Geographically distributed businesses and businesses with field staff have their tasks cut out juggling a wide array of variables to ensure their operations take place seamlessly. They have to track sales in real time, manage inventory, process customer data, respond to customer queries and complaints, update accounts, keep track of HR data, process shipping, and do more, all at the same time. Sound business process software, which automates many of these routine tasks, is now indispensable to remain in control of the day-to-day functioning of the enterprise.
However, not all apps are equal.
Custom apps offer the advantage of being developed to exactly match the unique nature of the business and its workflows, and may also be changed according to the ever-evolving requirements in a highly fluid business ecosystem. The advancement of technology and the proliferation of app-builders make developing a fairly advanced custom app a piece of cake, and affordable as well.
Generic apps, or ready-made off-the-shelf apps, on the other hand, come with far fewer hassles. It spares the enterprise the cost and effort of hiring developers, the rigmarole of testing, maintenance and updates, and other hassles. The flip side is a rigid structure. Generic software caters to a wide audience, and as such would come loaded with several features, most of them unnecessary to any specific enterprise. Even future enhancements would invariably target a broader base than a specific company. Such updates come at a slower pace than the needs of the business in a fast-paced environment. The software would at best offer different modules, with the option to pick and choose the modules required for the business. Beyond this, the scope for flexibility, and scalability is limited. Often, the business may end up altering its processes and procedures to suit the rigidity of off-the-shelf software.
The choice between custom software and generic software depends largely on whether the enterprise is in a position to leverage the strength, while at the same time negate the disadvantages or challenges, of any one option.
As long as a competent designer with sound knowledge of how the business operates is on hand, either in-house or as an outsourced partner, the enterprise will find it easy and reap rich dividends by developing custom field service app. Such apps would gel in with the unique ways difference operational pieces fit together in your enterprise, offering “seamless synergy.” On the other hand, generic prebuilt apps, being marketed to a wide set of customers, would invariably definitely come with several unwanted features and rarely have everything the enterprise requires.
Consider a business offering distinct types of promotions. With a custom app, when someone in the field orders a new product or logs in a new service request from their mobile device, the system would know exactly which department or vertical to tag and alert, and may even be set to trigger the necessary follow-up actions automatically.
The field service set-up of the enterprise may be a result of considerable trial and error. Having to establish workarounds to suit the rigidities of generic software may be ruinous for the operations, defeating the very purpose of the software.
The extra time spent on developing custom software pays back for itself by reducing training and familiarization time on a recurring basis. With custom software, employees and other stakeholders are spared from spending long hours learning how to avoid unwanted features, or digging through the interface to find the required feature. The frustration of not being able to find the required feature, or the software not working as expected is profound in field service, where stress is high, every second spent on the field is critical to revenues and customer satisfaction, and the next client is always breathing down the neck.
Custom built field service apps are lean, avoiding unnecessary and unwanted features. This spirit rubs off to the actual work environment as well.
As developers of custom app iterate software truly reflecting the business, it gives scope to identify opportunities and improve processes. A custom app offers the business its own base for operations, without having to rely on third-party providers to provide missing features and be held up for lack of such options. In today’s fast-paced business environment, the ability to expand the platform as rapidly as needed is priceless and a source of valuable competitive advantage.
In field service, custom software offers the ability to easily archive data, identify actionable trends and opportunities, make real-time tweaks in processes based on an uncontrollable external environment, and do much more.
Custom made field service app offers spin-off advantages of IP ownership and data ownership. This, in turn, may indirectly increase the company value. For companies who have to create value for their investors, owning a custom app is a smart move
Likewise, data is a valuable commodity and a critical source of competitive advantage in today’s age of Big Data. With a generic, prebuilt field service app, the enterprise has no control over the data, and may not even be able to retrieve it fully. With custom software, all collected data remains firmly in control of the enterprise.
The initial purchase cost of the software is just one of the several factors determining the total cost. The generic off-the-shelf software comes with several hidden or invisible costs such as the cost of upgrades, software support, licensing fees, per-website or installation licenses, and per-seat costs and more. Over time these fees may add up and exceed the cost to develop and maintain a custom software. As things stand, unless the business is too simple and there is no prospects op scale-up in the foreseeable future, developing custom software is the way to go. The only caveat is a tie-up with a strategic partner who knows what they are doing.