Enterprise Software: The Choice

Should you change your business processes to fit your software or change your software to meet your needs exactly?

No matter what business process you are in charge of managing—from supply chain logistics to HVAC systems—there is probably a piece of software designed to make that process easier. Most companies end up with dozens or even hundreds of different software programs.

When you’re looking for a software solution, the choices can be overwhelming. There are usually dozens of off-the-shelf software options that meet essentially the same need. If none of the off-the-shelf solutions are quite right, you could also choose the closest fit and then have it customized. Lastly, you could have a custom software company like Append build something from scratch.

As you’re evaluating the options, start by asking yourself how closely the available off-the-shelf solutions match your current business practices. If you find a perfect match, you don’t need to look further. If, however, using any of the software options would require you to change how you and your team works, ask yourself the following questions:

Do the business practices you would need to change give you a competitive advantage?

It rarely makes sense to abandon a business practice that gives you an edge over competitors just so you can take advantage of a time-saving software solution. If that’s required to use the off-the-shelf products, you’re always better off investing in custom-built software that allows you to keep your edge.

How many employees would need to change their behavior to use the new software?

It’s easier to change two people’s habits than it is to change thousands of people’s habits. An off-the-shelf software product that only a few people will need to adjust to might be a good investment. On the other hand, changing your entire organization’s workflow—even if it’s an internal process that doesn’t give you a business advantage—is going to be time-consuming and expensive.

How well do your current practices work?

Let’s be honest—just because you’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. This is an opportunity to evaluate if the current business process is truly the best way to operate. You might find that you and your team aren’t loving how things are done now, and making the change required by off-the-shelf software would be an improvement. If, however, everyone is happy with the current workflow, making changes just to fit into an off-the-shelf software’s process isn’t a good idea.

What About Customizing an Existing Software Package?

If you can’t find a perfect fit in an off-the-shelf solution, investing in customization is rarely a good idea. You’ll often spend as much as you would on custom software and you'd be not only dependent on a software company, but at the mercy of finding and hiring the right talent to facilitate your customizations and maintain them long-term—plus, you might have to do the customization all over again every time there’s a major software update.

In Summary...

Most companies use off-the-shelf software packages whenever they can find a good fit—which is usually quite often. Custom software is the best option when you can’t find a piece of software that does what you need it to. If you know your needs are unique and you don’t intend to change your business workflow to accommodate an off-the-shelf solution, you can save time by skipping the evaluation process and choosing custom software at the very beginning.

At Append, our specialty is creating software that allows you to keep your current business practices and maintain or even expand competitive advantages in a way that wouldn’t be possible with commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) software products.