud revolution, I can tell you that being heard above the din is very difficult, but the flow of technology is on my side.

Who's who

As I said, history has a funny way of repeating itself. With the Windows revolution, the dental software market had three types of players. Similarly, today's software market has contemporary versions of those same three players.

The first type of player is either unable or unwilling to embrace the inevitability of the cloud. These players will continue to breathe fear, uncertainty, and doubt about cloud technology until the bitter end. What I learned from the Windows revolution is that many of these companies will not survive in the market.

Second are those that see the writing on the wall but have decided to follow the market. They'll dabble with the cloud, providing select features that are cloud-based, or they'll market hybrid systems, but they will be late in delivering a full-blooded cloud solution. As I said earlier, there will be little cake left over for stragglers.

The third type includes those that currently fight for the cloud revolution. Again, if history is any indication of what will happen, these players are the ones that will emerge as market leaders. In truth, only a handful of these exist, and Curve Dental is one of them.

What it means for your practice

Technology does not stand still. The cloud is today's current technology standard. Sooner, rather than later, you may want or need to move your practice to the cloud – and the advantages to being on the cloud (some of which are described above) should motivate you to do so.

When you decide to modernize your practice's technology, you'll want experience to be the primary factor in your selection of a dental software company. Know that developing software for the cloud is nothing like developing software for Windows and that today's dental software leadership does not necessarily represent a mastery of the cloud. Many companies are years behind in developing the necessary infrastructure required to provide dependable and satisfactory service.

Take a lesson from the great Windows revolution of the 1990s; your current dental software provider's view of the cloud may tell you where they're headed. That bit of information can help you to choose the right technology partner for you.

You can learn more about the dental software ecosystem by visiting www.curvedental.com/ecosystem.

Andy Jensen is the chief marketing officer for Curve Dental, Inc., a developer of cloud-based dental software based in Orem, Utah. Jensen has 20 years of experience in the dental software market. You can reach him at [email protected].
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