The COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath have demonstrated just how dependant all companies are on the software and platforms that they use in their day-to-day activities. Their supply chain management, their distribution and their internal controls, all depend on the systems and processes in place to monitor and manage their effective implementation.
Over the years, many firms have opted for many of the very competitively priced off-the-shelf packages offered by international suppliers. These are readily available and often very well referenced with a wide user base. Most importantly, these offered excellent value for money for those firms that could operate within the pre-set parameters and constraints. The off-the-shelf solutions leverage the economies of scale that large numbers of users provide. This allows the service providers to share common platforms and solutions amongst thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of corporate users. As long are users can operate within the frameworks, they are provided with the standard solution which is a very cost-effective solution. The challenge to the off-the-shelf solutions generally arises when changes are needed. Because they are shared, they are generally much less flexible and cannot be updated or modified at the request of an individual client.
So, in normal circumstances, off-the-shelf solutions deliver more cost-effective solutions that customised or be-spoke solutions. Problems arise when the unexpected occurs and changes to the system or underlying processes are needed. COVID-19 was an unexpected challenge to all operating norms. Many firms needed radical changes to their operational infrastructures, including their IT platforms and networks, to adapt and survive in the new reality. Many of the users on the standard off-the-shelf solutions were caught with solutions that could not be adapted to meet the needs of the new operational environment. These users could not get customised changes to the shared platform. Others founds that the service providers had responded to calls for changes, however, these changes had to accommodate so many different scenarios that they created other operational challenges.
Other larger firms have their own IT development team and the question arises as to whether they should take on development of their own applications or outsource such activities. Needless to say such decisions depend to a great extent on the size and range of competencies of the in-house development team. Meritt suggests that corporate software needs to be given more importance and additional resources should be dedicated to building custom solutions. He contends that corporate software is critical to an organisation’s survival as without it, the business goals and objectives cannot be achieved. He maintains that, for those firms which have the resources, there are some major advantages to having building software inhouse rather than outsourcing it. He cites these as being:-
- Control. You decide what the software does and doesn’t do. Nobody can take it away because a license is no longer offered. You might even make some money marketing it to others who don’t want to build.
- Cost. You don’t waste money paying for features you’ll never use. Because you’re designing the software, you can laser focus on just what you need. Plus, once it’s built, it’s built—you don’t have to keep paying a subscription fee.
- Specificity. When you build the software, it does exactly what you need. If you have a business with unique requirements, it may be difficult to find an off-the-shelf product that does what you want. Building could give you a competitive advantage over other businesses who bought their software.
- Adaptability. Need a new feature? Your employee’s feedback can be routed right into the ongoing development. You won’t have to wait to see if enough “other customers” justify it being added.
- It works with your system. Since you’re building it, you can make sure it integrates with what you have. This may save time and money over trying to integrate an off-the-shelf product.
Meritt contends that for organisations that have the relevant in-house resources, and who prioritize control and customization, or have a unique problem to solve, building software internally may be a better strategic option.
Most SME organisations do not have the skills, competencies or resources for the internal development of customised business solutions. So what are their best options? Experience shows that customisation allows for the development of solutions that can be tailored to meet with the specific needs of a particular business and its plans for growth and expansion. Yet, developing customised solutions calls for the commitment and expertise of both parties, the Client and the Software Development firm. On the one hand, the Client needs to be actively involved in the development of the system specifications and the prototyping and testing of the solution. On the other hand, the Software Development firm needs to be conscious of the limitations and constraints of the client and understand not only the deliverables required, but the context within which these need to be developed and deployed.
eBusiness Systems has more than twenty years of experience in the development of bespoke and customised web-based solutions for clients. It has the developed and can deploy the appropriate agile project management competencies for a successful product development and deployment. These skills ensure effective collaboration with the client in the definition of the product and its deliverables. Secondly they ensure that the right mix of skills and competencies are deployed as and when required in the project development plan, ensuring effective use of resources. The agile philosophy is based on an iterative approach to product design and development. Prototyping and extensive testing are used to ensure that each deliverable is fit for use and meets with the client’s requirements and expectations. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org