Many clients regard readymade software applications with a great deal of skepticism fearing the product will not incorporate the functionality they require. What makes matters worse is that many software developers in our area offer "tailoring" services that aims at making products more suitable for a certain business by actively developing for that business. Clients are usually tempted to choose these "tailoring" services thinking it guarantees them all the functionality they need will be delivered. However, a deeper look into the software development process clearly shows that readymade software, if developed professionally, offers its clients more value and higher quality than what custom made or tailored software can offer.
While custom tailoring software solutions offers more flexibility in responding to business requirements, it suffers sever structural problems that out weigh the flexibility it promises and render readymade applications a more sound choice in most cases.
First Advantage: Higher Quality
ERP solutions or business management software in general deals with information that comprises the lifeline of the business. The quality and accuracy of the outputs of business software cannot be underestimated because the cost of bad or misinformation is just too high. The environment that encompasses developing and supporting readymade applications is more poised towards higher quality products for the following reasons:
Better Resources Usage
Readymade applications allow its developers to invest far more time and effort in the process of developing and assuring the quality of their products because there is a single "project" that needs to be managed and developed. This also provides a stable environment that promotes accumulation of experience and skill that is directed solely for that project. In addition, the project becomes less dependent on the individuals involved in its development and more poised towards teamwork. Software houses that adapt the readymade approach can usually allocate much more human resources to each project than what custom tailors can do.
On the other hand, custom tailors cannot allocate as much resources to each "project" simply because there are as many projects as there are customers. Consequently, the development process itself becomes highly dependant on the individuals involved with each customer's projects and less resilient to staff and work environment change.
Better Quality Assurance Mechanisms
Software houses that adapt the readymade approach usually dedicate a whole department for testing and quality assurance. This is simply possible because there is one, or a few, projects at hand with clearly defined specifications and requirements. QA departments will then be able to develop stable and manageable testing and quality assurance procedures and measures because software specifications do not undergo major or minor change for each and every client. For this reason, readymade applications always enjoy higher quality than tailored applications.
On the other hand, tailoring software houses cannot afford to establish and fund dedicated QA departments for each project because each client is his own project that differs, slightly or greatly, from other projects. It becomes quite difficult to come up with repeatable and proven test scenarios and procedures. Therefore tailoring software houses usually ask the clients themselves to be the testers as a solution to this dilemma. A more usual scenario erupts when defects show during live operation therefore reducing efficiency and compromising the trust users should have in software that runs the lifeline of their business.
Investing on a Large User Community
Successful readymade applications have a large user base. Therefore, each new user automatically gains the huge collective effort done by thousands of others who has relentlessly scrutinized every little part of that application. Those users have also interacted with the software developers and gave them a lot of ideas and problems to address and solve, ultimately reflecting on the usability and quality of that application.
On the other hand, a custom made application has –by definition- a single or very few users! No matter how many clients tailoring software houses have, each of their products will remain limited in exposure and usage to a very small user base.
Second Advantage: Better Value
Readymade applications offer better value and less acquisition and running costs than tailored software solutions.
Lower Acquisition Cost
Software houses that adapt the readymade approach distribute their development cost over a large clients' base because the same product is delivered to many clients. This allows these software houses to offer their products at a lower cost than custom tailoring software houses that has to charge each client for the total cost of developing "their" product.
Availability and Stability of Operational and Technical Services
Because the "product" is well defined, it is easier to obtain and secure operational and technical services related to readymade software. Staff members who support and implement these readymade products can be well trained and prepared for customer service using high quality training and testing material. The stability of the product also allows the accumulation and transfer of experience between team members and renders support services less dependent on individuals and more poised towards teamwork.
In addition, successful readymade applications enjoy a large user base which means new clients can acquire necessary operational skills very quickly through hiring users who possess the skills and experience required.
Third Advantage: Technology Protection
Software houses that adapt the readymade approach can easily provide upgrade and migration paths to all their users because all those users use one or a few products. This upgrade and migration policy offer clients technology protection, an issue that cannot be underestimated in the fast moving world of IT. For instance, this site includes a section that enables all Ajyal users to download the latest releases of ASWAQ6 and ASWAQ5.
Contrary to that, custom tailoring software houses cannot offer such services at a reasonable cost to their clients because each and every client has a unique solution that was custom tailored to his needs. Users of tailor made applications eventually find themselves choosing between two painful choices; to remain behind technology advancement, or to pay a very high cost to re-develop their applications with modern technologies!
Fourth Advantage: Longevity
If a custom tailoring software house succeeded in establishing a wide user base for its products, it will eventually suffocate beneath its own success! This will simply happen because each client has a product, with all that it takes to follow up a product technically and managerially. In addition, software tailors are more susceptible to staff change and abrupt absence of key players.
Gradually, the load increases on successful software tailors as they continue to drag increasingly heavier weight until they find themselves unable to satisfy new and existing clients needs. This scenario is not a bit factious; there are real software houses in the Middle East that has gone through exactly that cycle.