To build or not to build, what was the question?
ver a year ago, I was talking to a business owner who supplies hire equipment to the construction industry. For some reason, he thought that his operational requirements where so distinctive that he had one of his internal staff build the software system from scratch. I was a bit at a loss to understand that rational as there where several solutions available on the market that could allocate resources to a scheduling calendar. At that stage it was 2 years overdue and when I saw him again recently, it was still not rolled out. That is a lot of time and money wasted in lost productivity as that work would still need to be done by manual paperwork. If they had thought to adapt a generic software, then they could have been up and running within a few months.
Some people think that their requirements are so unique they have to develop something for themselves or engage a team to deliver it for them. Even if that were the case, it is still a good idea to check what is available on the market. There are a lot of good features being developed in a variety of different business software packages and you may well be able to pick and mix and if you do eventually have to custom build something, then at least you will have a working model upon which to base your ideas. One company that we had to design something from scratch appreciated the fact they could a test run on an existing platform to see what would happen and found a string of new possibilities that they never knew existed before. Email synchronisation, on-line signatories, embedding photographs/documents and links to accounting packages were all features that were new to them and we incorporated these into the new solution.
Some advantages of building your own solution:
• Customised User interface: The look and feel of the screen layout can be just as you like. You can include industry specific field names, customised reports and workflow layouts. With existing generic platforms, they will have developed a method of working that they feel will suit most of their business users. You may be able to customise some peripheral fields and settings, but at some stage you will find an underlying logic that cannot be changed. This is due to its underlying architecture and the logic that allows for consistent support. If you need to change everything in a database and then hit a snag it makes it harder for a support team to assist you as it has varied from the original spec.
• There may be a unique requirement that your business needs to fulfill a function. A good test is to check whether your company is providing specific service or product to your customers in a way that none of your competitors are. Then it may well be that your backend system would also need to reflect that reality with a custom solution. Otherwise, if you operate in a known sphere, such as a law firm, or a pharmacy then there is more than likely that someone has developed a solution that has already dealt with that problem.
• You will have ultimate propriety rights and control over that specific build so you will be able to upgrade or fix bugs within your own resources and timelines without having to wait for the schedule of large 3rd party organization to address the known issue.
• A purpose-built piece of software makes it difficult for your competitors to replicate it and close the gap. If you get an existing package someone else can buy the same thing and modify it the same way. With custom software they are unlikely to build the same solution you have got.
The disadvantages are:
In summing up:
About the Author:
Malcolm Ford has 25 years experience in a variety of sectors and advices business’s on their software requirements in order for them to take advantage of the latest technologies. See our services page for details.