By: Craig Lamb

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Maybe, you’ve heard that before. If you’re like most (even applying to me sometimes), ego and self-sufficiency are the only ingredients needed to make that pun ring true. It’s funny, but not in that knee-slapping-water-spitting-belly-busting kind of way. What I mean is, it’s funny in its place within every epiphany and subsequent evolution. I’m not going to get all philosophical on you, but it’s true.

Let’s take my favorite subject – software. I get asked all the time, “Craig, I know you guys make software over there but who uses custom software?” This question never ceases to surprise me and I used to be like, “Everyone, man! Are you kidding me?” But, then I realized the question really isn’t “who uses" custom software, it is the lack of definition of “what is" custom software. So, I have since changed my answer. 

The dialog now follows a track closer to this…
Me: “Let me ask you, do you use Microsoft Excel?”
Them: “Yes, All the time. I have this one workbook that calculates all the commission of my department.”
Me: “Very cool. So, you made a custom workbook to do stuff? How do you share that with everyone else?”
Them: “Well, yeah, I customized it. It took me a week but saves me hours every month ever since. I sent to everyone but I don’t know if they use it or even know how it works”
Me: “Well, you’re an example of custom software. It’s poorly executed, but it is definitely custom software, my friend.”

Somehow, this dialog is more palatable. I think that for some reason, people see custom software as an undertaking isolated to big companies with extensive departments and endless resources but that is often not the case. The truth is, there is at least one person in every company that has gone and ‘developed’ some tool (or Excel file) that was intended to make life a bit easier, work to flow faster, and with fewer mistakes.

Granted, my example is pedestrian, at best, but the point should hit like a hammer to the temple. The world economy has relied on the web for software distribution for the past two decades but still there are companies ‘forcing’ their way through processes and tasks that could be easily automated realizing fantastic returns on the investment. 

Really? You need some examples? Ok, cool. Let’s just use the greatest hits list:

  • Ecommerce and Automated Fulfillment Systems
  • Internal/Customer Web Portals
  • Employee Scheduling, Timekeeping and Dispatch
  • Still not sure?  Here's a real-life scenario described by Pat, a client we recently helped. It really brings the message home much better than I could ever portray with silly anecdotes.

Further, the top business publications have been crowing that custom applications have been a top competitive differentiator in an array of industries. It establishes a uniqueness while assuring their customers that a repeatable and dependable process exists.

And while many would prefer to grip to the misconception that it is simply too expensive, the fact of the matter is that custom applications have a far lower ‘cost of ownership’. How? Hmmm, let’s start with these:

Utilization of ‘Packaged Software’ (off-the-shelf software) is typically around 30% - which means you’re paying for 70% of software you’ll never use.
Packaged Software carries commitments in support contracts, extensive training, and business process changes.

Packaged Software often carries license models that insure that as you grow, so does your bill.
Although probably obvious, let’s just close with the definition of ‘custom’ throughout the process. Custom means:

  • Get exactly what you need, designed around your specific business processes
  • Establish your own budgets against your own priorities
  • Change your own software as your processes evolve and mature
  • Respond to your own channels of feedback (internal or external)
  • Protect your unique innovations in product and service delivery

Listen, if you found and read through this blog post, it’s on your mind. That’s great. You don’t necessarily have to work with us, but put down that hammer – brute force isn’t going to get you the next level.  Explore your options to get a custom application – or get a wrecking ball.