Software Developer Consultant, San Diego, California

Business Software: Off The Shelf Packages

Before investing in custom software development, you may want to investigate what "off the shelf" products or "software packages" are already available that might meet your business needs. After all, if you find something that is a good fit for your business, there is no need to "reinvent the wheel".

You may want to start by doing some searches on the internet for the particular type of software you need. For example, maybe you are looking for something that falls into one or more of the following categories:

  • Accouting
  • Construction
  • CRM - Customer Relationship Management
  • ERP - Enterprise Resource Planning
  • Grower / Nursery
  • Insurance
  • Manufacturing
  • Medical Billing
  • Property Management
  • Retail Sales
  • Wholesale Distribution

Try some searches in one or more of the above categories, including the word "software" in your search. For example "Accounting Software", "Medical Billing Software", etc. Or, send me an email describing what you're after and I'll see what I can find.

Keep in mind that there simply may not yet be a software package available in your specific industry. Developing a "one size fits all" software application for a specific industry, with even a minimal amount of flexibility so that it can fill the needs of many individual businesses within that given industry, often requires many more hours of labor than creating software that is a custom fit for a single business. For a software developer to consider creating a package for resale, he has to take into consideration how many copies of the software he expects to sell, and if that number of expected sales will at least cover his cost of development. For many more industries than you might think, there simply are not enough potential sales to justify the cost of labor to develop a software package specifically targeted for that industry.

If there does not seem to be a software package out there designed for your specific industry, then you may have to choose between custom software development or the purchase a more generic, general purpose software package, that while not designed with your specific industry in mind, may still fit the nature of your business on a more general level, such as "manufacturing software", "wholesale distribution software", or simply "accounting software".

If you choose to have software custom developed to fit your exact business need, this would obviously be the best fit for your business, but the cost of doing so is often higher than the cost of purchasing a mass-produced software package. Of course, having custom designed software tailored to your business needs has many advantages. It may allow you to increase profitability. It may give you an "edge" over your competition. For these or other reasons, your investment in custom software may more than pay for itself over time, whereas the purchase of a software package may not give you the same advantages.

If you decide to investigate the purchase of a software package, here are a few recommendations you'll want to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you carefully evaluate a product you are considering before making a purchase.
  • Do not base your selection solely on sales literature or even on product documentation, as it is easy to misinterpret such information.
  • See if the vendor provides a free evaluation version you can download or have shipped to you. Install the evaluation version and test it thoroughly with real-world data. That is, try to use data as similar as possible to what you expect to be dealing with on a daily basis in your business.
  • See if the vendor can provide a list of references with customers who are currently using the product. Check with these customers to see how satisfied they are with the product, what they perceive to be its limitations, how long they've been using it, if they are using it for similar purposes and in a similar way to what you have in mind, and how happy they are with the vendor.