Technology continues to rapidly change the way we work – often through attempts to ease workflow within an organization. There are as many out-of-the-box solutions as there are problems, but getting them to work together for a specific situation can be difficult. Perhaps you’re looking at some of the challenges to overcome with your own business and you are asking yourself: how can this issue be solved? Will a custom solution benefit you? What advantages come with a software solution? We have the answer to all your questions.
When you look at workflow challenges, you have two possible solutions; off-the-shelf, or a custom solution. Picking between the two is a decision based on what best fits your business’ agile workflow. Understanding the difference is key when picking which one to use. What is a custom solution? What is an off-the-shelf solution?
What’s the difference?
Off-the-shelf solutions are widespread – meaning they were designed to meet the needs of many groups. They can have a lot of benefits and are normally cost-efficient because they are easily available for you to adopt into your workflow.
An off-the-shelf solution most likely will not meet all of your organization’s needs. For example, if you need to map your company sales data into general account software, your existing system would have to meet the requirements of the accounting software. This means to import sales receipts into Quickbooks, the data must already exist in a format, such as excel, to be transferred properly and efficiently.
A custom solution is a piece of software that is built specifically for you by a third party, ensuring all your needs are met. In the long-term, they allow for scalability and adaptations to be made as your business grows and changes.
The performance and functionality will be superior to off-the-shelf software and give you a competitive advantage against others in your industry. For example, as trends change in your industry, your business will be able to adapt to changes easily through your custom software.
What does a custom solution look like?
Let’s take for example a company website. As your company starts to create an online presence, an off-the-shelf solution, like WordPress, will get the job done – at first. However, these off-the-shelf solutions have restrictions and limitations. This means, as your business changes and expands, the software you originally used will not be able to keep up.
For example, if you want to have people log in to your website, you will need to create a custom modification. Off-the-shelf solutions like WordPress are not built for your unique business challenges. They can, however, be expanded upon by the right person. Project management could also be done with an off-the-shelf solution like Excel, MR Projects, or PMP – but at some point, this software will not meet all of your growing needs. Then this purposes the question, do you expand upon the off-the-shelf solution? Or create your own software?
A custom solution can be a fully customized solution, like a portal that was created and functions for all of your needs. It can also be the ‘glue’ between two existing software. For example, if you use excel to record your data, and need to transfer that data into Quickbooks, you will most likely need ‘glue’ to make the two compatible. It should be noted that excel or another spreadsheet should not be used as a database. In that case, you may need a custom database.
We make custom solutions simple for you. Moving your data and implementing a custom solution into your business can be done in three easy steps:
- Understanding: To implement a solution that meets and exceeds your needs, we take time to understand the system you have in place. We look at how your current systems and the data itself could be improved to create the best solution. Starting with understanding the structure, ensures the transition is easy on you, your employees, and the organization as a whole.
- Accessing: After we understand the company’s needs and data structure, we make it accessible. How will your staff securely find the information? We evaluate and determine the most suitable option – it could be anything ranging from a portal to a desktop application. We then get started on crafting a perfect solution.
- Processing: The final step is taking your current data and processing it into the new database. Your daily operations like; finances, project management, human resources, and many more. These steps vary for each solution depending on what you are looking for.
Why doesn’t everyone use custom software? There are two core barriers:
Many believe that custom solutions are expensive and have high maintenance costs. Although they can be expensive, that is not always the case. In fact, in the long run, they can help you reduce costs. Off-the-shelf software may be lower in cost, but won’t always function in the way specifically desired. When purchasing a custom solution software you are paying for a quality product and service that will help you in the long-term, like increasing your return on investment.
Transaction Pro Importer is an example of an off-the-shelf solution that is used between Excel and Quickbooks to reduce the time it takes to input data. Transaction Pro is much cheaper than a custom solution as it only costs $299.00. Because it was built for a broad audience and general use, rather than with you specifically in mind, its range on functionality is limited. An off-the-shelf solution also does not allow you to work with a software developer that essentially becomes a part of your team. They bring knowledge and expertise to your business that can help not only help develop a custom solution but furthermore understand and improve your workflow.
If you decide a custom solution is better for you, it is important to know the cost is dependent on what work is being done. It can be as expensive as you want it to be unique. If you have an extensive list of unique functions you want your software to perform, it will be more costly. Price is a function of flexibility.
Another common misconception is that you have to pay to maintain a custom software solution – that is not always the case. With any software you have to update it; whether it be to keep up with your workflow or the other software within your organization. For example, Lotus 123 was used before Excel and companies had to pay to upgrade to new spreadsheet software. This is no different than a custom or off-the-shelf solution. The cost of a custom solution varies on the uniqueness and functionality of the software.
Lack of Understanding
Not many people are aware of all the options available to them. Some are unaware that there are simple solutions to the workflow problem they are facing. Businesses do not have to settle with what is available on the market.
As mentioned previously, the software developer you hire to build your solutions will essentially become part of your team to understand the vision of your business. In saying this, it is built to be flexible and agile to meet and exceed all of your wants and needs – even if your workflow changes. One of the most amazing things about customized solutions is they can change with you and your organization. Your software can start small and be built upon over time and could possibly be integrated into the systems you are already working with.
Do you have a time-consuming process? Are there repetitive jobs that take a large part of your day to complete? It may be valuable to meet with a knowledgeable consultant to discuss your company’s workflow.
We can meet the needs of your agile workflow. At Sangwa Solutions, our mission is to develop custom software solutions that meet the needs of small and medium businesses in the realm of automation, full-stack development, and analytics. To do this, we create custom software solutions to help you reduce costs, improve productivity and assist your business in a variety of ways.