This three part series will examine the principal consideration when acquiring new software, namely the choice between an off-the-shelf solution or a custom designed solution. Each option has different consequences relating to cost and risk for each step of the project life cycle, which will be the focus of this article series. In part I the benefits and disadvantages of each choice were examined in terms of acquisition and initial costs in the initiation phase of the project life cycle. Part II looked at implementation and deployment. This article will assess ongoing maintenance and evaluation.
Ongoing Maintenance and Evaluation
Once the new system has been installed and deployed across the organisation, the focus shifts to ongoing maintenance and updates. Factors for consideration include: changing the system to cater for business structure and process changes, new product features and fixes for any software defects.
Off-the-shelf solutions are generally quite limited in terms of the flexibility to cater for changes to individual business structures and processes. Large clients may be able to influence the ongoing development of an OTS software package however software developers for OTS solutions are unlikely to spend the resources implementing new functionality if it does not improve the product for all users of their software. Specific customisations can increase costs, and increase the risk of incompatibilities with future updates to the OTS system.
Custom solutions have immense flexibility, as any changes to the system can be made faster and designed to closely match the specific business requirements. Custom solutions can more readily adapt to changing business needs, however they are more prone to the aforementioned ‘requirements creep’ during this stage of the product life cycle as well as in its initial development and deployment.
When defects are encountered in the software and a fix needs to be applied, the level and speed of response is highly dependent on the service level agreement signed with the software vendor and the nature of the defect itself. An OTS system will usually have well established support channels, however the turnaround time is still highly dependent on the severity of the defect and ready access to software developers or specialist programmers. A custom system may be modified in house, with fixes being expedited due to the immediacy of business pressures. Custom system support, however, carries greater risk as the responsibility of establishing appropriate support channels and support teams falls on the business itself. This means that the risk of failure is greater for an OTS solution as defects might not get fixed within an acceptable time frame, while the potential cost is greater for a custom solution because development costs would be covered by the organisation.
An ideal solution would offer reliable system support, great flexibility to adapt to changing business environments, and combine the ability to access best-of-breed functionality while implementing business specific features.
InformationLeader has the advantage of being a mature platform with customisable electronic forms for management of auditable data in regulated environments. Its flexibility means that the software can handle business workflow control, maintain traceable data, track customer complaint and investigation scenarios, manage business reporting and perform countless other business functions. The software’s inbuilt traceability and security features have seen it excel in regulated business environments, with regulatory bodies worldwide auditing and approving data captured in InformationLeader systems.
InformationLeader vendors across the globe offer comprehensive service level agreements, along with extensive training options, fast response times, and regular product updates incorporating software fixes and features developed from world wide customer feedback while still being able to customise the system to suit business needs.
Various software solutions have been developed that address a multitude of business scenarios. One important decision to make early on in the process is to choose between using an off-the-shelf system and developing a custom solution. Both options have distinct advantages and disadvantages at various stages in the product life cycle.
The ideal system should combine the advantages of both types of software solutions while minimising the risk and the cost of each solution’s disadvantages. InformationLeader presents itself as a strong option, combining the genuine flexibility and control of a custom system while still offering the speed of implementation and mature feature set of an off-the-shelf solution.
InformationLeader enjoys the same benefits of an OTS system such as a proven platform and industry experience while still delivering the flexibility and control that an organisation might expect from a custom built solution. For more information about how InformationLeader can help improve your business read more.