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Custom vs. Off-the-Shelf Software

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Business needs vary enormously from one organization to the next. So, naturally, continual improvement to processes and techniques to effectively run the business is a must. Business owners always have to step out of the normal day to day to evaluate whether or not we're being effective, how we can improve inefficiencies and how we can plan for the future. 

Because competition comes so strong and swift, we are in an age of process perfection. That is, we must understand our processes and constantly mine them for improvements. In many ways, we need to be like McDonald's where every small step has a predetermined sequence. This doesn't mean we'll abandon creativity and personality. With all their systems, McDonald's can be an amazingly creative force (e.g. Monopoly, kid's meals, play places). It's a common misunderstanding that boundaries limit creativity, but the contrary is really true (see "Creative Constraint: Why Tighter Boundaries Propel Greater Results"). Instead, we need to impose boundaries by tightening processes. One way to do this and track results effectively is with specialized software.

This isn't an easy task and choosing the right software to help you grow and adapt is crucial. The question often becomes "should I build a custom app that fits my needs exactly, or can I adopt off-the-shelf software to get close enough?"

Sometimes, this is an easy decision. Accounting software is used by just about every business, so there are an enormous number of flavors to choose from - Quickbooks, Microsoft Dynamics, MAS90, etc. Building custom software for your accounting needs usually doesn't make sense. The biggest issue arises when the business need is not a commodity, such as, a recycling company that needs to monitor pickups, drop-offs, sorting, and selling. Or a school district that wants to monitor facility usage and automatically adjust the HVAC system and unlock doors. 

But, even with non-commoditized needs, someone out there probably has fulfilled the need and built an off-the-shelf solution that you might be able to use. So, the decision ultimately becomes how good is the fit or can you do it better with a bigger bottom-line impact by building a custom application?

Here are some pros and cons of both. 

Off-the-Shelf Software

PROS:

  • Lower up-front cost
  • Contains many features, often more than you need
  • Support is often included or can be added with a maintenance contract
  • Upgrades may be provided for free or at reduced cost
  • If it's software-as-a-service (SaaS) there is no hardware or software to install

CONS:

  • Slow to adapt or change to industry needs
  • Your feature request may get ignored if it doesn't benefit the larger customer base
  • May require you to change your process to fit the software
  • Higher customization fees (proprietary software vendors often charge ridiculous hourly fees unless they provide an open API)

Custom Software

PROS: 

  • You can start with the minimum necessary requirements and add on later
  • Can be tailored to your exact business needs and processes
  • Changes can be made quickly

CONS:

  • Very high initial cost
  • All changes and feature requests will be billable
  • May incur additional costs ramping up new developers

Ultimately, you'll need to decide if you can use out-of-the-box software and fit a square peg into a round hole without too much pain or if you should build around the processes and systems you've worked so hard to develop. I suppose you could also do nothing and stick to the old way you do things but what's the fun in that?

I was once told by a business veteran that if there is a software solution that is good enough, then why incur the expense for custom development? I guess the answer depends on how fanatical you are about your business systems and how effective you believe yours to be over theirs. 

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Casey-Bertram Construction Launches Indianapolis Demolition Website

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Indianapolis Demolition & Construction WebsiteCasey-Bertram Construction, a leader in Indiana demolition services, launched their new website (www.casey-bertram.com) this week.  The site, which was designed and optimized by Marketpath and features our easy to use web content management system, positions Casey-Bertram as Indiana’s demolition services expert.

With 20 years of experience, Casey-Bertram has been a leader in the Indiana demolition market for quite some time, with demolitions projects involving Indiana landmarks such as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Eli Lilly, the Indiana Convention Center, and the Indiana State Fair grounds.  Casey-Bertram even provided demolition services for ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition television series.

Website Hi-Lights Demolition Expertise

The main objective of the new site was to highlight Casey-Bertram’s demolition experience and breadth of service offerings in its three main markets: commercial demolition, industrial demolition and residential (home) demolition.  This was accomplished on the website with a number of features including: large image galleries, a demolition project gallery featuring over 25 Indiana demolition projects, a new Demolition Blog, and a section devoted to Indiana demolition videos.  The site even features the Casey-Bertram Salvage Store, where Indianapolis contractors or consumers can get great deals on recycled products ranging from electric motors, to brass doors, to air conditioner units.  

Scott Casey, President of Casey-Bertram, believes the new site does a much better of job of providing credibility and highlighting the organizations capabilities. 

“Marketpath has brought our website from very basic to a modifiable site that can grow as our business evolves.  I had no idea of interworking’s of SEO, blogs, keywords, etc. -  all the components that actually drive traffic and conversions on the web.  Marketpath extensively went over every detail and asked numerous questions to understand our business in order to tailor the website.” 

Indianapolis Building & Home DemolitionIf you need a small business or construction website - call Marketpath.  If you need an Indianapolis area building or home demolished - check out Casey-Bertram. 

Or just watch some of their demolition videos for fun!

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What's Your Mobile Website Strategy?

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Mobile SitesThe rise of smartphone usage over the past few years has come at a staggering pace.  There are now over 91.4 million smartphones in the United States alone (this stat is a few months old, and with the release of the iPhone 5 in late September, the number is probably over 100 Million in the US alone).  So, how does your website look to any one of these 100 million people that view your site on the device?  Clunky? Unreadable? Empty white boxes where Flash graphics are located? While we understand designing your site for multiple devices is a difficult trend to keep up with, we also realize that falling behind can be costing you…big time.

According to the Huffington Post, the average smartphone user spends approximately 25 minutes per day browsing the internet.  If you think your website is safe from mobile visitors, you’re probably wrong.  Go check your analytics.  One of our clients has about 20% of their traffic coming from mobile devices!

So, what’s your strategy?  Do you display a different website? Different content?  Well, that decision is likely unique to your business or organization.  However, here are a few tips that probably work for any industry:

  1. Simplify your design – focus on your brand, and easy to navigate content
     
  2. Get rid of drop down menus – If your main website has them, fine, but just make sure that you get rid of them for your mobile site, as they can be difficult to interact with
     
  3. Reorganize content to someone on the go – what are these mobile users looking for?  (Hint: Check analytics!)
     
  4. Make it easy to call you – prominently feature your phone number
     
  5. Give people the option to view the full site – Some phones are better than others, or some users don’t mind interacting with a full website on their phone, so give them the option to do so.

The main takeaway:  Put some thought into mobile.  The market is only going to grow as phones get better.  Aim to truly understand how visitors are interacting with your site, and you’ll be better off for it.

 

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