In her must-watch TEDx talk, Nadya Zhexembayeva explains that product life cycles are declining at an unprecedented rate. Not so long ago, products remained relevant for up to 75 years, but since the turn of the new millennium, the window has shrunk all the way down to seven years.
With that in mind, Zhexembayeva surmises that companies must now reinvent their revenue streams every three and a half years in order to start new cycles by the time their current ones end.
This concept is amazing, and it flies in the face of what’s been considered conventional business wisdom for hundreds of years. Staying the course is not a viable business model anymore. In fact, companies who don’t actively seek to adapt and change will inevitably fall by the wayside.
If speed is everything and the ability to adapt is paramount, locking yourself in to cumbersome technology is not just risky — it’s self-destructive.
Business management software normally comes straight off of the shelf, especially those addressing hot topics like ERP, SFA, and CRM. Unfortunately, business needs vary dramatically from one company to the next, and unless you’re extraordinarily lucky, no product off of the shelf will be perfect for your unique company in the long run.
The Shortcomings of Prepackaged Software
Off-the-shelf software attempts to solve too many problems for too many people — and it ultimately solves none of them. Companies are forced to jerry-rig their software products, and even when they do, they’re only achieving a “close enough” level of functionality.
Here are the three main drawbacks to purchasing software that isn’t fully optimised for your business:
1. It’s too firm or too soft. That workflow you finally ironed out that makes everything run smoothly? Toss it out the window; your off-the-shelf software’s rigid structure won’t allow for it. Paying extra for new features or creating manual workarounds (export this data here, manipulate it like this, send it to Janet in accounting, Janet reloads it here, etc.) can get you close — but it won’t be optimal.
And if your software isn’t too rigid, then it’ll be so open-ended that it feels like you’re building it yourself. Some software companies recognise they can’t define a single workflow for thousands of customers, so they just leave it up to the consumer to create their own. Too much choice is demotivating and stressful and it makes you wonder why you’re spending all of this time building the ready-made product you thought you paid for.
2. It’s too hard to integrate. Something off of the shelf just adds more noise to your already busy workflow. It’s one more thing people need training on, one more place people have to go in order to do their jobs, and one more step in your overall process. You wanted the faster, cheaper option instead of customised software, and now you have to pay for it with time that could be better spent growing your business. And, more than likely, those legacy systems you use that are vital to your business weren’t designed with integration in mind.
3. There’s no competitive advantage. When it comes to critical business processes, how do you propose to get ahead of your competitors when you use the exact same software as they do? Technology is crucial to competition, and not having proprietary systems that complement your processes forces you to hand over control of your destiny to someone else. Want a new feature? You have to call the company everyone else uses.
Your best bet is to work with a company that can design unique, flexible software that perfectly fits your specific business. Customised software will maximise your potential future earnings, streamline your workflow, and help you stand out from the competition. Costs for customised software can be on the heftier side. However, in some cases, it can be less expensive because only a few key features are needed — not the entire pre-packaged system.
The Benefits of Personalisation
Your business processes should dictate your technology — not the other way around. Here are the three primary perks of customised software:
1. Increased business agility: Remember when we talked about the importance of adaptation? Premade software only allows you to adapt when the software company decides it’s time for you to adapt. In today’s environment, that’s too slow — especially if your competitors are adapting on their own terms.
New companies are always entering the market, technology is constantly evolving, and customers are forever wanting new things. Custom software gives you the flexibility to respond to these changes when you want to.
2. Higher employee satisfaction: Modern workers expect tech to be easy, fast, and intuitive. They want the software at work to be similar to the software they use at home. But with the complexity of business processes, it’s hard to find a solution that “just works” like the apps and systems that are in our everyday lives.
Because it’s designed to fit within the processes they already know and understand, giving employees custom software provides them with something that actually makes them more productive and more efficient. When your employees don’t spend half of the day on the phone with tech support or huddled in groups trying to figure out why this won’t do that, you’ll realise the return on your technology investment much sooner.
3. A more efficient machine: When you add something new to the system that isn’t designed to integrate with what already exists, you add weight. Custom software lets you develop something that fits seamlessly into your ecosystem because it’s designed for your specific needs and unique processes. It doesn’t weigh you down; it lifts you up and makes your whole operation more efficient. It frees up time to pursue more strategic endeavors rather than bogging you down with manual workarounds and frustrating redundancies.
While it’s true that some off-the-shelf purchases are actually decent ones, clear-cut advantages exist when you work with something tailored to your needs.
Look to demand more from your software — when the market requires agility, your company will be poised and ready to pounce.
Erika Carney is CMO at custom software design and development firm Skookum