With any business, software is crucial to performing day-to-day tasks.
Many businesses use off-the-shelf software, but some businesses and users will need additional tools for the best business performance possible.
It is important for business owners and managers to consider what they currently have, what they intend to do, and if a more customized approach will increase productivity when exploring software needs.
How to Evaluate Current Software
To evaluate software, it is a good idea to consider what your business does, and how. Off-the-shelf software serves most of the needs of most businesses. This means that common types of businesses, such as restaurants or retail stores, probably already have good software to use for business needs. This can save time and money for the business owner, as there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
The size of the company is another factor to consider when evaluating software needs. Smaller companies may not have the budget, time, or support to create custom software, so an off-the-shelf solution will probably fit their needs. Additionally, a company that operates domestically within a local region may not need the additional features that can be built into a custom software option.
Another important factor in software to remember is the people who use it. A manager can ask customers, employees, and other businesses to measure how well a particular option or program works. Asking the users how easy the software is to use and how efficiently it does its job can illuminate possible options for change.
Competing businesses are also vital to remember as some types of businesses may not get as much of an edge from spending the time and energy to create custom software. If custom software would not improve service or set a business apart from competitors, then off-the-shelf software would be able to fulfill business needs.
For a more structured approach to evaluating needs, the National Career Development Association has a set of questions to rate existing software. Not all of these questions will apply to all businesses, but this list can provide guidance as to what software features need to be examined, such as security and types of support. Most importantly, if a crucial part of the software is not meeting needs, a business may need to consider consultation for a custom software solution.
When to Explore Custom Software
Going through with creating and implementing custom software can seem like a long, expensive undertaking. However, the costs and energy of having a customized platform are justified by creating a more efficient means of doing business. While most off-the-shelf programs will fit the needs of most customers, these programs can either clog systems with unneeded options or can fail to cover certain concerns. Creating custom software can eliminate the excess while ensuring that a business has everything it needs.
If a business owner is looking to expand or sell their business, having a custom platform can make the processes more uniform and standard across all tasks. A potential seller may be more interested if a custom software means less difficulties as ownership changes. Additionally, an expanding business needs consistency between all locations for the most efficiency.
Creating a single platform for all franchises will allow for more fluid communication and processing between individual managers and the company as a whole. Businesses working with international clients can also benefit from the greater capabilities that can be put into a custom framework.
A custom platform can also create a more streamlined process for a business. With off-the-shelf software, data may be stored in other places or different tasks may require different programs. A custom platform can keep data and information in one place without having to switch programs.
Compatibility is key in many business tasks. Some software allows for multiple programs that all have the same operating base. Certain businesses may not be as worried about compatibility between programs, but some businesses need more than others. For example, businesses that need certain information in a database, extra security, or graphics will need programs that some businesses do not need. Custom software can ensure this compatibility that may not be in off-the-shelf software.
Furthermore, custom software can allow more effective use of personnel. Instead of cutting positions, owners can use a custom platform to eliminate the need for multiple licensing fees, which saves money. Custom software can allow all employees to learn how to use one platform, eliminating concerns over who will be able to do tasks if the only person who knows the software leaves.
Finally, learning new software can be difficult for employees without support. A custom platform can allow for a professional to guide users through the necessary tasks. Because custom software is built around what a company already does, the processes are less foreign and more readily applied.
Competition is another business aspect that custom software can address. By using software tailor-made for them, businesses can work more efficiently and can invest the funds into improvements, product, and other needs. Custom software can also allow a business to serve customers more completely and quickly, which can allow for more company growth.
Between a Full Customization and Off-The-Shelf
This is a third option that can also suit business needs. Employees may end up creating their own workarounds for issues in existing software, or the software itself can offer some flexibility. The issues in using this approach also relate to the concerns listed above. However, by relying on employee workarounds, the system becomes idiosyncratic and non-standardized, not to mention the fact that employees are not fully using software that costs money.
If one employee creates an effective system and leaves, the replacement employee is forced to start all over in creating a workaround. In addition, some software allows for customization, but that customization can come with extra fees and may be lost with updates. Some companies end up not updating for several years to avoid this issue, which can result in lost productivity.
Does Your Company Need a Custom Solution?
Business owners need to consider what kinds of software will allow them to serve clients in the most effective manner possible. Off-the-shelf, fully customized, and hybrid software solutions exist, but they each have benefits and drawbacks. It is important for business owners to consider their company’s needs, goals, and tasks in choosing a system.