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Can’t I Just Buy Off-the-Shelf Software?

Most companies want to use off-the-shelf software. There is a powerful argument that says you will save a lot of money if you don’t have to develop your own applications.

 

Off-the-shelf software may be better.  Another argument is that the larger user base and dedicated maintenance staff at the company which sells the application ensure that the quality of off-the-shelf software is better.

 

Your business model can kill both savings and quality of off-the-shelf software. If your business model matches what the software developers were thinking when they wrote the application, you have a good chance of seeing a real return on investment. The problem is that every company uses a different business model.

 

Every company has different business rules and different processes. If not, no one would have a competitive advantage. In most cases, it’s being different that allows a company or an organization to compete and be successful.

 

Off-the-shelf applications assume a certain business model. Or they require you to modify the software, or worse yet change your business model to match their assumptions. We could tell you horror stories of CEO’s who selected off-the-shelf software because their counterparts used it, then invested years trying to make it work. If they did make it work, inevitably a major upgrade followed, forcing them to reinvest or choose to fall behind in functionality and quality. In some cases they gave up. This is the second best time to call Auburn SeeWolf.

 

Some companies settle for partial implementation of their applications. We often see this with ERP and CRM systems. At best, partially implemented systems may only prevent a full return on investment. At worst they actually increase costs.

 

When should you use off-the-shelf application software? When it truly matches your business model and provides the salient requirements needed to meet your business objectives. You should develop realistic plans for the cost and time of implementation and the cost of upgrades. It is usually better to find and integrate off-the-shelf applications that work within your business practices with little or no modification, even if they don’t provide every capability you would like. Software that provides lots of bells and whistles, but assumes a different business model, is an accident looking for a place to happen.

 

To be cost effective, applications must support your business model. For large enterprise systems, your choices are limited: start with an off-the-shelf system and try to adapt it to your business model, or use smaller stovepipe applications that better match your business and write glueware to tie them together at the enterprise level. For small, purpose-built systems you have more choices. These are addressed in other sections of this discussion, continuing with don’t custom applications take forever.

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