Smart leaders are recognising the imperative to continually innovate, and to become agile and responsive as an organisation. Across sectors, businesses are either becoming the disrupted or the disruptor, writes Leon Coetzer, chief operating officer of redPanda Software.
Within the realm of enterprise software, businesses have to make a decision upfront as to whether they develop customised software with a development partner, or simply purchase off the shelf products.
Often, this decision speaks to a fundamental approach to organisational growth and expansion. The leadership needs to understand the value of agility and the role that technology plays in this nimbleness, and that includes the software that drives their business processes.
The challenge with off the shelf software
Without doubt, the upfront costs of purchasing off the shelf are lower than customised software, and there are less resources needed around installation. You can be up and running very quickly. Support is often built-in, and there will be a wide range of features included. That said, it is likely that the common 80/20 rule will apply and many features will not be utilised.
The challenge with this model is that off the shelf products often don’t have any synergy with existing business processes. As a result, businesses may need to invest time and resources in adapting their approach to the software and systems, as opposed to the other way around. There is little flexibility, and the organisation is tied into a fixed platform.
Adaptive, flexible, customised
Choosing to pursue the customised software route takes businesses onto a very different path – and one that is arguably far savvier in an environment characterised by constant adaptation.
To maximise the benefits of this approach, a partnership mindset with an enterprise software developer is of huge value, as this external development team acts as an extension of the business itself, and both parties can ensure that the benefits of custom development are fully leveraged.
By working closely and with shared goals, the business can start with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and get to market very quickly. From there, the process can change and adapt according to the initial feedback and market response. This eliminates the risk of developing features and functionality that the business doesn’t need, and instead focus on the 20 percent of functionality that truly serves the core business mission.
Importantly, transparency and full visibility should be built-in to the entire development process. As the project unfolds, the business can benefit from software that is completely tailored to its unique needs at the time. As these needs inevitably change, the business will have full control over the software and the ability to adapt it.
For example, if a business recognises that its customers are moving to mobile, then it can work with its development partner to add mobile access and functionality. It will be quick and fairly straightforward to innovate and add on to existing custom software – whereas this simply wouldn’t be feasible with an off the shelf product.
Naturally, the upfront costs of customised software will be higher – but these costs will level off and in the long run, will prove to be far more cost effective. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel down the line, customised software positions a business for cost effective adaptation and continuous improvement.
A hybrid, market-ready approach
Increasingly, future focused businesses are benefiting from a hybrid approach to software development. By working with an enterprise software developer that understands how to innovate on top of established, more generic software layers, businesses can benefit from the best of both worlds (custom and off the shelf).
Software developers can support customers to harness economies of scale by augmenting custom software with widely used, plug in products. These will be in the form of non-competitive, more generic features that businesses would use daily. This allows the business to manage costs while still reaping the benefits of a partnership approach to customised development. In addition, the time to market will be quicker, enabling enhanced efficiencies and leveraged features within a short space of time.
Looking ahead, businesses across sectors and of all sizes need to ensure that every decision that is made – from software development to talent management – needs to have built-in agility and an eye towards constant innovation.