Off-the-shelf or Artisan Crafted?

Do you like your software al la carte?

We all love "Customized"

It is perfectly understandable why women may adore custom-created items such as a wedding dress which fits absolutely perfectly, or how a man "feels like a million bucks" when he's wearing a custom-tailored suit.  High-end fashionista shoes and briefcases don't create the same feeling, since they are just "accessories".  When something fits "only you" it is uniquely special.Customization is, in fact, an intrinsic part of many business models.  Consider Starbucks, where they're not just selling coffee, they are selling your coffee which comes with "half-fat, light foam, one shot of butterscotch, and just a dusting of cinnamon" …and then it has your name on the cup…

How valuable is customized software?

It largely depends on what you do with it.  If you're writing a document, programs like Microsoft™ Word are ubiquitous, functional, and well-understood by most people.  It would be highly unusual if you needed customized software in order to accomplish your document creation.  The same could be said for spreadsheets, or most presentation programs.  Customized software in those instances simply  don’t make sense.As a simple business example, the small, fast oil-change shop has access to Off-The-Shelf (OTS) software for inventory control and for bookkeeping purposes. It was built for their industry, but doesn’t have to be specifically built for their business. Nothing special is required to run their shop that would be different from a competitor down the street.Can you imagine a circumstance where Microsoft ran its financial empire on Intuit's Quicken bookkeeping system?  Would IBM use Wave Accounting because it's "free"?  Ridiculous, of course—their business models are far too complex to run on anything less than software written precisely for them which allows them to automate their unique business processes, saving both time and money.

Where is it most useful?

Custom software is useful where it provides an additional benefit or service to the customer or your business which would not be available through OTS software.  As an example, think about healthcare data spread across a regional healthcare provider.CSG recently helped a regional healthcare provider to unify data buried in multiple systems across hospitals, doctor’s offices, rehab facilities, and other providers to identify inefficiency and find savings of over 50 million.  There is no way a solution like this could be created using OTS software.  Read more about how this was done here.

Custom Can BeMore Efficient

As another example, CSG helped a firm create a custom software application that merged customer and contract information from the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system with product information from the back office catalog system to enable field sales to look up product and produce quotes and pricing by client (based on their contract) on the spot with an iPad rather than have to go back to the office and manually research and create the proposal for the customer. This led to a better customer experience and improved the efficiency of the sales team, giving them more time to spend with prospects and customers and less time doing paperwork in the office.

It Can Save Money

Which is going to be more cost effective?  Have you considered the full cost of that OTS solution? Are you further ahead to pay the annual licensing fee for all 280 of your computers, or could you invest in custom development of a proprietary program that you own forever and do not have to pay ongoing licensing fees? Sometimes it makes sense to pay Annual Maintenance Fees for your OTS solution, but sometimes it doesn’t.

The Takeaway

Off-the-shelf software is often the right solution. However, when you find yourself or your organization trying to solve the intrinsic problems of making OTS software fityour business process, or even worse, you find yourself modifying your business process to fit the software. It’s time to stop and think about the alternative.Sometimes custom-software is just the obvious answer.  If it makes you better, or if it aids your customers, there should be no question about adopting it.When conventional solutions are cheaper, faster, and sufficient, save the custom solution for problems where you can create a competitive advantage.The advantages conferred by customized software solutions really can't be overstated. Custom software can help you:

  • Grow your business by streamlining and automating business processes

  • Increase productivity by automating manual processes

  • Improve customer satisfaction by making it easier for them to interact with your organization

  • Improve accuracy by getting the right information into the right place, every time

  • And so much more …

If you are interested in discussing your needs contact us here.