“One-Size-Fits-All” doesn’t work for shoes—or software

by Mark Benvegnu
“One-Size-Fits-All” doesn’t work for shoes—or software

“You certainly wouldn’t buy a pair of shoes that offered no choice of size–why would you buy an off-the-shelf packaged software application that is not designed specifically for your business?”

While most business owners don’t think about it when choosing a software to run their business: buying a packaged, one-size-fits-all software program is really like buying a pair of shoes that only come in only one size.

The Rise One-Size-Fits-All Applications

When computing first started to evolve beyond its centralized, mainframe-centric beginnings, most software was custom made.  Businesses or more specifically, their IT departments, would acquire database licenses, programming languages and development tools and build their own applications. This approach remained the standard for at least a decade and while not always ideal, got the job done more often or not.

Partially driven by the marketing of independent software vendors along with Y2K, many companies rushed to adopt monolithic ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems, and proprietary, one-size-fits-all applications became the norm beginning in the late 1990’s.  This practice was seen as less risky and less costly than building custom applications and in some cases that was true. In others, these applications proved plenty risky and very costly, most of the time those risks and costs remain hidden and fly under the radar.

The Conventional Wisdom of Branded, Packaged Applications: Debunked

Oftentimes the conventional wisdom cited as the rationale for purchasing and implementing packaged applications has proven to be inaccurate. Not necessarily easy to implement and not as inexpensive as advertised, packaged proprietary applications are an imperfect solution for many companies.

Many companies feel constrained by the need to design their business processes within the limits imposed by their applications.  In too many cases, workflows had to be changed to adapt to the software rather than the other way round. And as ERP applications often represent a substantial corporate investment, companies feel stuck and have to do the best with what they have with little room for innovation or ability to use data where it can do the most good.

In hindsight, it makes sense to question many of the assumptions that led to the widespread adoption of packaged applications:

  • Do your current one-size-fits-all applications really fit your unique business model? In most cases, no.
  • Are they less expensive?  Not always. Maintenance fees and implementation and customization costs often eat into or exceed any perceived cost savings.
  • Do they impose lengthy and restrictive contracts, high maintenance fees and exposure to the whims of software companies and markets? Almost always.
  • Are they flexible and adaptable to changing market conditions or business processes? No.
  • Do you own the IP (Intellectual Property) and control your destiny? No.

Custom Applications Are More flexible AND More Focused

Consider the value of custom software applications and what they can bring to your business. Using the latest tools and techniques, a skilled custom software developer can build a custom application that is uniquely tailored to your business and that is entirely focused on meeting your unique business objectives. This control extends beyond the initial design and implementation as you free yourselves from vendor upgrade schedules (or lack thereof) and maintenance fees that come with a packaged application. Custom applications adhere to your schedule, budget and growth patterns!

Advantages of Custom Development:

Custom applications offer an alternative to One-Size-Fits-All that provides more flexibility and control at a lower price over time.  Advantages include:

  • Purpose built for your business
  • Flexible–can grow or adapt with your business
  • You can set your own schedule for development
  •  No hidden fees, unanticipated price increases or escalating support fees
  • Often a lower Total Cost of Ownership than packaged applications 
  • No waiting for updates or fixes that may be timed for the general market or a vendor’s staffing levels
  • You own the IP. Your application cannot be phased out or sold to another software vendor with unknown development schedules or maintenance policies
  • Control of your technology destiny

For many businesses, custom software when used alone or when used to complement or enhance standardized packages software is the way to go.  The increased functionality, flexibility and control of custom applications more that make up for a perceived cost advantage of One-Size-Fits-All software packages

Your business processes and ambitions are not “One-Size-Fits-All”, so why should your software be?

Pell Software brings expertise to all aspects of custom software development.  We’ve worked with companies that have used or are using a variety of legacy applications in a range of industries. So we know how to develop custom software that will fit your workflows and meet your business objectives.  Your company is unique and the applications we develop are as well–a perfect match.  And you own the IP and control your destiny.

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