The Hidden Cost Of Off-The-Shelf Software: How to Know When To Replace It

Recently we were engaged by a client in financial services to help find a better way to track participants at their events. The problem was one we see a lot, this organization offered continued education for their clientele and they were concerned people were registering for events but not attending and then still requesting credit. The company reached out to us to see if there was a way to solve this issue for them. Through our initial discussions, we realized we would need to engage with their current software they had purchased for event management several years before. We called the company and they were relatively helpful in aiding our effort to building the security portion of this project. However, at every step of the way, we realized this company used various workarounds that had been created. For instance, our client had an annual fee that people needed to pay but the software didn’t have a method to charge the fee. Instead, participants paid the amount under an event entitled ‘annual fee’. This caused quite a bit confusion as when you paid for the annual amount, clients had to overlook the boxes for location, RSVP and that the duration of the event listed for one year. Additionally, our client was then forced to log into the system, gather the data and then transfer it to their internal accounting system. Overall this was a poor user experience for the customer and client because the off-the-shelf software was for event management and it simply couldn’t cater to our client’s specific needs. On a smaller scale, we also found it was extremely difficult for a customer to distinguish in-person events verse webinars using our client’s software. When trying to sign up for either event, each customer had to scroll through a long list of events and click on each one to differentiate the two. Once again, this issue took up time for both the customer and client.

Ultimately, after two meetings, the client was beyond frustrated and just wanted a system that could cater to their specific needs. Switchbox was able to help this client by rebuilding a system that worked for them. In approximately 30 minutes of discovery time, Switchbox was able to recognize their problems, listen to their needs and create a scope of work to present to the client as a solution. As a result, our new system ended up saving so much time, the client was able to remove one position from the entire business as a direct result of the time saved for items like data entry and information collection. In this instance, off-the-shelf software started as an effective method for our client but eventually they outgrew their software and needed something to cater to their unique needs. However, this is not the case for all businesses. For some, off-the-shelf software fits their needs perfectly. In order to decide which is right for you, here are 3 ways to identify if your current software program might need to be replaced:

  1. You’ve stopped calling the company for small fixes because they can’t do it, don’t know how to or the cost is too high
  2. Your staff is having to do more and more odd workarounds for your current software
  3. You’ve built paper forms or other systems around your current software to fill in the gaps