The decision about whether or not to add new staff can be stressful for business owners, especially when technology is involved. Faced with a business process problem, it’s common for businesses to hire full-time developers to build a custom solution.

It’s equally common for these businesses to wind up with more problems than they started with.

Does a solution already exist?

Business leaders often assume that an off-the-shelf solution does not exist for their specific business need. They believe their business is too niche, or that the specific need is too custom.

Although developing a custom application is sometimes appropriate, it’s becoming increasingly rare to find a business problem that someone has not addressed with an off-the-shelf product. Some configuration work may be necessary to get an off-the-shelf application to fit a business’ specific needs, but configuration costs are usually far less than the cost of implementing and supporting a custom solution.

Is there enough work to keep the developer engaged?

Many times, full-time developers are hired without the reality of full-time work. A specific project may require significant work up-front, but once implemented there may not be much for the developer to work on aside from maintenance.

Talented developers will rarely stick with a company that doesn’t keep them engaged with interesting work. They’ll want to move on and solve new problems, rather than performing routine maintenance work. When they leave, they take the deep knowledge of the solution they developed with them, making it difficult to support.

Using an off-the-shelf solution with configuration help from an outside vendor may be more appropriate in these situations.

Is building software a core competency?

Businesses with successfully-developed custom software projects tend to share a particular quality – software development is a core competency of their business. That may seem a bit obvious, but it is critically important.

Businesses lacking a development culture and framework are usually doomed to development failure. They implement technology ad-hoc, hiring developers who wind up not getting a stable reporting structure and the internal support they need to succeed. Purchasing an off-the-shelf solution is almost always a better option for these companies.

A perfect example

A client recently approached our sister company, LSG Staffing, about hiring a full-time developer to build an aperational dashboard for their business. They wanted someone to model KPIs, assemble the dashboards, and build realtime, proactive monitoring.

As the conversation developed we became more certain that hiring a full-time employee was the wrong solution for this business. An off-the-shelf solution existed that matched their needs, there wasn’t enough work to justify and employee in the long-term, and software development was not one of their core competencies.

Instead, we presented them with the Multipeers product and helped them with configuring it for their environment. Using Multipeers, we were able to build all the necessary dashboards, providing management with the visibility and accountability they required. Implementing Multipeers removed the need to hire a developer and is actually freeing up other staff who had been doing spreadsheet work to mimic the functionality Multipeers provided.