Canned Software: What’s The Reality?

Canned Software: What’s The Reality?

Let’s say you need software to run a cash register. You look around and find that even a big-box office supply mega superstore carries the whole thing in a box; Computer tower, monitor, mouse and keyboard, the cash drawer, a barcode scanner with a stand, even one of those nifty little receipt printers. The software in the box is also in a box, and has a whole list of features on the back of said box. You, or some teenager in the neighborhood who’s at least good with video games, sets it up in the store and you’re on your way.

Then you realize everything, including the banana bread your sister made in the rented and health-inspected kitchen on the east side, has to have a barcode label. So you need another printer, and some of those stickers on letter-sized wax paper so you can print the barcode labels. Which keep coming off. Or worse, when little kids with sticky fingers picks up that banana bread with a high-pitched, “But I want some!” The accounting side of the software has a few reports for accounting, but your accountant seems to think you need others. Taking an inventory is clunky at best … what you wouldn’t give for a crew with those handheld scanners like at the big supermarket, eh? Your staff keeps changing settings to create a “best” workflow for whomever is working at the time, adding new items is more a chore than it should be, and the only one who can get the whole system to work right is your twelve-year-old daughter.

True story, except that I wasn’t “some teenager in the neighborhood who’s at least good with video games” … And now that the store is hiring non-family members as staff, they want to know how to give everyone their own login. Honestly, I think I’m going to need to wipe the hard drive and start over. But first I need to backup the database …

Custom-tailored software would have prevented all of this. Even in a retail situation, canned software has a tendency to force the owners or managers of the business to change their workflow to match the software. This may be fine for word processing and spreadsheet programs, but when you get down to business with a business, this type of thing can be frustrating at best.

Let’s say you need a scheduling system. You pull out the “business”-grade software that came pre-installed on your “business”-grade computer and have a look. Basically, you can draw lines on groups of days. You could do that with a spreadsheet and get away with it. Still, you’ve got resources, tasks, … hmm, 3D gantt charts, very cool … Oh, “resources”  are people … that’s odd …

But what happens if you change something? What hapens if things need to work through in a different sequence? Can the software work through the changes and come up with a valid solution?

A better question would be, does the software follow your business and how it works, or are you being forced into the box the software came in?

The situation will likely be the former than the latter. That’s why custom-tailored software will always work better for your business. Unless that is, you’re just writing a letter.

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