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Custom Application or a Ready Made Product: which one shall I choose for my organisation?

This can be a difficult choice for most of us, but infact it’s really straightforward and simple.

The decision should be based on your knowledge of your requirements and what is out there. Most people focus on the costs but nowadays, with so many open-source applications and cheaper and faster software development tools, the gap in price between a custom application (which should presumably cost more) and a Ready Made product (which should presumably cost less) has been narrowed down considerably.

If what you need is what many others need, chances are there is a ready made software already. An extreme example could be Word Processing or Email Setup. So many organisations need these that the demand was met with a very good supply to choose from. An example on the other extreme would be a solution for a very specific task that we do uniquely in our particular organisation. In this case a custom application is most surely the only way forward. A more realistic example would be the acquisition of a CRM (customer relationship management) solution. This is also a solution that many organisations require and therefore you should expect to find a lot of ready made solutions available as open-source, subscription based and off-the-shelf products.

Now let’s consider the acquisition of a CRM solution as an example on which to make my next point. What shall I choose? a ready made CRM or a custom built CRM? The answer lies in my requirements:

Integration: If I require a standalone crm, a ready made crm should be favoured. If I require the crm to integrate with other software that I have is should start considering a custom solution.

Customisations: If I have no proper knowledge of a crm and what it should do for me I should head straight for a ready made crm because it will most certainly provide me with the widely accepted functionality enjoyed by similar organisations worldwide. If however I know exactly what it should do for me, how it has to be configured and what level of customer service I want to get out of it, a custom solution should also be considered.

Support: If my organisation does have an IT arm, whether it is another person, a team or an outsourced functionality, I would probablay not be identifying the best choice myself in the first place, unless the organisation’s IT Support is me. If I don’t really have IT support the choice should be narrowed down to either a widely used off-the-shelf application known to require very little or no support at all or a solution provided and supported by a specialised company.

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