Software – what are my options?
By Karnig Momdjian CA – CEO, VirtualCOO
30 April 2013
When it comes to business software selection, what are your options?
Whether you are a start-up or you have outgrown your current systems, a time will come in your business cycle where you need to choose appropriate software to run your business.
Your options will be influenced by the nature of your business and the flexibility of your business processes. Here are some examples:
Custom developed software
You have a clear vision as to what you expect from your software, you have defined your requirements, you have had a good look at what is available and nothing quite fits; you can consider custom developed software.
This is usually the most expensive option in terms of cost and time to develop and deliver. However it is the best option in terms of developing a system that does what you want and fully reflects your business processes.
This option requires commitment and dedication to the process of having the system developed. Major milestones in this process include:
- Requirements gathering
- Developing functional specifications
- Creating use case scenarios
- Defining user experience interfaces
- Developing test data
- Carrying out extensive system testing
- Developing user/operations guides
- Developing training material
- Deploying the system
It is unlikely that you will be able to cope with all of this by yourself or with your internal resources that are focused on the day to day operations of your business. You will need external expert assistance in many of the stages of this process but at all times you will be involved to ensure the development is on track and continues to meet your requirements.
This option is used when you are fortunate enough to find software that is commercially available and where the developer is able and willing to develop a customised version to address specific requirements that are unique to your business.
Cost of customisation aside, issues to be considered with this option include:
- How will future developments of the base product be integrated into your version?
- Who owns your version of the software?
- Who will maintain the system?
- What is the life expectancy of this customisation?
- Is the system scalable to continue meeting your needs into the foreseeable future?
Similar to custom developed software, you may still require an external project manager to manage and progress the customisation and act as the go between your business and the software supplier.
This is a commonly used option with most software systems that are developed in a way that with the use of system options, terminology modification and user definable lists, the software can be configured to reflect your requirements without impacting the underlying system.
This is the preferred option both in terms of cost and time to go live.
This option, however, may require you to modify your processes to fit in with those dictated by the system.
You may still require specialists who have a good understanding of the system who can assist with the configuration of the system to meet your needs
Off the shelf software
These are systems that you have no control over; including most open source applications. “What you see is what you get”. This is typical of most commonly used systems such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation software etc. However these systems are typically so feature rich that the average user would often use a small % of the packaged feature.
As you would expect, this is the least costly option and the quickest to implement.
Having decided on the software for your business, the next question is how best to deploy it; cloud or in-house? This is the topic for the next post…