Custom Software Apps & SharePoint Consulting

Software Selection: the Buy versus Build Spectrum

Software Selection Matters for Your Business

In our evolving world, good software can be one of the most effective differentiators that a company can leverage for growth. Implemented thoughtfully, software can be a multiplier for your existing staff, or it can surface information for better decision making that was previously locked away in spreadsheets.

When it comes time to choose new software, you may feel overwhelmed by the options. Or maybe after a quick survey of the market, you’re not sure that any one product truly meets your business needs.

During the software selection process, every company has the option to buy or build their solution. There are also a spectrum of options between completely custom and directly off the shelf that should be considered as well.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to cover a number of topics surrounding the software selection process, including:

  1. Deciding the importance of fit
  2. Assessing business drivers
  3. What percentage of my needs are addressed by available product offerings?

Deciding the importance of fit

For this first blog, let’s discuss the idea of fitting software to your business. Every business will approach this issue differently. For example, we have a client that provides midstream field services. They are looking to become a leader in their industry, so a custom software application was really the only option for them.

By contrast, another business might only be concerned with keeping up with their competitors, so choosing a cost effective, standard product offering for their industry might fit their needs just fine.

For your business, to solve the problem of fit, it’s important to ask a few questions for starters. I’ll cover each of these in a bit more depth below.

  • How much of a tailored fit do we require?
  • Are we willing to change our business process if the fit cannot be tailored?
  • As a company, is innovation a key priority?
  • Is innovation a competitive advantage?
  • Is what makes our company unique also a competitive advantage?

Tailored fit and your business process

If your company has a standard process for accounting, out of the box software would be a good fit. Throw in special work flows and hand written field tickets, and that same software might not work anymore.

This leads to question two, and whether your company is willing to change their process for software. For example, a customer relationship management tool might have a lot of great features, except that it’s missing a key feature that requires you to process and upload a spreadsheet every week.

Uploading the spreadsheet solves the problem, but it’s also time consuming. So is it worth it to sacrifice your process? Every business has to answer this problem based on their specific needs.

Innovation and Software Selection

The next set of questions has to do with innovation. In the example we shared above, the midstream service company felt that innovation was what would take their company to the next level.

Custom software was more expensive than an off the shelf option, but it also was the key to winning more business and keeping existing clients.

The last question refers specifically to the importance of codifying your “secret sauce” in a custom application. If your company’s advantage is that it manufactures a product that no one else in the market sells, maybe this isn’t a concern.

For service companies, where budget, visibility, and planning are key, a custom application that flows with your process from performing work in the field, to ticketing, to invoicing, and beyond may be the extra offering your client needs to up their contract.

For more on the process of software selection, check out what one midstream services client went through here…

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