The complexity in selecting the best off the shelf software package for you will very much depend on the amount of choice available. If you are looking for software where your requirements are likely to be the same as every other business in the country, the chances are that you will have a plethora of choices to work through. However if you’re looking for something very niche, you may find your choice is limited to less than a handful of choices, with some being quickly disqualified for basic reasons.
Off the shelf products, by their very nature, have to target a wide range of customer requirements which means they will be built to cover the most generic methods of working and include functionality to cover the widest range of possibilities. This means you will typically have to change your work processes to fit the product’s way of working and it will include functionality that you have no need for. Whether this is a frustration for you or not is very much a matter of personal opinion.
Choosing the right product
Selecting the right product from a range of choices can take a lot of research and depending on the vendors involved this may be readily available on-line or require direct sales engagement.
When considering each product, all the following attributes are worth considering. Before you start, or get carried away with thinking you’ve found the right product, it’s worth working through this list to decide what your requirements are for each and what flexibility you have if the product doesn’t meet your requirement.
Pricing and Licensing Model
Does the pricing model, subscription period and licensing approach work for how your business is structured? Will the licensing model restrict your future use of the software? Does the license costs, along with all other costs enable you to prove a clear Return on Investment for the software. Will the licensing model become restrictive as your company grows? What shortcomings in the product are you having to accept in order to achieve lower licensing fees? Are the additional features of a higher license level worth the investment?
Does the software provide all the functionality you need to undertake your work processes. Is additional functionality superfluous, or are you likely to need it as any growth plans come to fruition?
More functionality isn’t necessarily better. Consider how the system fits into your requirements now and how they might change in the future. If this system is crucial to your workflow, consider the benefits of a system which is targeted and simple, compared to a system which could be overly complicated to live with.
Do you need the software to integrate with other off the shelf software packages? If so, is full integration included, or if not, will manual integration be possible with imports/exports?
If you’re looking to integrate two off-the-shelf systems or even into your own systems, we can help! Our experienced team of developers are often working on innovative ways that we can automate processes and move data between multiple systems.
Customer Service & Support
What level of support will the company provide – email, chat or telephone? Are you purchasing from a reseller or the developHow will the company perform when you need them after you’ve made the purchase?
Company stability and maturity
Do some due diligence on the company as to whether they have the maturity and finances to be around for the foreseeable future.
How will the software work with your work processes? Will it require substantial changes to your processes? If so, are the changes acceptable or are they going to incur additional hidden costs in the form of inefficiency, duplication, mistakes, disgruntled staff and impact on customer service.
Technologies and Platform support
Does the software support the IT platforms that your users work with (Windows/Mac/Linux/Mobile)? Is the software technology a modern technology that you are confident will continue to be supported and provide future flexibility. Is your data accessible for export. Are you confident in the data security of the system? Are the authentication and access control methods suited to the level of the sensitivity of the data stored in the system?
SaaS Hosting vs on-Prem
Does your company allow Cloud hosted SaaS or do you need an on-premise solution?
What network changes will be needed to enable all the target users to be able to connect and exchange data with a SaaS solution? Is the system resilience sufficient for your needs? Is the backup regime frequent enough? Where will the data be hosted? Will there be personal data stored in the system that needs a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA). Will you need special arrangements to secure an extract of your data from a SaaS company?
What security integration and authentication methods are required? Do you need to integrate with your internal user directory to prevent duplication of user configuration data.
Does the software provide APIs to enable data integration with other systems. If so, what do these cover and do they use modern standards.
Does the user experience make the software enjoyable to use? Does the software require extensive user training or is it intuitive enough to use such that training is minimised? Does the software require unnecessary steps for your users to complete their processes? Is the software accessible for your different user groups? How well does the software reinforce your company brand? Is the styling suited to the target audience? Does the software provide dashboards or provides easy means for users to assimilate the key business data they need for their roles.
Searching for the optimum product for your requirements can be tough, if you’d like some help we can offer guidance to help you cut through the marketing words and technical babble to work out some best options for you.
The alternative approach is to develop a bespoke software solution, such that a tailored solution is created specifically to your needs. This helps you tick all the right boxes, and avoids you buying a product with functionality that you don’t use.
Best of both worlds?
Finally, there is the option of a combined approach. Often, off the shelf products will fulfill 60 – 90% of your requirement, lacking only in a few key features. We’ve helped customers fill that gap with bespoke integrations that extend an off the shelf system to provide them with the functionality it lacks.
It may seem counterproductive speaking to a bespoke software company about an off the shelf system but we strongly believe in using the right tool for the job, so will happily advise you on the best way forward.