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Build or Buy? Could an agile process change your mind…?

15 May 2015 by Steve Randles

The on-going debate; build custom software or buy a packaged solution? Let’s face it; the question one should actually be asking when considering these options is whether the software you buy (or already have) will give your business the competitive edge you need, and the ability to adapt as the needs of your business change.

Enterprises more often than not are faced with the decision to buy a standard packaged solution, or build one in-house. Software vendors excel in not just flogging their products, but more so in pushing the concept of sticking with “one-size-fits-all” as the safer option for software solutions. Many business people don’t understand that software can help their business, most believe it is a “necessary evil” – word processors, email clients and anti-virus packages among the obvious examples. Coupled with the common misconception that your business processes, products and services give you the competitive edge over the competition begs the question, why then change them to fit the needs of a software package?

The answer is simple really; companies need to be agile and quick in responding to changing markets and new opportunities. Certain unique characteristics of your organisation substantiate the customisation of software to enable you to keep your competitive edge; therefore the right software could not only secure your place in the market but help you establish yourself as a front runner and innovator.

Bigger is better…
Typically the thinking has been that the longer a software system has been the around the better. The truth is, the longer a system has been around the more likely it relies heavily on old technology and is unable to take that leap into the present; huge install bases make it difficult to modify these legacy systems leaving organisations out in the cold to the new platforms available. Monolithic code bases that are built to satisfy many customer needs present the developer with a major archaeological dig in order to find the bit of functionality that now needs to be changed.

Think “Out of the Box”
Business assumes that because packaged software is used by other organisations that it will not only work for them too, but solve all of their problems right out of the box. The question I pose is will this software give you the competitive edge you need, or restrict you in the field. And how much change would your own business processes have to go through to accommodate this software.

agile

Considerations in the Custom Software Development vs. Packaged Software

Custom software often makes more sense in rapidly changing markets, and the secret lies not in just developing brand new systems from scratch, but also adapting existing systems and integrating them to where they need to be. Bear in mind though that if you need to get a product to market quickly it may be easier to consider a packaged solution over developing a custom one. In cases where standard business functions like HR and Accounting are concerned this would be more prudent; standard software packages such as these adopt the necessary “best practise” processes required to be compliant across the globe, no need to reinvent the wheel.

Bigger corporates with their own in-house IT departments may have the expertise to get a lot accomplished but are not always very successful at developing systems speedily and within budget. CIOs are therefore put off by this prospect preferring to buy packaged solutions instead. This is where KRS comes to the fore; our Agile development processes are geared to be as optimal as possible so we can produce a cost effective solution in the shortest possible time. I recall a retail client we worked with some years ago who’s best shipping time from order to despatch was 3 days; with optimisation of their current system, we reduced this to 3 hours. Our Agile processes ensure visibility and quality throughout development with a keen focus on delivering business value very early on.

A wheel worth re-inventing…
Facebook© is synonymous with social media; with over 800 million users accessing content and images every second of the day, Facebook©, in an effort to make their application perform faster and more efficiently, wrote a source code transformer. PHP, the scripting language used in Facebook©’s web development is used to help assemble each user’s unique home page; in enhancing the user experience and saving resources on their own servers, Facebook© created “HipHop”. HipHop for PHP can substantially increase the speed of your PHP applications. Improvements of web page generation throughput by factors of 2 to 6 have been observed. More details here (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HipHop_for_PHP)

This is a perfect example where building your own software can give you the edge over the competition.

Custom software development enables you:

  • to tailor-make solutions for your business strategy;
  • to take a specific product idea and build your own solution to fit the devices out there;
  • to take advantage of responsive web design or the mobile platforms available;
  • to make changes as often as you like as the needs of your business change.

Packaged software isn’t necessarily quicker to implement and the inevitable tweaking can extend implementation time by months, calling for scarce skills in older programming languages. Custom builds draw on current development tools built for speed and productivity. KRS draws on our considerable experience with other systems as well as the know-how that a uniquely developed solution can provide the competitive edge your business needs to differentiate itself in the market.

About the author:
Steve Randles is CEO at KRS. Steve has been with KRS for 17 years and started as a junior Delphi developer. When he is not thinking of new ways to grow the business he can be found hiking Table Mountain.

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