Custom Software or Off-The-Shelf? The Hidden Costs of One-Size-Fits-All
BUSINESS PAIN POINTS CAN OFTEN BE SOLVED THROUGH TECHNOLOGY. WHEN LOOKING FOR TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS, ORGANISATIONS TEND TO LEAN TOWARDS A COMMERCIAL OFF-THE-SHELF (COTS) SYSTEM. WHILST A COMMERCIAL SOFTWARE PACKAGE MAY SEEM LIKE A FAST, INEXPENSIVE ALTERNATIVE TO A CUSTOM SOLUTION, THIS IS NOT ALWAYS THE CASE.
Engaging with a software development provider to build a system that is unique to the business can be far more lucrative in the long term, delivering a unique solution that meets the organisation’s exact needs.
Kareem Tawansi from Solentive Technology Group says organisations should be aware of the hidden costs of ‘one-size-fits-all’ software solutions.
“Packaged software can be quite sophisticated and save initial development time, however by nature, they are designed for diverse types of users with different requirements.”
In Tawansi’s experience, organisations that implement a COTS system often need to change their processes to fit the system. Adapting practices to make the software work for the business rather than implementing a solution that complements existing processes can lead to inefficiencies.
“A business exists because in theory, it provides a unique value – it does something in its own special way,” explains Tawansi. “There is a lot of off-the-shelf software that can handle the common practices in an industry – but there are other parts of the business that are proprietary. The more processes you have that are proprietary to your organisation, the more you’ll find that COTS cannot meet your organisation’s unique requirements.”
Many companies invest in a commercial Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system to integrate with their existing systems. They often find that they need to customise the ERP to meet their specific business needs. “The expertise to do this can be quite finite and in demand, and this comes at a high cost,” comments Tawansi. “When you factor in the license fees, the cost can often exceed that of custom software.”
So when an organisation decides to invest in a custom build, how do they find a software development provider with the capabilities to deliver the system successfully?
“Do your research and get an understanding of a provider’s methodology,” says Tawansi. “Check out their track history, and ask about their forward strategy and the technologies they’re exploring. You need to find an innovative provider focused on delivering business value through technology rather than just providing technology for the sake of it.”
A professionally developed custom solution has the potential to deliver a higher return on investment than COTS. When deployed well, customised software will provide major commercial benefits, allowing the business a significant competitive edge.