How Off-The-Shelf Software Can Destroy Business Value – Tech Corner Episode #1

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Welcome to the Tech Corner – where business managers learn how to scale their business models using technology.

Today I wanted to discuss how off-the-shelf software can actually destroy business value, rather than creating it.

So the first question to ask yourself is, “What parts of your business are unique?” – what makes you valuable?

For all businesses, the answer to that question is “ideas” – the ideas that you implement, and the customers you implement them with make you different in the marketplace from your competitors.

So when you try to automate those ideas – which is what you should be doing if you want to stay competitive in the marketplace – there are a couple different options.

You could buy something off the shelf and try to make it work for you, or you could build a piece of custom software that takes those and ideas and builds them into a controlled, automatic workflow.

If you buy something off the shelf – which is a lot of times tempting to do, because it seems less risky, and it’s a little easier to get your head around sometimes, the problem is, you’re not implementing your ideas, you’re implementing someone else’s ideas, which are typically the lowest common denominator ideas out in the marketplace.

So for instance, if all of your competitors are all buying the same off the shelf ERP system, then none of you are really doing any unique ideas, and there may actually be an opportunity for your business to implement something different.

The reason this is also good is sometimes it’s those little differences that can set you apart and make you more competitive in the marketplace.

So for instance, everyone right now has some kind of electronic banking or web-based banking for the bank they use, but if one bank in the marketplace were to do something different, original or new – such as mobile check deposit, which started being a trend a little while ago – for a small period of time, they had a significant advantage in the marketplace by using that feature, and then of course their competition raced to catch up to them.

Those little values of doing something unique and doing something really tailor-made to your business are often where the true ROI of any project or any technology lie.  Because your exact process that works best for you can be brought to bear within your business.  If you buy something strictly off the shelf, that just isn’t the case.

It’s sort of like if you were to imagine buying a suit off-the-rack – typically a suit off the rack is going to fit you so-so, but it’s not going to be hemmed, and it’s not going to fit you exactly and you’re going to have to have it tailored.

That tailoring is usually what sets your suit – and the way you look in it – apart from everybody else – it’s what makes you look like a million bucks.  It’s the same way with building something custom – you get that advantage to it, and that last little bit of enhancement that makes all the difference.

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