Rethink buying prepackaged software? As an entrepreneur, you know that when your business grows, so does its software needs. Your technology seems slower and your software doesn’t seem to keep up with your operation’s increased activity. Or maybe your current system can no longer adjust or adapt to business changes that have happened over time. Whatever the reason, choosing software can be daunting, especially if you don’t consider yourself an IT geek. But this decision can have a major impact on your business, so choose wisely as you compare off-the-shelf software to custom software. Take the time to rethink buying prepackaged software.
Determine your needs.
Gather up your team and start creating a list of must-haves, which is everything you need the system to do to keep business running. Think of all your business departments or teams and all types of processes and transactions. Then follow up with a list of features that would be considered nice-to-have. These are the features that add extra value to your system but are not necessary to run your business operations. Now think about the future and what changes might be around the corner for your business and add these future needs to a third list. Think about the addition of new products and services. Think business expansion.
Off-the-shelf versus custom software.
Now that you have completed the three lists, you should have a comprehensive checklist of your dream software. Next, you’ll need to decide if custom software is a better option over the off-the-shelf variety. And although off-the-shelf software initially looks like a better deal, be sure to check your needs against what the prepackaged software includes and what the price tag doesn’t include. For example, packaged software pricing usually doesn’t include additional fees like upgrade costs, licensing fees, subscription fees, and possibly maintenance costs. And then you better hope the software will accommodate your future changes and business growth. Otherwise, you may find your business stuck on a software merry-go-round that limits your abilities and innovation.
But worst of all, an off-the-shelf purchase could stop providing upgrades and become incompatible with other future programs. Necessary patches and gaps that attempt to keep the system working could haunt you as time goes on. Worse yet, you may find yourself having to add multiple systems that could ultimately wreak havoc on current systems. Bottom line don’t let an off-the-shelf price tag fool you! But is it really time to rethink buying prepackaged software?
Either way, here are some things to consider that may change your mind about buying that off-the-shelf product and consider custom software:
Obviously, there are problems that could inherently arise when software comes out of a box. A good analogy might be trying to fit a round peg in a square slot. First and foremost, the off-the shelf solution could conflict with your existing operating systems, devices, and other software. Any unsupported infrastructure and platform requirements could cost your business more to accommodate.
And don’t forget about the possibility of having to retrain your staff, especially if you’re forced to change your business processes to accommodate the new out-of-the-box software. And even though training might be available out there to help your staff learn how to use the boxed variety, it won’t be specific to your business. The closer software matches your current processes the easier it will be to orient your staff. Custom software better accommodates transactions and how you run your business, making staff orientation a smooth process.
Ask yourself how likely your business will experience new services or products in coming months or years. Future innovations are usually not accommodated by prepackaged software. If anything, it’s meant to keep you stuck in a certain, well-defined way of doing business—maybe forever! Custom software that is tailored to your business is more easily expanded or modified.
Think about your business model
Don’t be limited by a product designed to suit a wide variety of businesses. Your business is unique with its own special guidelines, processes, client needs, and plans—not to mention, security and technical issues that the off-the-shelf product may not accommodate. You shouldn’t have to change how you do business with a one-size-fits-all software. Custom software is flexible and more easily allows making changes and modifications.
Features you really need
Don’t get stuck paying for features you’ll never use while sacrificing the type of features you really want. Go ahead and pull out that checklist to compare how off-the-shelf versus custom software will meet all your requirements and ultimately make your business processes more efficient. You deserve a solution that truly meets your company’s needs.
When you make an off-the-shelf purchase, you do not own the software, you are simply using it. You will likely to find yourself dependent on the supplier to provide support when things go wrong. And a third party is likely to maintain your data. Plus, remember that your competitors have access to the same off-the-shelf versions and therefore are doing business the same way you do business. But when you choose custom software, you own the software, which could make you more powerful than your competitors with features that make your business more efficient and your clients more satisfied.
The end result is your business’ future
Whatever you decide, the reality is that this purchase will have a profound effect on your business both now and in the future. You should consider this purchase as seriously (or more seriously) as you would buying a building or a fleet of trucks. So, before you buy, consider the risks, and rethink buying prepackaged software.