The phrase, “There’s an app for that,” trademarked by Apple in 2010, suggests that we live in a time when we can use technology to do almost anything. It seems like there’s a software solution for everything. These useful tools seem limited only by the imagination of the developer. Currently, consumers have access to software that can meet any need you can think of, whether big or small. There’s software on the market that can manage daily operations of billion-dollar companies while others can track how many steps a person walks in a day. But even with the almost limitless choices of software applications available, there still might be times when you wish an application had more or different features. Consumers want software they invest in to be specific to their personal or business needs. Luckily, there are multiple solutions to this problem, for example, you can:
- Find a different application
- Develop a new application
- Customize the application you already use (if it’s an option)
Despite these solutions, some of them aren’t always feasible. Most organizations don’t have the in-house expertise to develop their own custom software solutions. Instead, they rely on commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions. Depending on business needs, a COTS software solution may have all features and functions a business wants and needs. They might even have capabilities the company doesn’t need. However, even businesses in related markets don’t manage their daily operations exactly the same way. This makes it virtually impossible for software developers to create an application to meet each organization’s unique requirements. Instead of trying to account for every scenario, developers might code the application to provide the most common features and functions but allows users to customize it for their specific needs. This is a solution that works for most businesses. But how do you know which product to go with to get started? We have some suggestions.
When you evaluate similar software products, find out if you can customize the product to meet your needs. The option to purchase a software solution “out-of-the-box” that meets most of your needs and offers the option to customize is a great benefit. There are also other factors you should consider before you make a purchase. The following is a quick list of things to think about as you look for a customized third-party software application.
Software companies regularly update their products to fix bugs, add new features, and maintain compatibility with current operating systems. It’s important to understand the effects a software upgrade will have on the customizations you currently have in place. Some questions you might ask:
- Will an application upgrade “break” or overwrite these customizations, or will it preserve them?
- If you must reapply customizations, can you determine what you customized vs. what was standard in the application?
- Will the new version still support the same customization options as the current version?
Be sure you know the answer to these questions before you install an update. You don’t want to lose everything you built up to this point.
Technical support is often a required service for the primary software solutions an organization uses. Before you implement a COTS software solution and add business-specific customizations, make sure first to find out if the technical support package supports end-user customizations. This kind of support may seem like a given, especially if customizations are one of the selling points of the software, but this may not always be the case. It may be that support is only included for standard application features, and you’re on your own if you customize it.
When you look at customization options, think about the following:
- Who can customize the application?
- Does the software solution allow the end-user to customize it?
- Does it require assistance from your IT department or the software vendor?
Any of these options may be acceptable, but it’s important to understand upfront who needs to be involved and to what extent.
Extent of Customization
While the option to customize a third-party software solution may be a useful feature to have, it should really supplement or fine-tune what comes standard in the application. Ask yourself how much will you need to customize the software to meet all your business requirements. If you end up with too many customized features and functions, the software might not run as smoothly as it should. If you find that’s the case, you may want to consider a different solution that meets more of your needs out-of-the-box.
Zasio’s records management and Information Governance software solutions support many different application and database customizations. You can implement many of these customizations yourself. If you ever do need help, your organization’s IT staff and/or Zasio software support specialists can assist you. Visit our website at www.zasio.com or call us at 800.513.1000, option 2 to find out how our software solutions can meet your records management and Information Governance needs—with or without customizations.
Author: Ron Farnsworth, Support Specialist at Zasio Enterprises, Inc.