Time To Read: 5 minutes

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software should be playing a significant role in the operations of any field service provider, and a central question for many businesses is whether the best option is to build their own software or purchase a software that’s already built. From functionality and customizability to costs and necessary resources, there are many different factors to consider when making this choice.

Whether you’re looking to improve your processes by onboarding ERP software for the first time, or are looking to streamline your operations and improve profits by switching from your current software to a better solution, taking the time to explore the pros and cons of building or buying software will help to ensure you make the choice that’s best for your business. The time, energy, and resources that you put into your software aren’t insignificant; choosing the right option for your field service business makes those costs more than worthwhile by allowing you to improve efficiency and take in more revenue.

Out-of-the Box Software Systems

An out-of-the-box software system, sometimes called a cookie cutter software system, is a software system that is designed to provide the same set of features and functionality for every user. The goal of this sort of system is to create a one-size-fits-all solution, often by including as many features as possible to attract users in a wide range of markets or industries.

Developing a software option like this can be a balancing act of providing the features users need without focusing too heavily on a particular market or industry. If one vertical is too prevalent, the system may alienate users in other industries—even if the software could potentially be useful in that industry.

Ultimately, most out-of-the-box software systems set their sights on providing enough features to attract users without overloading the software with extraneous features that the bulk of users won’t find useful. Users looking for additional functionality typically need to seek out application programming interfaces (APIs) to tie in additional functionality from other software systems. Threading the needle just right often proves to be extremely difficult, making out-of-the-box systems a gamble with a number of pros and cons for enterprise users to consider.

Pros

  • A wide user base using identical features helps to keep costs down for the software company, typically resulting in a lower cost for users.
  • Most out-of-the-box systems are subscription-based, generally meaning that a dedicated support team is available when needed.
  • Without customization, implementation times tend to be shorter.

Cons

  • If you outgrow the system or find that the features don’t address your needs, your only option is to return to square one and seek out another software provider. 
  • Finding API developers to help fill in system gaps can prove to be a challenge, particularly for users without extensive technical experience.
  • As the out-of-the-box system is updated, APIs may become obsolete or require further assistance from developers to restore functionality. 
  • Specific functionality within the software may sunset when newer versions are released, meaning the older version of the system is discontinued. An equivalent feature may be implemented with a new version, but it’s not guaranteed. Users who still employ a feature that’s sunset may find themselves without updates, support, or even without any access to the old feature.
  • Users who use an out-of-the-box ERP software system will typically find that competitors using the same system have all of the same functionality, essentially nullifying any competitive edge.

Custom Software Systems

As the term suggests, custom software is designed and built around your precise specifications and requirements. These types of software systems may be built by in-house development teams or by outside developers. When opting for custom software, choosing whether to build it in-house or have it built by an outside software development team will depend largely on the expertise and resources that you have available.

In either case, custom software behaves differently than out-of-the-box systems since it is built to provide the specific features you’re seeking out rather than a suite of features intended to attract a wide user base. The range of features and overall functionality will vary widely depending on your anticipated usage and specifications. Like opting for an out-of-the-box software system, choosing a custom software system also has the potential to provide both benefits and drawbacks.

Pros

  • The right development team can outfit custom software with the features to meet your specific needs, aligning the system with your unique business model, processes, and goals.
  • Custom systems can be designed with your future needs and goals in mind, allowing for new features and functionalities to scale with your business as your needs shift.
  • When you purchase custom software it is unique to your business, including any new coding you build into the software. No competitor will have the same software at their disposal.
  • You control costs by only paying for the features and functionality you need.

Cons

  • Custom software solutions don’t generally include technical support beyond what your contract developers handle.
  • Fully custom solutions can be expensive, potentially becoming less cost effective than out-of-the-box software solutions for those who only need foundational functionality.
  • Custom software solutions typically take longer to implement then out-of-the-box solutions since they are being built for your specific needs and aren’t pre-established.

The Best of Both Worlds

Choosing the best option when it comes to ERP for your business can seem tough, especially when out-of-the-box and custom both provide their share of pros and cons. In most cases, finding an ERP software system that provides elements of both options can prove to be the perfect solution.

With modular software, a base product provides core functionality that the vast majority of customers rely on. The base product is then built out with additional modules that allow users to work alongside the software provider to receive custom functionality that’s built around their unique business needs and processes. The result is a custom solution that still provides many of the benefits one expects from an out-of-the-box system, such as more manageable pricing, faster onboarding, and ongoing support as your business continues to grow and encounters new demands.

Choosing a modular ERP software solution means that your business also reaps the benefits of a custom system. Each custom module is designed to integrate smoothly into the tried-and-true processes that your business has already established, rather than forcing you to redefine the way you do business. Your processes simply become that much more efficient, all while you gain a competitive edge knowing that none of your competitors have the same software.

Some things to consider when making your final decision:

  • Ensure that your software provider has a reputation for quality, service, and support. Be sure to look for client testimonials.
  • Will the product foundation be supported as new versions and upgrades become available? 
  • Note the typical timeline for implementation, including when the system will be available for testing with live operations.
  • Will you be able to modify the custom modules as-needed using your own internal engineering resources? 

Your field service business relies on software to streamline your daily operations, manage your technicians in the field, and make informed decisions, so it’s critical that you have a dependable solution that works with your unique processes. To learn more about how the customizability of modular ERP software can benefit your field service business, explore WorkWave Servman today.

Author

Hosam Sayed is a Product Marketing Manager at WorkWave with extensive knowledge of B2B product and marketing positioning. When not in front of his computer, he can be found spending time with his family, enjoying outdoor activities, and working on perfecting the art of landscaping.