When we consider what is mission critical to our organization, we often think about what tools, tactics, and strategies will help us achieve our goals. Technology and software solutions are often part of that mix. We may decide on an off-the-shelf software solution or choose a customized approach to meet our needs, requirements, and priorities. Not all customer needs are the same so there are things to consider when making this decision. Are we concerned about the cost? Our timeline? Our profitability? Let’s dive into some of these questions and look at a real-world example.
To Customize or not to Customize
There’s no easy answer to selecting a software solution – that’s why it’s important we take the time to identify whether an off-the-shelf solution or custom software will help us achieve maximum results, meet business requirements, and add profit long-term. We might not consider custom to be cost efficient, but let's look at the 80/20 rule and see how it applies to technology. When we buy an off-the-shelf solution, we might pay for 80% of the applications available but only use 20%. When we customize, the technology works for us and our needs.
"When we buy an off-the-shelf solution, we might pay for 80% of the applications available but only use 20%."
Custom software can be built to accommodate specific needs at the right budget with the ability to scale as needs, priorities, and budgets change. Let’s look at how one company used custom software to meet its critical mission – so that technology fit into the culture, not against it.
Customization in Action
fivestar* has worked with a variety of clients to help figure out their business and software needs. One example is a regional restaurant who chose custom software because they could not find an off-the-shelf solution that could be customized to meet their top-of-the-line training regimen. We developed a Learning Management System (LMS) for 14,000 employees in over 400 locations. By leveraging human-centered design and iterative development to shift complexity away from end-users, we enabled them to manage highly specialized, targeted workflows for thousands of employees. In 3 years, the custom LMS will pay for itself despite annual licensing and maintenance fees and upgrade costs.
Having a custom software solution not only gives a proprietary platform that can meet specific needs, but it can also be built with the goal of increasing ROI. In this case, the company knew that their mission, values, and vision were so important to success, the technology had to match it.
What is mission critical to us?
Here’s a few questions we consider when thinking about what software will fit our needs.
- Are our processes unique and do they give us a competitive advantage? Will custom software enable us and not restrict us?
- What is the cost of licensing and upgrades? Will we be affected by the lack of control and having a direct say in when our software improves?
- Will our needs evolve and can off-the-shelf sustain our growth in a timely manner?
Business needs vary greatly from one organization to the next, which is why we should consider the above questions and help gauge where we are today as a company and where we want to go. By future thinking and forward planning, we can seek a solution that won’t become obsolete. We plan for our business and implement ideas for it to still be growing and functioning in 5 years, our software should support that.
Interested in working with fivestar*?
If you decide that it is valuable and profitable for your business to have custom software, fivestar* can develop solutions that centralize workflows, optimize processes, and enable decision-making through real-time data and business intelligence.
About the Author: Alex Gindin
Alex Gindin is the VP of Operations at fivestar* and brings more than a decade of experience in launching technologies and adaptive strategies that enable business growth. He works closely with his teams to create solutions to business challenges using human-centered design, iterative development, and a strong focus on user-engagement. Alex holds an MBA and a Masters in Information Systems from the University of Pittsburgh.