In today’s fast-paced digital era, growing a business has never been more exciting yet daunting at the same time. Indeed, with competition that increases by the day, it can be difficult to assess which tools will be the best to put your company on top and stay ahead of the curve for years to come. Should you adopt an off-the-shelf software package, or have a custom solution built to fulfill your needs? The answer depends on several factors, including how well the chosen solution can meet those needs, how much it would cost to transition to, and how it can evolve to support your business in the future.
Let’s face it, companies have plenty of software products to choose from when it comes to managing different aspects of their business. ERPs, CRMs, CMSs, accounting software and cloud-based services of all shapes and sizes are here to help you manage enterprise resources, customer relations, online content, company books, etc… If you find a few affordable and intuitive solutions that can fulfill most of your company’s needs, and they talk to each other to avoid repetitive data entry, then kudos to you! But things are rarely that simple.
You may have been in business for a while, and find that opting for an off-the-shelf product would force you to revise long-established processes, putting a heavy burden on training your staff to adopt new workflows. Or you may be in an emerging or niche industry that is under- served by the software community, costing you a lot to have critical features added to an existing product. And in some situations, you may find only a handful of features useful in a software suite, and end up having to pay for more than what you really need. Those are cases for which building a custom solution often makes sense strategically and financially.
Custom software may have a higher sticker price than off-the-shelf products, but it doesn’t have to break the bank, especially in the long run. Implementing your own software solution allows you to embrace current processes, and improve them by using automation, reduce data-entry, use third-party integrations and optimize workflows. In a typical scenario, the immediate impact will be improved productivity, higher accuracy, faster response times and better planning abilities, all of this with a minimal learning curve as the software will have been built around a framework and terminology that the company is already familiar with. In terms of cost, a reputable software development firm may be able to cook up a viable solution for less than you might think, as they may be able to recycle some parts from previous projects, leading to significant savings. Also, as a long-term benefit of the custom software paradigm, the absence of recurring licensing fees (which can grow out-of-hand with off-the-shelf products) can help amortize the initial investment, while knowing that your custom solution can always be updated to answer future needs of your company.
In conclusion, businesses have many tools to choose from. Although they may have a lower initial sticker price, these tools may not embrace their current business model, leading to indirect costs related to changes in processes and new training requirements. Custom software, however, can truly attend to a business’s needs by focusing on improving its current processes, and centralizing information in its current format, while saving on recurring fees and evolving with the business in the long run. You now have the elements to make the right decision for your next software solution, not only based on initial pricing, but also on indirect costs, long-term ROI, and future capabilities. To your success!