Why Custom Software for Field Service Management Works Better Than Off-the-Shelf Products

custom software vs off shelf products

Managing field operations in real-time is crucial to any company's success. Businesses need efficient software to process, measure, and manage critical activities in field operations. But how do you determine if the software is the right fit for your company?

Firstly, it is vital to acknowledge the fast-paced digitization occurring across industries. 70% of companies have planned to increase their budgeting for digital transformation. The principle behind this move is simple. If competitors streamline their workflows more efficiently, customers tend to move to well-equipped vendors. Employees too jump ship to find exciting workplaces. Such dramatic shifts seem to take place overnight. Although, it only happens when a company plans for gradual improvements over long periods.

The first step in upgrading your digital efforts is understanding what makes your business unique. What problems does a business face in field service management that other businesses don't? How can you solve these problems with a piece of software? And most importantly, is custom software better than off-the-shelf software for your business? Let's go through the various aspects of field service management that a software application can enhance; be it custom software or off-the-shelf.

The complexity with field operations in industrial engineering sector

"What gets measured gets managed."
- Peter Drucker

Field service management includes organizing and optimizing field operations like inspections, delivery, maintenance, repairs, installations, feedback, etc. Let's use a real-life scenario to understand the problems with field operations.

Imagine a field technician reaches the site after a ticket is raised on their system. He then opens another portal that highlights issues with the equipment. After inspecting the equipment, he found that the root cause was a damaged part. Now, he opens another portal to check for available inventory.

Unfortunately, the inventory management portal is not updated. Never mind! The technician calls the inventory management team and gets an update on the available stock a couple of hours later. Now he has to order the damaged part using another software application. But it includes validation from the client's side and the technician's superior.

Hours later, the client approves the purchase after setting up a meeting with his superior. But the technician's superior had to visit another site and couldn't validate the request until the next working day. This leads to delays in resolving the equipment failure issue, which further impacts the machine downtime, efficiency, supply & demand, and many more for the company. If these field operations are managed well, tickets get closed faster, and you focus on the one thing that matters most - profitability.

If the company used a software that is integrated with several data or industrial systems, using a single interface for easy access, they would've resolved the issue in much less time within a few clicks. All this without uprooting the company's current processes and systems. A well-written software can measure, analyze, and automate the life cycle of your field operations in real time. You get all the data at a glance on a single interface with dashboards that help decision-making.

As an illustrative example, read how a world’s third largest renewable energy company builds a custom field service management software by creating a unified data platform to overcome all the challenges of site engineers, for faster decision making through data driven intelligence.

Significance of field service management software

A real-time field service management software is meant to simplify your decision-making by performing tedious complicated tasks at lightspeed. The market has many off-the-shelf products available to handle these tasks. However, it defeats the purpose if you spend time and resources managing multiple software products or adapting to ready-made heavy-duty software. That's when opting for custom software makes a ton of sense. Another critical aspect of custom software development is interconnectivity or systems integration. Systems integration helps companies interconnect data across all domains and departments within their company and take quick actions that lead to quick resolutions.

What is custom software?

A custom software solution is specifically designed for your needs, built from scratch, or based on an existing product available in the market. Either way, the software will be tailored to meet your specific requirements. Custom software will address all your field service processes, including those not covered by standard solutions.

A team of software developers analyzes your requirements and writes software and has the advantage of being more flexible and scalable. You can deploy the software on multiple platforms and add new features as needed without having to upgrade the entire system.

Custom software development also allows you to pace your digitization transformation phase-wise. You do not need a complete overhaul of your processes. You can keep your legacy systems and build on them with new functionalities that streamline your field operations. The systems integration discussed above is a critical aspect to consider while developing custom software. Systems integration gives you interconnectivity between all your business processes and streamlines your business goals.

What is Off-the-shelf Software?

Off-the-shelf products are ready to use after you download or subscribe to them. These applications come pre-installed with many features and functions. Such ready-made applications are designed to tackle a specific set of common problems many businesses face.

More often than not, off-the-shelf products are bundled with numerous features to encompass a wide variety of clients and consumers.

Custom software Vs. Off-the-shelf products

  • Performance: You control the quality of the code used to build your custom-written software. In contrast, off-the-shelf applications are prone to frequent bugs and crashes due to their limited scopes. They end up delivering unstable performance and hence have to invest in customer support which does not have a uniform benchmark across industries.
  • Flexibility and Scalability: You decide everything that constitutes the custom software application. You decide when to update features or remove redundancy. Off-the-shelf applications are built around a single purpose, and you may have to pay additional subscription fees if you want to add new features later.
  • Costs: Custom software is developed from scratch and has higher initial costs. In comparison, off-the-shelf solutions have a pre-written code targeted at the mass market. The initial investment for subscription-based models of ready-made software is lower in comparison. However, these costs can rise if you upgrade the service for extra features or add additional users. Off-the-shelf software can effectively have hidden costs for all the features you don't use.
  • Profitability: You can get a competitive advantage by having custom field service management software built to streamline your specific processes in the long run. Since off-the-shelf software solutions are accessible to everyone, you'd have to adapt to and depend on the support provided by the maker to manage your processes better.
  • Security: You own and control all the data that flows through your custom software. Data volumes are low and easy to manage on your servers. On the other hand, off-the-shelf solutions have high risks of a data breach since it handles the data of thousands of users.
  • Few real examples: Examples of custom software for field service management can vary from Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Internal Sales and Marketing Audit or Automation, Inventory Control, etc. Some examples of off-the-shelf products are QuickBooks, Zoho CRM, SugarCRM, Open ERP, Xero, Simpro, Asana, IFS, etc.

Conclusion: Which is Better: Custom Software or Off-the-shelf Products?

In conclusion, off-the-shelf software products work; until they don't. Every business has unique processes that cannot be covered using generic software solutions. Custom-written software solutions are an open field for you to design the best solution for your business requirements.

Off-the-shelf products tend to target a broad audience and fail to provide any customizations. Moreover, the operational costs can be hefty if you add additional users or access more features.

Although the upfront cost is high for custom applications, it pays for itself in the long run as you strengthen your operational processes. All you need is a good plan and a good custom software developer/software development company that executes your plan.

Source: 70 Percent Of Businesses Increase Or Maintain Digital Transformation