There are many legitimate advantages to custom or “bespoke” software. It works the way you work. It does everything you want (and nothing you don’t). It may even fill a niche you couldn’t solve with the software on the open market. Customized software solutions were built to cater directly to your needs.
But there are issues, too. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading this. The nature of the precise problems may depend, in part, on how you came to acquire your customized software solutions.
Where Did It Come From?
- A Golden Egg: Did your organization invest heavily, upfront, in an in-house or outsourced development team to carefully write, test, and polish the perfect software? If so, leadership will rightfully have its heels dug in on making it work. And perhaps it does—or at least it did. But times change, and customized software solutions developed 10 or 15 years ago may be inadequate in their fundamental architecture for the needs of today.
Modern, cloud-based software has critical advantages and integrations unavailable to legacy on-premise software. To make matters worse, that much history in your organization means the software is deeply ingrained in your culture and workflow. It would be tough to overcome organizational resistance to change.
- MacGyver’s Toolbox: Desperate times call for desperate measures. Perhaps your on-premise developer cobbled together a custom software solution to fill an urgent need on a shoestring budget while the company was small, and added to it over time as your organization grew. Now it’s outclassed by enterprise options, but a lot of your data and processes are attached to it.
Legacy migration can be complicated and take time, but your Frankenstein’s monster of customized software solutions could lead to far greater long-term costs and implications.
What Can I Do About It?
- Find a Comprehensive, Fully Customizable Alternative: Modern technology platforms continue to grow more robust, nuanced, and versatile. Perhaps there was no perfect fit when your customized software solutions were first implemented, but have another look!
Even in the submission management space, we’ve moved from narrow use-case-specific platforms for collecting grants, scholarships, and abstracts to all-in-one solutions that can handle nearly any submission scenario, like OpenWater.
- Migrate to SaaS for Reduced Costs on Migration: Businesses and nonprofits have marched steadily in the direction of cloud-based software-as-a-service over the last decade, and for good reason. Cloud-computing solutions eliminate costly installations, in-house maintenance, the unending upgrade cycle, risks of local outages, and more.
Legacy migration is more palatable when it doesn’t involve an expensive, large-scale installation initiative. Also, if it doesn’t work out, you aren’t left with a considerable price tag and nothing to show for it—end your use of the service and move on.
- Salvage the Database With Custom Integrations: Perhaps your bespoke software solution uses a custom SQL database with crucial financial, client, or membership data. Most options for a replacement won’t come “out of the box” with a ready-made integration—especially if your system is using outdated or unusual architecture.
However, you might be able to find a data management option with the ability to do custom integrations and help you migrate that critical data into a newer system. OpenWater handles client-specific custom integrations regularly—many of the associations we work with have home-built databases, but are looking for a more flexible submission management system. And we have a tremendous list of native mainstream integrations to boot.
It’s hard to break up with a custom solution, but legacy modernization is an essential responsibility of IT. Put your best foot forward and make the tough calls, “not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” as JFK would have said. Advantages like cloud stability, modern system architecture, current integrations will save time and money in the long run.