Building Custom Business Software vs. Buying Pre-Made Solutions

JP Lessard October 20, 2016

Business Productivity and Technological Solutions: Part 4

Building Custom Business Software vs. Buying Pre-Made Solutions In Part 4 of our series, we’ll discuss what factors you should be considering when comparing custom software and pre-made solutions. You should have already completed a gap analysis of your business processes in Part 3: Analysing Software Features and Creating a Comparison Chart. Now we should be able to decide whether there is a pre-made solution that fits your specific needs, or if custom software provides the flexibility and unique features your business requires.

How to Decide What’s Best for Your Business

You’ve conducted a gap analysis of your business processes and discovered the areas that have bottlenecked your business growth. Now you can take your list of requirements and compare them with the available solutions. Use these questions to help guide your decision making processes as we move forward:

  • Will this pre-made solution fit my business needs?
  • Does my business have specialized processes that pre-made solutions won’t solve?
  • Can my current systems or available pre-made solutions be enhanced by adding custom features?

When to Use Pre-Made Software Solutions

A man consults his business data to help determine whether he should purchase an out-of-the-box business software solutionOut-of-the-box software solutions are typically made to satisfy general specifications that can cover the needs of multiple independent users across a range of businesses. These solutions can include software like a simple Point-of-Sale (POS) system that can be used by retail businesses or an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that allows for more robust resource planning and business operations.

Since these systems come with preset features, you may or may not have everything you need, and you could end up with more features than you know what to do with. Here are some key considerations you should have when looking at pre-made software solutions:

  • Are the features the solution provides well aligned with your top priority feature requirements? Industry specific software often can be a great foundation for core aspects of running your business since the software company can invest a lot more into features which are common across many different businesses.
  • Does the software include all the features you need? Often with out-of-the-box solutions, even the software that is closest to what you need, you still have to give up having certain features simply because they are not included.
  • Does the software solution contain unnecessary “bloat”? On a similar note, you may have to deal with many additional features that you just don’t need, which can cause clutter and potentially even decrease your efficiency if they get in your way.
  • Is your business model in flux? If your business isn’t totally settled in on how it’s processes are being run, temporarily solving your issues with a temporary pre-made solution can be a safe option until you get things figured out in regards to how your business should operate.
  • Do you have a limited budget for this solution? Pre-made solutions can generally be obtained for lower cost than custom since they are sold to many businesses as-is rather than having to invest in something just for one business.
  • Do you need a fast turnaround time? Pre-made solutions are here for you now. They may not deliver all the features you need, but if you need is urgent you may need to go with a quick solution.

Pre-made software built for specific industries is a good example of something which may suit your needs – they typically include core features of what you may need for your business and provide the low-cost, quick availability advantages noted above. If you do decide to go with a pre-made solution, make sure it provides you with all the features that are essential to your business processes. Any features that you have to give up should not be integral to your key processes.

When to Use Custom Software Solutions

If you looked at the available pre-made solutions and they just don’t fit, a custom software solution is most likely for you. Custom developed solutions are more flexible and adaptable than pre-made solutions. When you work with a software development company, they can tailor your software to your exact specifications. Here are key considerations for when looking at a custom software solution:

  • How important are the aspects of your business that cannot be met by a pre-made solution? If these are core to your business and/or what really differentiates you, then you should most likely lean towards a custom solution to maximize the value of your uniqueness.
  • How many people are being affected by current issues and processes? The more aspects of your business that are being affected by not having the best-fitting software, the more important it is to implement the right solution. Custom software can be made to improve on and solve specific issues based on the magnitude specific to your business process.
  • Do you have multiple other systems in place that you would like to integrate together? A custom solution can take this into account and seamlessly connect all of your software systems and applications. You don’t always even need to add an actual software to your list – the solution could simply be bringing this information from one to another of your existing systems (see “combining” section below).
  • How immediate is your need for certain features? While it can take longer to develop and implement a new solution, primary features that are key to your business processes can be rolled out first while the others get developed.
  • Are you ready to invest in the future of your business? If you are looking for good mid- and long-term impact and willing to invest in technology for future Return on Investment, then custom software is often the best way to maximize your long-term potential return.

When going with a custom solution you truly have a lot more freedom when choosing what features you need and how you want to integrate your software with your other systems. Custom solutions are made to your specifications, so if you’re giving up too many features or opportunities by going with a pre-made software, a custom solution is your best option.

When to Combine Pre-Made and Custom Software

Using custom software in conjunction with pre-made solutions is a great option for when your current or pre-made software still holds value, but you have a need for specific additional features or connectivity between systems. Often as businesses grow and develop, they bring on new solutions to handle more tasks. However, the connectivity between these systems might not be there.

One way of bridging this gap is to build custom integration tools to bring information from one existing system into another (one-way or two-way integration). Another option would be to create a centralized custom solution which can be used to feed all information and data from your other various systems into one easy to access platform.

Integrating your systems is critical for streamlining your operations, increasing your overall efficiency, and maximizing your potential revenue. Common instances where businesses find the need for a combination of software include:

  • Connecting your eCommerce site to a CRM (Customer Relationship Management, e.g. Salesforce). This will allow you to better manage customer accounts, maximize upselling and cross selling, and optimize your overall marketing strategy.
  • Connecting your eCommerce site with accounting software (e.g. QuickBooks). With this you’ll be able to automate processes like gathering customer data, receipt and shipping notifications, synchronizing inventory counts, and routing orders for necessary fulfillment.
  • Connecting a CRM to accounting software. This will allow you to view credit limits and open balances, sales histories for each customer, and synchronize data between systems.
  • Connecting your CRM to ERP systems. This allows your sales team and operations teams to be able to see the whole picture of what is going on with a customer and make better decisions and provide better customer service based on the right information.
  • Connecting any of your own software systems with your largest partners (customers, vendors, etc.). Streamlining communication between your companies can help maximize the efficiencies of working together and add value for both parties.

These are just a few examples of the limitless possibilities. The main point here is, if you have softwares and applications in place that are working separately from each other, using custom solutions to integrate your systems together will allow your company and your people to be as efficient and effective as possible.

How Can Custom Software Help Scale Your Company?

Scalability is an area where custom software has a clear advantage over pre-made solutions. While pre-made solutions have some configurability, custom software can be implemented and then further developed over time as your company grows or finds a need for new features.

When you buy pre-made solutions, they can come bloated with additional features that make the software more cumbersome than it has to be. The only way to get additional features is to buy another pre-made solution (however, they won’t be integrated) or you can develop a custom solution to work alongside of it.

Custom software, on the other hand, is developed to fit your exact needs at the time, meaning you’ll only get the features you want without having to worry about other features cluttering your interface. Plus, as your business grows and you realize the need for new solutions, a custom develop solution can evolve with your business and keep everything centralized rather than buying a whole separate software and spreading out your processes and/or information.

Work With the Right IT Partner

How to Implement the Best Solution for Your Company’s Needs

As an experienced provider of IT services and much more, Miles Technologies provides support and solutions for all of our clients’ needs. As a dedicated partner, we are passionate about finding the right solution, whether it’s custom or pre-made software, or a combination of the two.

We start by conducting a full business analysis for our customers to help uncover their exact needs and what solutions can be used to optimize their processes. We strive to build long-term relationships with our customers, which means providing you with the best long-term solution to keep you going. Ready to get started with your next IT project? Contact our experts today!

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