Many small and midsize businesses rely on off-the-shelf software for a large portion of their daily operations. The relatively low cost and easy set-up for such software makes it very attractive for businesses that may not have a dedicated IT department. However, these standardized applications typically serve a single function or related set of functions. Getting these applications to talk to one another and share information can be difficult, if not impossible.
While off-the-shelf software can help a business in numerous ways, what happens when different pieces of software aren’t compatible?
Because off-the-shelf software is designed to meet a broad set of needs, businesses of all types can use it. That’s one of the great things about it. But business processes can vary significantly from one company to the next. Many use multiple softwares to manage different portions of their business, and these applications may not able to communicate with one another.
This often leads to a complicated process involving data entry into multiple systems. A customer order might contain billing and shipping information as well as order specifications. With off-the-shelf software, fulfilling such an order might entail entry into separate accounting, order fulfillment, and shipping applications. Such systems are simply not designed to work together.
Helping Software Communicate
While off-the-shelf software fills a general need, multiple standalone systems can complicate processes unnecessarily. Businesses using a patchwork of standardized software often experience:
- Duplication of work
- Higher employee costs
- Increased human error
For most businesses, offering great customer service is central to success. Each time customer information is entered into varied systems, the margin of error can potentially ruin the customer experience.
Custom software can help bridge the gap between standalone software applications. Known as middleware, these customized software applications can connect existing programs and help to eliminate duplication of data.
Investing in Middleware
Make no mistake, standard software applications have numerous benefits. They are attractive to business because of their affordability and feature-rich offerings. Most have a lengthy product life cycle and include product support and regular updates right up until their end-of-life date. They are also easy to use and typically don’t require much in the way of training to make them useful to your employees.
Still, off-the-shelf software is generic in nature. Because it’s designed to meet a broad array of needs for a wide variety of businesses, it may not be exactly what your company needs to operate efficiently. If your employees spend a portion of their time re-entering information into your various software applications, it may be time to consider custom middleware.
The word “custom” can make business owners apprehensive. Custom middleware, however, doesn’t have to be a significant investment in order to create more efficient processes. Often, middleware is a small piece of software that simply links one standalone application to another. Your business still gets the benefits of off-the-shelf software without the pitfalls of information duplication.
Going Beyond Middleware
Although middleware can help a business to run more efficiently, it may not be quite enough for some companies. Sometimes, tying two standalone softwares together using middleware simply isn’t possible because their interfaces are incompatible. This is where custom software comes into play. Companies with highly-specialized processes can benefit from a custom software solution that streamlines workflows and reduces manual inputs. Custom software is developed specifically for your company and allows your business to grow more efficiently.
Want to know more? Lieberman Technologies helps businesses to assess their software needs and can provide custom software development to help you become more productive. Contact us today!