Totally Off-the-Shelf, Totally Custom–or Somewhere in Between?

Over the past 65 years, productivity in the US has increased by approximately 100%. On any given day, US workers now produce twice as much than their counterparts did in 1947.

Computer software technologies have certainly helped significantly along the way. Can you imagine running your business today without your laptop, GPS, cell phone or internet?

But over the years, not everyone has embraced technological advances with open arms–at least not right away. Many managers consider the cutting edge to be the bleeding edge. They’d rather let others endure the pain and scar tissue that new technology can inflict.

For others, the choice has been just too difficult: do we buy an off-the-shelf software application–paying for bells and whistles we’ll never use, or hire a programming company to write custom software? And then, how can we successfully introduce change into our system without hurting productivity–even if it’s for the short term?

You can understand why the typical office manager or production supervisor doesn’t jump up and down in breathless anticipation of the next software upgrade. How to deal with the ensuing rebellion that might occur? Some business owners just don’t have the energy to combat the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset. They’re afraid they just might kill the goose that’s laid so many golden eggs over the years. There’s something to be said for the comfort level afforded by the status quo.

What about this approach? How about introducing changes on an incremental basis? Instead of ripping out the old software and forcing employees to adapt to new software, consider implementing helper applications–ones that take the multiple manual steps down from five steps to two. Not only are they less disruptive–they’re also smaller in scope; thus cost less. With a little planning, these helper apps can gradually morph and merge into a completely new system–one step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, to be sure. But don’t bite off more than your people are able to chew.

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