As a business leader, one of the hardest decisions and investments you will make is the selection of a software solution. You need to scale. You need to differentiate yourself from the competition. You need to become more efficient and stop bleeding money. You know technology will help, but how do you make the right decision? For me, it was always one of the hardest decisions to make… and for crying out I am a technologist!
The first time I was looking to make a significant investment in a software technology solution, it felt like being a home buyer. Should I continue to rent, should I buy or should I build? If I continue to “rent”—or stay the course with my current technology plan—nothing really changes. Our team would continue to use paper and Excel spreadsheets impacting our ability to grow. If I buy a commercial off-the-shelf solution (COTS), then I make sacrifices between what I want and need versus what exists. Or I could build a custom solution that meets and satisfies the need of the organization.
For that first big software decision, I decided to buy an off-the-shelf accounting system. I essentially bought a home. We saw improvements on how we managed inventory, invoices invoiced, accounts receivables and payables, but the accounting system did not handle non-inventory items, like services, well. Literally, within months of implementing the new accounting system, we were back to spreadsheets and paper for a big part of our business.
I don’t share this story to dissuade you from selecting COTS to meet your business needs. There are many scenarios in which packaged software—optimized for immediate installation and use—is the ideal fit to address your challenges. But there are also many times it falls short, forcing your team to create complicated systems workarounds or, worse, manual processes that sit outside of the technology altogether.
I have found that there are three basic reasons when buying off-the-shelf software might not work for you or your organization:
- It cannot meet every need
- The canned solution is too rigid
- The solution may not be compatible or integrate with your other existing solutions.
(Stay tuned for a follow-up blog in which I will dive deeper into these three.)
Instead, today, I want to talk about the latter of the three housing options, building your own home. Because though renting and buying a house provide several benefits, true gain can come from conceptualizing and constructing your home from the ground-up, like in the case of custom software development.
While building custom software may seem expensive and time consuming, the return on investment can be well worth it. Let’s dive deeper on why custom software development could be right for you:
- Increased productivity: Custom built solutions are designed with your needs, requirements and workflows in mind and can enable your team to work faster, smarter and more efficiently (not harder). Custom solutions allow you to bring your data and information from multiple source into a single “pane of glass.” This integrated platform allows you automate manual tasks and workflows and create more visibility through stronger reporting.
- Competitive advantage: When your company uses the exact COTS solution as your competition, how do you differentiate your business? It’s next to impossible to be more agile, responsive or simply outperform your peers. By investing in your own technology, you can create a competitive advantage that become impossible for your competition to bridge. Think of Blockbuster versus Netflix. Your competitive advantage grows as you invest more in your proprietary systems.
- Faster reaction time: In today’s business world, speed and agility win every time. Our clients expect us to be more responsive to their changing needs and if we can’t, they will take their business elsewhere. Once you have developed your custom technology solution, you can evolve your business at your pace. You can quickly shift strategies which can often mean the difference between market dominance and becoming obsolete.
- Increased client intimacy: You understand the unique way you wish to communicate and interact with your clients. When you develop custom software, you can ensure that your solution supports your end goal of superior customer service, versus what a plug-in-play solution suggests is superior service. Whether you are creating a customer portal, application or dashboard—to name a few—you can create a custom solution that keeps your client first in a way that is unique and specific to your business.
- Improved morale: By freeing your team from the headaches and frustrations caused by manual processes, legacy technologies and systems workarounds, you greatly improve team morale and corporate culture. With a more engaged, empowered workforce, your employees are able to reach peak performance and give more to your external stakeholders.
As you explore how to improve your operations, off-the-shelf software might be exactly what the doctor orders. However, many times it just creates more gaps and inefficiencies than what currently exists. What’s more, using off-the-shelf software often requires you to change your workflow, process, and methodology to fit within their vision of how your business should operate… and many times that’s not a good thing.
Building your own solution tailored to your company’s specific needs can be the difference between offering a commoditized service and offering a differentiated one. It can make your business more competitive and responsive. It can be the means to leap frog your rivals and, in some cases, can transform your business and eventually your industry.
At Trilix, we help you understand which path is best for you by beginning with a thorough assessment of your current environment and uncovering both your recognized and unrecognized business needs. We’d love to learn more about you! Click here so we can grab coffee, talk about your unique business goals and start exploring the right path for you.