Friday, August 10, 2007

Follow-up to Custom Software Solution or Off-the-Shelf Solution

One of the most interesting things about blogging is the mental radar screen that develops when you look for topics to write about. Earlier in the week I wrote about the criteria you should consider when deciding to build a custom software application or going with an off-the-shelf solution. Thinking I would move on to another topic to discuss, I stumbled upon an article in the recent issue of Website Magazine that discussed the same topic.

Here’s what they had to say
If an off-the-shelf solution can handle 80-100% of your business process needs, then you should go with it. Most of the time this is true, but there are some exceptions. Choosing a custom software solution presents several advantages. Chief among them is you get what you want provided, of course, you are thorough and detailed in your expectations out of what you want in terms of functionality and how the application will integrate in your business processes. It is an expensive undertaking, but the more detailed you are with your business and technical requirements through good documentation, the better your chances of receiving a final product meeting your expectations.

Here’s my take
The author of the article did somewhat of a disservice to the readers by not including a crucial component that should be considered when deciding between a custom software solution and an off-the-shelf software solution. That component is the end-user. Who are they? What are their needs? What are the tasks they do that can be simplified through a technology solution? What are the obstacles they are trying to overcome and in what context will they be using the solution? All are important questions that should be answered and documented if the choice is to go with a custom software solution. By answering these questions it will also make the choice between a custom solution and an off-the-shelf solution easier.

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