What started out as a neat Excel database soon becomes a nightmare and a clumsy system that takes ages to get any decent data from. Is there one out there that does just what you need or is it better to get a custom software solution developed specifically for your needs?
Look at the pros and cons of each to help you decide. The reality: as you grow and expand, your business becomes more accountable and responsible towards the stakeholders, employees, and customers. Work becomes vast and complex in nature. Day-to-day communication, calculations, recordkeeping, monitoring, checking, systematizing, measuring, delegating. Other operations require a more streamlined approach if the business wants to keep growing – and keep their managers from going nuts.
You need software to get more accuracy, diligence, and standardization in your business. You’re probably looking into automating certain processes to improve operations and make them more effective. When you’re trying to decide between a ready-made (aka off-the-shelf) software product and a custom solution developed just for you, there are several points to consider. Picking the right program is a lofty responsibility.
Advantages and disadvantages of both solutions.
WHAT IS OFF-THE-SHELF SOFTWARE? Off-the-shelf software is a ready-made application that is developed to suit the general needs of an organization. It provides all the features and factors that can help businesses run certain processes in a general automated framework.
Examples are a customer relationship management system, a stock control system, or even an email management system. You can find pretty neat solutions out there for any of these problems and more.
WHAT IS CUSTOM-MADE SOFTWARE? Custom-made software is a tailor-made product to cater to specific needs in your business. Unlike generic software, it is made to suit each process exactly the way they happen in your organization.
For example, you’re running a wholesale business with a depot and you need to track stock in a specialized way. An off-the-shelf product will do certain parts of what you need. But it probably won’t notify you, manufacturers, automatically when stock is running low – requiring an extra person to monitor and order each item. With custom software, you could automate the whole process from ordering to getting it to the end buyer. Below are the points to ponder.
Size of Company
If you have a medium to large business with a lot of uniquely placed processes, it’s better to have custom software built. Also, the more employees you have, the greater the chance you need something tailored specifically for your needs.
You can benefit greatly by having personalized features that directly address all your departments and process elements in an all-encompassing manner.
Though the size is not always a good indicator. For example, even a 2-person wedding planner business can greatly benefit from an online platform where their clients can choose and customize features for their weddings. Freeing up several hours a week.
That said, if you own a small business, it’s easier to find off-the-shelf software that fits your needs without costing a lot of money.
Make sure you’re analyzing your own processes first, and choose a product that best resembles what you need.
If the software system needs to handle dynamic tasks and does multi-tasking it should be planned and validated by thorough research and development.
This entails building custom software with a foolproof system that complies with all the protocols and combines all the elements in a well-organized manner.
Also, if the software needs to connect the different offices, departments, and work processes it needs to be handled by full-fledged network policies, security, and backup storage. This can be better addressed by a custom software development company with dedicated professionals.
However, if the purpose of the software is to provide solutions to common office-related tasks and processes, you can probably find one that is already built for that purpose.
Nature of Business
If you own a business that deals in a unique product and belongs to a niche concept, it’s always better to choose custom software. It will not only ensure that the product sales or logistics are well monitored. But will also include features and modules such as statistics implemented in your automated system.
If your business is a restaurant, for example, it means that the processes are fairly standard regardless of what kind of restaurant it is. Because there are a lot of restaurants around the world, there is off-the-shelf software developed specifically for them. It will most likely suit their needs.
Type of User
The type of user going to use the system is a good way to determine whether to get custom software developed or to buy an off-the-shelf software application.
If you’re looking at making the follow-up system more effective and easier to control, there is probably a ready-made program for that. Usually, a fairly standard office operation at the basic user level doesn’t need a specialized solution.
However, if the user belongs to the managerial level or is having very specific needs in terms of accessibility, functionality, and technicalities, custom software is recommended.
There may be different off-the-shelf software available in the market with a variety of features. However, they may lack details and task entities, which could interfere with the processes handled by the top officials.
Number of Users
This is where it gets tricky: usually, off-the-shelf software is charged by the number of people using it.
It’s a common situation even for small businesses to make more sense to have the program developed for them rather than paying a yearly fee per user. Get it done once, use it forever by as many people as you want – it’s yours after all.
CUSTOM SOFTWARE PROS…
- It fits your business like a glove. Custom software allows companies to create programs and applications that match their needs exactly, from functional use to aesthetic style and organizational arrangement. In strong contrast to off-the-shelf applications, custom software contains exactly what you require.
- Learning curve. Training time greatly reduces with custom software because it tailors to your existing processes and not the other way around.
Training is easier when the presenting staff doesn’t have to completely switch gears to address a particular quirk of a typical software package.
Custom software development creates tailored applications that can include the majority of a company’s work using a single solution, thereby making it easier for new hires to understand how everything should work together smoothly.
- Custom software is great for firms that love interconnectivity. By letting employees mesh their work and their preferred personal communication devices, it can change the way you go about the business.
- Scalability: Off-the-shelf software can only do so much. It might be too bulky for your needs in the beginning, and it might get too “tight” later on as your company grows.
… AND THE CONS
- Custom Software design to cater to your organizational needs. It is often more expensive to purchase as compared to off-the-shelf software. How much you pay, determines the software scope and its abilities. Keep in mind the money you will save in the long run from duplicated work.
- Custom software is mostly not readily available as compared to off-the-shelf software. The time taken to complete the software depends on the project scope. The duration taken to develop the application can be decreased by using professional and experienced software engineers.
OFF-THE-SHELF SOFTWARE PROS…
- Plug-n-play: Off-the-shelf software is always complete and ready for use when purchased.
- They often cost less than the custom software. However, you may charge, license fees for every user/software operator. You probably have to renew the fees every year.
- Technical support usually offers free of charge.
… AND THE CONS
- The software may be unable to allow adjustments and create new functions that are necessary. Therefore, many organizations use two or more different software applications to integrate other departments. Resulting in redundant data and unnecessary tasks.
- In some cases, your workflow will need to adjust instead of the software meeting your process needs. This will require training and more time in order to get the best results.
- If there is a bug that needs fixing then the manufacturer of the application will contact. However, this can take a lot of time because they tend to be far away.
- Some software manufacturers charge annual license or subscription renewal fees. It is prudent to inquire before making a purchase.
- Scalability: Off-the-shelf software can only do so much. It might be too bulky for your needs in the beginning. And it might get too “tight” later on as your company grows. In order to accommodate the growing needs of the business, you might have to start using a new product. An application means a lot of wasted time (in research, onboarding, training, production) and an increased risk of data loss.