The major problem with off-the-shelf software and other types of pre-existing solutions is that they just aren't set up with your specific business in mind. Not only does your business operate in a different way from even your closest competitors, but your employees have developed their own unique workflows over time. People work the way they work because it works for them - and off-the-shelf software often runs at odds with this idea.
The Perils of Off-the-Shelf Software
Think about it like this: you probably have a lot of very industry-specific, proprietary software that you're already using. Your off-the-shelf solution isn't going to be built to play nice with these existing applications. You're going to have to devote time to setting up workarounds to not only get new software to work the way you need it to in the first place, but to get it to work at all with the applications you already have.
So not only do your employees have to waste time (which ultimately costs you money in terms of lost productivity) by trying to come up with some kind of "patchwork" integration into your existing processes, but the software still likely isn't going to run exactly the way you need it to - wasting additional time in the process.
Now, you're at a significant disadvantage as far as productivity is concerned and you haven't even begun using that off-the-shelf software in earnest. There are only so many hours in a given day to work with and now your teams are forced to spend more of theirs working with something that is counterintuitive by its very design. Employees now have to "make do" with complicated manual processes that often require additional steps, each of which takes up additional time, all because you wanted to save a bit of additional time and money by purchasing something that already exists as opposed to building truly customized software from the ground up.
The Time Saving Benefits of Custom Software
The alternative to this, thankfully, is simple: you invest in the type of customized software that is built in a way that will improve your business operations as a primary objective.
Neuco, for example, is a company that specializes in pipeline and distribution of natural gas and electric utilities. Recently, company leadership realized that the time was right to implement a more holistic, more comprehensive system to manage people, materials, equipment, projects, sub contractors - you name it. The major problem, however, was that their original process was hardly compatible with any off-the-shelf solution they could find.
In years past, a foreman in the field would have to fill out a double sided paper form that outlined everything a particular crew did in a given day. That form would get sent to the main office where someone would then transpose it into several spread sheets - something only two or three key people could do. Then, that data would have to be transferred AGAIN into the accounting system by a separate team so it could be billed. Not only was this incredibly cumbersome and time consuming, but it was also not something that any off-the-shelf solution would actually make easier.
Neuco tried to use Excel spreadsheets as something of a "stop gap" solution, but this quickly grew unwieldy. It was clear something more custom was needed to save time.
And save time they did, with a fully customized software application built with their own people, processes and procedures in mind. With custom software, a foreman can now enter data in the field and record activities as they happen. Management can generate real-time reports about what is going on where, when and why. Billing happens immediately instead of weeks later - all of which would have been impossible without customized software that was designed to improve business operations instead of off-the-shelf software meant to placate them.
At the end of the day, it's important to remember that your business systems and processes should be built to maximize employee efficiency and profitability - not to make it harder for people to do their jobs, albeit unintentionally. Yet that's exactly what you're committing to when you "invest" in off-the-shelf software to meet your needs. Business processes should save time and money rather than waste them - and the best way to make sure you end up in the former category and not the latter is to embrace customized software for all it's worth.