The custom solution trap

In the world we live in, we as a people have the unfortunate tendency to think that we understand our realities better than outsiders and that our circumstances are unique. This may be true at a very microscopic level, but it’s usually not at more macroscopic levels. So, because they believe they’re so unique that no customer-off-the-shelf (COTS) solution could ever suit them, businesses, when looking at enterprise-level IT solutions, often fall into the trap of designing a custom solution.
Avoid falling into the custom solution trap

Pros of custom solutions

  • By definition, custom software is built for the unique challenges of your situation. When done well, custom software provides an almost perfect solution to your challenge(s).
  • You own the software—you can do what you need with it.
  • Custom software offers a competitive advantage: it’s something others don’t have—indeed, it’s something they can never have. If it’s well designed, you should soon see yourself getting ahead of the competition.

cons of custom solutions

  • The built-from-scratch nature of custom software means that you are looking at a higher upfront investment.
  • Designing custom software, even with the best project definition, is a long process. Barring any major issues, you can face a development phase that can take months, sometimes even years.
  • In the wood transformation industry, finding the right partner is hard. Most software developers are not privy to the very specific nature of your manufacturing field, so you’ll basically have to “educate” them about how things work before you can even begin tackling your challenges, which makes the development all the longer, even if an industry professional is involved.
  • Creating a custom solution can leave you dependent on the software developer (whether in-house or outsourced).
  • Another risk in developing a custom solution is not staying laser focused on the true problem that you’re attempting to solve. It is extremely tempting to try to kill several birds with one stone, which results in scattered development.
  • Too often, little to no thought is given to how the new custom solution will be integrated into current work practices and procedures to achieve its intended purpose.

In the wood transformation industry, custom solutions can be siren songs

The term “siren song” refers to a hard-to-resist appeal that, if heeded, leads to a bad conclusion. Blinded by the conceit that we are unique, we forget that armies of bright people, backed by mountains of research, data, and real-life experience understand the way we act, think, operate, etc. To push the analogy even further, the collective intelligence of teams has developed tools and solutions that we barely give a second thought to: laptop computers, smart phones, search engines, wireless networks.

It’s therefore conceivable that others understand you better than you do and have developed solutions that meet your needs. Nevertheless, you will still be tempted to hire people (in-house or outsourced) to design a tailor-made solution for you—lured by the siren song of the pros.

The sad reality is that the cons weigh much heavier in the balance than the pros. In our experience, finding the right partner is not only hard, it’s near impossible. Even when you do, the learning curve is steep, and we’ve seen numerous instances of custom development projects that dragged on for years only to abort.

This leaves you, unfortunately, with incomplete, often non-functional software that you’ve paid a lot for and can’t maintain due to its custom nature. The result: the software is never deployed or uninstalled never to be used again.

Developer coding custom solution
PMP WePlane dashboards in action in planer mill

Key takeaways

Custom solutions may be attractive because they imply a perfect fit. Be aware, however, that developing custom solutions is neither easy nor quick. You should always understand that custom a development project runs the very real risk of leaving you stuck in a quagmire that will be both time-consuming and costly.

So, don’t fall into the custom solution trap and talk to one of our experts to learn what PMP TeamMate can do for you.


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