Off-the-Shelf Software: Advantages and Disadvantages
June 23, 2020
All businesses are going digital – in the post COVID era there is hardly any company not digitizing their operations or customer experience. Many organizations got caught unprepared – a friend of mine, who’s working in the finance department of a major clinic told me she bought 2 boxes of paper at home to continue her daily routine!
Traditional businesses like retailers were shut – the result was that whoever had established an online presence flourished, taking the customers of the non-digital dinosaurs.
Going digital – the hard way or the right way
In a situation like COVID, you need to make quick decisions and implement fast solutions. Using off the shelf or SAAS software is the right way. For example, if you want to store all your documents in the cloud to make them accessible from all your office locations it is best to:
- Create a list of available options
- List your specific needs – for example, if you’re in the medical field you want to be HIPAA compliant. You also want to have encryption of files and all files available on iOS, Android and Web
- Check existing integrations – is it easy to integrate with Quick Books, SAP or your CRM
- Read reviews of the existing providers in media like TechRadar
- Select 3 options and request Trial/Demo of their products
- Involve other colleagues and make an assessment
- Assess pricing and how expensive each product is
The last one is very tricky – for example, pCloud storage offers a one-time pay option. This means you pay for 1TB upfront but you don’t pay any extra in the next years. This means you’ve invested more money upfront, but you don’t get the monthly billing, which is great for a core system like file sharing.
Know the Limitations
You’ve got a brand new system and everyone shares files freely within the organisation. Now people bring fresh new ideas on improving not only your internal processes but also the customer experience.
You decide you want to provide your clients with digital access to their medical journal. This turns out not to be so easy in many ways. You want to share data only with specific people. Also, branding is essential – your clients want to see that they are sharing data only with your organisation, not an external service.
Here come the limitations of off-the-shelf software:
- Non – customizable business logic
- Generic branding and presentation
- No way to influence next versions
- No competitive advantage – same experience for every company using it
- Integration with external systems
- Scalability and security depend on the team that has developed it
Even if you hit one limitation, this can be a huge problem for the future of your business.
Custom vs Off the Shelf Software
In many cases software is the way you gain a competitive advantage over your competitors. As a rule of thumb, you use off-the-shelf software for:
- Standard operations – e.g. accounting and finance
- Non-client facing applications
- Parts of the business that are standard and will not change/evolve that frequently
You want to build a custom software system when you are creating a new digital offering. That way you can provide superior customer experience. You can also experiment with providing different versions (A/B testing) of the product and see which one leads to better sales/customer satisfaction.
When your organisation is evolving, the software is the “suit” that evolves with the organization too! Imagine you need to expand your existing suit – if it is an off-the-shelf product you can add several patches, but if your organization doubles it will start to cause you major discomfort here and there.
Dreamix is specialized in building custom software that evolves with your business/organisation. So if you see that the software will evolve with the needs of this business line or business department then you want to invest in a long-term software platform that will grow together with you.