This three part series will examine what most face when acquiring new software; the choice between an off-the-shelf solution and one that is custom designed. Each option has different consequences relating to cost and risk for each step of the project life cycle, which will be examined in each article. 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 will look at the different effects ready built or customised software will have on implementation and deployment.
Implementation and Deployment
Once a new software solution has been chosen, new factors emerge for the business to consider. These include training requirements, business process integration, and the time taken to develop and deploy the new system. Risk and cost considerations are factors for each of these elements.
There are numerous training requirements when implementing a software solution such as training courses, training material, and user manuals. In the case of a custom system, these would have to be written and maintained from scratch. Training courses would also need to be developed, however, the length of training may be shorter as the system and training would be designed to closely fit existing business processes. Established Off The Shelf (OTF) systems generally have numerous published materials that users can reference, as well as established training courses and support. This decreases the risk involved in writing quality training materials that prove to be effective in ensuring high workforce productivity with the new system. However, this material is usually quite generic, meaning that users need to then apply this to the business scenario which can slow the learning process.
An important factor in any major new software deployment is its integration with existing business processes. Large scale implementations of OTS solutions invariably mean changes to existing business processes in order to adapt to the new system. The degree of change can vary depending on the nature of the new software system. The same problems do not plague a custom solution as it can be designed from the ground up to capture existing business processes. This means that there is a greater potential risk of an OTS implementation not integrating successfully into an organisation, especially if existing processes are heavily ingrained.
The time to develop and deploy a software solution is a major component of the overall project cost. Custom built solutions are designed and developed specifically for a business and require extensive scoping, designing, and development time. Depending on the business scenario, milestones may or may not consist of usable deliverables, meaning that returns on investment are not realised until the project is finally complete. Large, complex scenarios can require months of initial development and years of further refinement. OTS solutions are fully developed mature systems that are ready to be installed and used following some initial configuration. This distinct advantage is tempered by the cost for the business to adapt to a completely new system. An ideal solution would include: comprehensive user manuals, have readily available training courses, be flexible enough to integrate with and complement existing business processes, and be available in a suitably developed form to minimise system development and ease the deployment process.
InformationLeader meets all of these criteria. It allows for the electronic management of auditable data while providing the flexibility to adapt to changing business and regulatory requirements. Business process management and data capture specifications can be changed by trained users without the need for specialist programmers.
Training courses are readily available for InformationLeader either at established training facilities, with targeted training courses available to be conducted at business sites across the globe. These training courses include end-user courses as well as courses designed to train staff on how to perform modifications to their InformationLeader system or generate new report templates without the need for any programming knowledge.
InformationLeader’s industry experience has resulted in ‘accelerator packs’, which are industry-specific pre-made packs of form templates, workflow, and report templates that accelerates system development time considerably, lowering development costs and alleviating the risk involved in developing a completely customised solution.