How Customizable Does Your Software Need to Be?

Published on 03 August 2022

Every software solution has its advantages and disadvantages. When deciding on a software solution for your company, how customized/tailored should the software solution be for your company? Answering this question can help you confidently work with key decisions makers within your company to buy a software solution capable of meeting your current needs and helping you grow into the future.

The following questions (not listed in any specific order) and discussion will aid you in weighing the effectiveness, efficiency, and fit of each software solution for your company.

  • Why do you need software for your company?
  • What are the primary purposes of the software? In other words, what daily tasks must the software handle?
  • Are the challenges you are trying to solve straightforward or complex?
  • How unique are your challenges?
  • Can the software provider customize their software solution to meet the needs of your company?
  • Do you know how customized your software needs to be?
  • How do you involve your employees in the decision-making process (when appropriate)?
  • Do you have the right personnel in place to learn and assist in implementation of a software solution?
  • Do you have technical expertise to assist?
  • What is the update schedule of the software and does your customization affect the software’s ability to fully update?

As you ruminate on these questions and others, seek further opinions from key employees and stakeholders. Combine these answers with the advantages and disadvantages of customizing your software solution to help make the best decision for your company at this moment in time.

Advantages of Customized Software Disadvantages of Customized Software
Company-specific processes/technology addressed with a direct solution tailored for your company Potential for sub-optimization in which over customizing for a particular process/function hinders other up- and downstream processes
Increased productivity, compatibility, scalability/flexibility, and efficiency Customizations can add time and money to the implementation process
Smart long-term investment with available support Potential risks of system issues when software is updated
Increased opportunity for automation Providers could stop servicing software features you find valuable

When customizing software, you have three paths: simple, complex, or hybrid. Working with the software provider helps you determine the best option for your company. This work then determines your timeline, including your installation, which can take weeks or months depending on many factors. As I remind all software shoppers, all decisions are specific to your company’s needs, costs, timeline, etc., but do not let these decisions paralyze or scare you away from buying software. Software is built to streamline your business, improve efficiency, increase productivity, and much more. Focus on the long-term benefits of software because all installations will have some short-term hurdles you must jump.

When shopping around for software, proactively provide a list of machines on your factory floor and a shop floor map/flowchart. Make sure the software provider can interface with each machine. Communication on the front end of the process can expedite installation and success on the backend. As always, I recommend you record your Q&A in an Excel file, allowing you to prioritize needs and make the best decision given the available information. You should keep updated records, so you can reevaluate your current software solution at an appropriate time. We will cover this topic in another blog, so stay tuned!

Overall, there are many factors to weigh when buying a new software system. Do your research and talk with industry personnel/consultants. If this is the first time you are buying fabrication software, follow a plan, such as the one described in my January 2022 three-part NGA blog. When you interview software providers, ask how the software solution is customized, what is customizable, if the customization is appropriate for your business, etc. Every company is different. Do not settle for a cookie-cutter solution that does not address the specific needs of your company.

*This blog was originally written for the National Glass Association and was replicated on A+W's website, which you see here.

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