Would you refer to your company as ‘standard’? Surely not, right? Such a description would feel more like an insult. All the energy, perseverance, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that are at the heart of every company should definitely not be considered ‘standard’. In fact, the very opposite holds true. If anything, all those wonderful, mutually different companies owe their raison d'etre to their distinctive capacities. Each from their own strengths, operating with a broad scope or in specific niches.
One of the big questions I often contemplate is why companies are then willing to settle for a standard product when it comes to setting up their IT. Is IT not considered important? I find that very hard to imagine. More than ever, IT constitutes the cornerstone for the proper - and increasingly improved - functioning of a company. Both internally and in relation to customers and the cooperation with all external partners. Just look around you and you will see that this is exactly what is happening everywhere in daily practice. The success stories of today (and tomorrow) are IT driven. If anything, IT can help take a business to the next level, ensure that logistics chains function optimally, realise chain cooperation, enable the company to respond flexibly to customer demands, etc. It is impossible for a standard IT product to achieve all this. After all, every company is unique and has its own specific requirements. A standard product such as SAAS (Software as a Service) offers either too much or too little or is otherwise sub-optimal. That is not a judgement, but simply a logical consequence of what standard ultimately is.
So, is it because of the costs that companies still turn to a standard IT product? That could very well be the case. Costs are always an important incentive. Especially when suppliers make assurances that their standard product is truly different. Why not accept such an offer if the price seems competitive? Another important factor in this respect is that companies often have insufficient insight into their own processes. Or do not or hardly involve their own employees beforehand when assessing the true needs of the company. If this were different, then it would immediately become apparent at the front end that a standard product really does not meet the company’s actual requirements.
Unfortunately, this is not how the situation is in practice. Only after the path of a standard solution has been selected do the many limitations gradually become obvious. The standard product does not suffice for exceptions one and two, does not work in situations three and four, etc. Or the product is so comprehensive and complex that employees are no longer able to see the forest for the trees. Through their own solutions, they ‘conveniently’ devise work-arounds for the system. What happens next? The supplier or another company is contracted to provide customisation based on the standard solution. A process that is often expensive and time-consuming. After all, this is not what the standard product was designed for. That purchase price that initially seemed so attractive quickly increases. Similarly, opting for standard also implies that when the supplier launches an update, it always applies to everyone. Irrespective of whether this update actually suits everyone's specific business situation.
Is this consequently a plea to always opt for custom-made in terms of IT? No, that would be completely unrealistic. For many companies, custom-made is too expensive; development processes take far too long and said companies lack the internal capacity to adequately manage these types of processes. What I do advocate though is ‘customised’. A standard basis that serves as the foundation for the requesting company and the supplier to work together right from the start to realise a demand-oriented IT solution, re-using already existing components when possible and developing new ones as required for the specific business situation. In short-cycle sprints, the company’s own employees are included in the development process; results are immediately achieved and it’s always possible to quickly make adjustments. On the path to an optimal end product, customised with that brings together the best of both worlds. The standard product that falls short on its own and the often too expensive full custom-made solution come together seamlessly. For me, customised is the new standard!
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