Did you ever have to make a choice between a tailored suit and one off the rack? If so, you will know that while a tailored suit fits perfectly, it comes with an added time to delivery and an added cost compared to a suit off the rack. Normally, the added time and cost is the price to pay to get a higher quality suit, which fits better.

However, is the better fit worth the extra money – is it worth the wait?

Now exchange the suit for a business IT solution.

At AlfaPeople we are often met with this question from our customers and prospects – can we use a standard solution for our business requirements or do we need to have a custom solution built?

Which is best? The answer is – it depends!

There is no one particular answer, as every case is different. In order to suggest an approach, let me first outline the pro’s and con’s for each approach.

Off the Rack

Modern business IT solutions offer a wide variety of functionality addressing typical challenges of the modern business. These features are defined, based on the software supplier’s view of best practices within a given area. A large number of businesses can benefit from choosing a standard solution.

For these businesses, the processes may be undefined or defined by a legacy IT solution with historical limitations. In many cases, a standard solution can be a fast track to a new set of processes with the system support included.

The following aspects must be considered if going with a standard solution.

Benefits

When looking at addressing business requirements with a standard solution, the benefits typically relate to:

  • A faster time to solution – you start reaping the benefits quickly
  • A lower cost of implementation – less time is spent on design and build of the new solution
  • Less risk – your business critical applications do not rely on one person or partner to support, maintain and evolve the solution
  • More flexibility – you can switch partners if you feel the current partner is not giving you the value you expect
  • Lower cost of ownership – you benefit from software supplier support and also from the development of new features
  • Staffing – it is easier to find and employ people with knowledge of a standard system

Drawbacks

When examining the drawbacks of going with a standard solution they are typically related to:

  • License cost – whether buying or going for a SaaS solution – license cost is often higher
  • Operational change management – with a standard solution you typically have to accept certain aspects of the solution are not 100% as you would like.
  • Process adaptation – it may be necessary to change existing processes to fit to the standard solution.
  • User Adoption – the standard solution may not match entirely meaning that additional measures often need to be taken to ensure user adoption (see our posts on the topic on AlfaPeople’s company page).

Going with a standard solution means moving cost from implementation to license and change management. However, it also means minimizing risks related to building and owning the solution.

Tailored

Some business – like some people – are not well suited to the off the rack options. Maybe their business processes do not match what is considered best practice or maybe they are under certain legislative ruling which means certain requirements cannot be adjusted in any degree what so ever.

For other companies, certain key processes are of such importance that the right solution support will provide a competitive advantage. For these businesses, a custom solution is often seen as the only way forward.

 

The following aspects are important to consider when going with a custom solution.

Benefits

When looking at addressing business requirements with a custom solution, the following are amongst the typical benefits.

  • With a custom solution you get what you want. Specifically tailored to your business requirements, a custom solution can be the differentiator between you and your competition giving you a competitive edge
  • The amount of operational change management is minimal
  • A custom solution typically has no or little license cost associated

Drawbacks

The main drawbacks are related to the development of the solution.

  • Cost of development – to build a custom solution requires development time and cost. This means the initial investment in the development project is high
  • Time to solution – because all elements have to be developed from scratch, time to solution normally is longer
  • Dependency – too often, custom solutions are difficult to manage if you do not have access to the resources who developed the solution in the first place.

So going with a tailored solution means getting exactly what you need, but having to pay dearly and wait before reaping the rewards. Moreover, after you go-live you may find yourself dependent on a limited number of resources who can help you maintain and evolve the solution. 

The third option

Some people fit off-the-rack suits perfectly. However, for most of us, an off the rack suit will need some minor fittings – sleeve length, shoulder width etc. for an off the rack suit to look and feel good.

The same option exists when it comes to business IT systems. If you choose a standard solution which is well suited as a development platform, it is possible to reap the benefits of both worlds without the drawbacks.

Use as much standard as you can and only customize what is critical for your business

One such platform is Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It is a platform which comes with a vast array of tools already included, a rich stack of functionality, and integrations to a number of Microsoft products out of the box such as SharePoint, Outlook, Office, Microsoft PowerBI but also to newer acquisitions such as Parature Customer Service, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing and Microsoft Social Engagement.

The development features include a flexible security model, form designer, reporting and dashboards etc. All tools to extend the standard functionality without programming, using only configuration. This means you can build your own highly specialized solution within the confines of the standard platform.

An added benefit is that Microsoft invests billions of dollars every year in development, investments which have seen the functionality stack of Microsoft Dynamics CRM grow at a massive rate in recent years – and it will continue to do so. This means that you as a customer will reap the benefits of new value generating functionality as new features are implemented.

At AlfaPeople we have customers who align closely to the standard functionality stack and others who have found value in building extended functionality using Microsoft CRM as a platform. Whichever approach you choose, be sure you evaluate whether a tailored suit is required or if you can benefit from a suit off the rack – adjusted to fit.