Article Written by Stewart Gray - 22/08/2019
We all know how to ask awkward questions but sometimes we need to be on the receiving end of awkward questions, and one that our potential customers like to hit us with, "Do I really need a bespoke solution, or can I not just buy this off the shelf...?"
Software as it used to be sold in the shops
Everyone wants to make sure they get the best deal... Everyone wants to make sure they get what they want, and most of all, everyone wants to make sure that what they're buying pays off in the end! To ensure all these criteria are met, the usual way of someone thinking about this ends up with: "The less I spend and the more I make, the better the deal!"
In many cases, this is a good deal - when it comes to fruition anyway. But there is more to a deal than money, and when it comes to software money will be saved if implemented properly and mapped to your processes correctly. When you go for software that is close or almost what you're looking for, you're exposing yourself or your business to potential issues, all driven through a bad choice of software...
One thing we always advise our clients to do before going straight for off the shelf products is to check how well the softwares features support their current processes as the last thing anyone needs is a system which increases process cycle times. This is the first thing that companies overlook when focussing on the cost of a product, especially software! though commercially available software can be trusted and used by many businesses - and there are businesses which benefit from off the shelf software - this isn't always the best choice for developing your business. It is important to have an understanding of your operational objectives, the process and data capture currently in place and the pain points of the staff.
This brings us to another of the variables that should be considered when thinking about digitizing or introducing software, staff morale. A topic we have mentioned several times and should be self-explanatory to businesses, you're people are your strongest, most valuable and most robust assets to any team. By ensuring your employees' lives are made easier, resistance should be minimised - all while still achieving the same results. When your people are happy, your business is happy! To help with this our tactic is usually to hear out the bugbears from those closest to the problem and try to incorporate as much staff input as possible when designing solutions. Involving your staff encourages ownership and responsibility, lessons which are helpful in many jobs and even walks of life.
Bespoke software isn't always the best choice - depending on your requirements - but we believe it can open up more doors than simply having an off the shelf application. From engaging with staff to starting to ask that all important question "Why?" When analyzing processes and trying to cut out or combine steps, it's always important to understand why we do certain things. One of our all-time favourites is "because we have always done it that way!" That may be very true, but it doesn't mean it is still the best way to do it, and in the world of supply, demand and turnover, you need to be aiming high consistently.
The true power of designing a custom-built software solution usually reveals itself within the early stages of a project. If the clients understand exactly what they want, and they do understand their processes, then the planning stage will reveal where all the efficiencies will be gained and the money saved. Pulling the team together and doing some blue-sky thinking in this forum can be a positive team-building exercise, especially if all involved can see benefits to themselves, as well as the company!
Looking to business processes, these can be dead giveaways that a shake-up is needed, however, that doesn't always mean you need to implement software, sometimes a physical process change can make all the difference. If you are exerting resources or running a loss though, perhaps its time to consider having the process analysed to see what's causing the problems! When it comes to necessary non-value add tasks like paperwork for accountability or decision-making work - when there are rules to follow - these can all be automated and made into a user-friendly bit of software to ease the physical demand.
Working together to Understand the Process
Before implementing any systems though, or changing any physical processes, there is always one business resource that you must consult first, your data! One of our first questions to a client, and usually investigations to carry out, is to identify the root cause of the issues and then come up with a corrective action plan. To do this we need to see the data so we know we aren't chasing anything down a rabbit hole. Once we are sure that the root cause has been identified we can start to build solutions with features aimed at reducing the problem!
In summary, not all off the shelf software fits into businesses, but not all businesses need a tailor-made solution to solve their problem. It is important to think about what problems you are having, the critical ones to solve and understanding what effect fixing the issues would have on the team. In our experience, there are many situations which can benefit from a custom piece of software and many teams that are now happier thanks to their employer having the software created
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